We miss the hydro shows, the enlightening soirees that follow, the late-night cultivation confabs – god speed their safe return. How to feel the beating heart of horticulture without face to face contact? So lonely. So, upon receiving a beautifully written invitation from Montel, we leapt out of our dressing gowns, hurled our cocoa at the priceless art on our walls, fired up the AutoPot Grow Room and sped round to Montel’s place – on Insta!
In the capable hands of our host William Fournier, Montel’s Vertical Farming Expert, we spent a delightful hour potting and racking today’s growing matters. One of the nice things about the Grow Room at AutoPot HQ is that it offers examples and context for whatever hot topics arise. Broadcasting from there our MD, Jason Ralph-Smith, was in prime position to lead William, in Canada, through the principles at work – plus some new treats from AutoPot. Merrily freewheeling is perhaps a fair review of the chat and that’s the way we like it. Everything was on the table; best practice in cultivation facilities, Congolese strawberries, skies full of Auto8s, and the unobserved lives of carrots.
What DO carrots get up to when we’re not looking? It’s a question that’s not going away. Happily, Jason has already grabbed this particular bull by its orange horns and was ready to show off a Grow Room substrate trial in clear pots – to see how differing media affect the unseen world of the rootzone. Fear not, to protect the roots the clear pots are normally kept within fractionally larger black pots. William was lucky enough to get the lowdown on our findings. Early days but amongst substrates the Biobizz Coco is proving particularly adept at producing a nice structure and burgeoning plants.
As is the way of things, the carrot convo popped up whilst the chaps were chatting about the fine balance of plant density in cultivation facilities – with reference to Tray Systems in vertical racking. Their conclusions on plant density? Check out the vid to find out – but essentially less can be more, or less, depending on environment and plant training – get yourself to the vid. There’s stacks of dense plant matter especially on the highs and lows of commercial cultivation, of which more below.
William has a deep understanding of horticulture from working with BioFloral (one of AutoPot’s Canadian distributors). He’s also worked in, and consulted on, licensed cannabis production. He has extensive background from his time at Montel, and yet more from his own licensed cannabis cultivation facility. Given that Montel Grow More’s line is vertical racking for high-density farming he was naturally interested in how AutoPot’s Watering Systems can be integrated. The ultra low-maintenance, zero-waste water, and power-free operation of AutoPots all lend themselves to high density farming – but are there any other considerations? Take the fact that the systems are driven by gravity pressure. How do we deal with that in a commercial facility?
If you have header tanks then you’re all good, likewise if you’re not using racking – but then you’re dead to William. Just kidding. But what if you can’t store your supply above the racks? As Jason explained in the chat, this has entered our thinking too. We’ve recently been devising ways of defying gravity with pumps to supply water and nutrient solution.
To be clear, this isn’t about pumping to the plants themselves. It’s about creating a ready supply, a ring that extends out from and returns to the reservoir. As ever, the modules branch off from this ring supply to the AQUAvalves in the AutoPot module trays. As ever, there is no recirculation between modules – supply is one-way as far as the modules are concerned – with zero waste and zero chance of one plant contaminating another via the system. As ever, the AQUAvalves only admit water and nutrient solution once the plant has exhausted the last intake. Plant Controlled Irrigation reigns.
Trialling of this innovative, low-pressure pump-driven system has been taking place at HQ and with great mate / fellow innovator Dean Finley. We’re now on the verge of a first commercial application in the Congo – their strawberries won’t know what’s hit ‘em!
Other highlights from the Grow Room included dahlias in Auto9 XL, elderly but huge tomato plants grown in relatively tiny 8.5 L / 2.2 gal pots, all manner of aubergines, a chilli trial to test the effectiveness of our new range of module propagation lids, pests (the plant borne kind), and Seramis – the miracle substrate for micro-herbs. If you like that lot you’ll love whiling away the hours on our social media feeds where you can find vids and pics of all the above.
Proper humidity levels, the need for commercial growing nous in cannabis cultivation facilities, financial imperatives, crop turnaround, blind use of tech, no one knowing it all (apart from possibly the Dutch) – it all went down. And then, in the blink of an eye it was all over. A marvellous hour of connectedness which we very much look forward to repeating in the near future. Stay alert for announcements of live chats to come! Where? Here’s where – @autopot_global on Insta and @autopotsystems on Facebook.