2016 is almost over. For many, it's been a tough year, but for the hydroponics industry, it's been one of the best yet. Growth was strong, more players got into the market, and there were some very favorable post-election results for the industry. Checkout some of the 2016 highlights we saw below.
Scotts Miracle-Gro, a company known for its lawn-related products, recently purchased an 80% stake in countertop Hydroponics company, Aerogrow for $4.5 million. The symbolism here is more important than the amount invested. A very established company in a large, but stagnant vertical used its excess cash to look for growth opportunities in hydroponics. Our bet is that this is the first of many such types of moves we see.
Earlier this year, Ikea announced it would start selling its own home hydroponics kit. While this may not be welcome news for existing counter-top hydroponics system sellers, we feel it is very positive for the industry as a whole. The average person is still not familiar with hydroponics, or their only association is with cannabis (not necessarily a bad thing!). The best way to grow the industry is making the barrier to entry as low (and well-designed) as possible. While most folks who get one of these for Christmas likely won't expand beyond their counter-top, some will, and that's a level of exposure the industry as a whole can greatly benefit from.
The debate is going on new over whether hydroponics can fall under the "Certified Organic" label by the USDA. This could have huge implications for the marketability of hydroponic produce, especially to high-end consumers. We have our own opinions on the issue, but regardless of where you fall, the mere fact that the question is coming up speaks to the past and expected continued growth of the industry as a whole. Getting noticed is significant.
As noted in a previous post, more than 25% of Americans now live in a state where it is legal to purcahe recreational cannabis. And based upon how things are looking across the country, that number is only going to continue going up. November 8th, 2016 was a big day across the country, but it will go down as one of the bigger catalyst moments for the hydroponic industry.
25% of the US citizens now lives in a state where it is legal to grow and possess recreational marijuana. After November 8th, 2016, eight states have legalized weed and it is safer than ever to be a grower in the United States. President-elect, Donald Trump, said he will respect states’ rights on the issue, and while much is uncertain about what will happen politically, we can feel confident in this, as going back on his word here would prompt a strong Libertarian backlash.
So, formerly underground grower in California, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Maine, what does this mean for you? It means, you can start growing a plant without fear that you’ll go to jail for it. The entire industry of products that were used to keep marijuana grows secret (tents, scent scrubbers, etc.) are going to become obsolete and you have an unprecedented opportunity to improve how you grow without constraints.
One of the biggest changes that is occurring is that growers no longer have to fear having their operation connected to the cloud. Historically, many growers resisted any efforts to put their grow online because they feared their IP address would be used by the government to find and shut down their operation. Hydroponic growers are making the jump to online monitoring and here are the top three reasons why:
1. Reduce Stress. Hydroponic grow rooms require a delicate balance. They will run just fine, until they don’t. Pumps fail, pipes leak, and people accidentally leave the front door open in the middle of winter. Many a nervous grower worries about the state of their plants when they aren’t around. Online monitoring alleviates this stress. Just hit refresh on your dashboard to do that quick system check if you’re worried something is the matter. Sleep better knowing you’ll get a text if something in your system gets too high or low. Be confident that when you show up to your grow if there’s anything wrong, you already know about it.
2. Increase Yields. Taking readings with handheld sensors, or even monitoring your system with wall-mounted monitors only gives you a fraction of the picture. Your system cycles daily and it’s impossible to fully understand everything without logging data continuously. For example, in some systems the pH drops slightly at night. This is because plant respiration continues while photosynthesis pauses, meaning your plants are still releasing a normal amount of carbon dioxide but little which can lead to your water becoming more acidic. Most growers won’t catch this phenomenon if you are taking your daily readings by hand or checking out the wall monitor during the daytime. This means your pH could be dropping to stress-inducing levels overnight, stunting the growth of your plants. Without continuous online monitoring, you likely would never know it and won’t take the steps to fix it. In addition to uncovering potential stressors, online monitoring makes it far easier to experiment in your system and track the results. Ever have the yields from one of your rooms be significantly higher than another? Look into the data, make a hypothesis of why, tweak your grow, and observe the results.
3. Be Lazier. It’s a Saturday, do you really need to go drive over and check your pH levels? Nope! Just fire up the iPad, hit refresh, and check your entire system in seconds. No more wasted time just making sure that everything is OK.
Convinced yet? There are an increasing number of options out there to put your grow room online, so allow us to introduce ourselves. We at Osmo Systems, make OsmoBot, a low-cost hydroponic water, environmental, and light quality monitors. Our base package includes our online monitor and the following sensors: pH, TDS, water temp, water level, air temp, relative humidity, lux, and PAR. You won’t find an online monitor with the same sensors for anything close to what we’re offering ours at. Once installed, you can connect your OsmoBot to the cloud via Wi-Fi or ethernet. Access your readings from an online dashboard to see real time data, track historical trends, and set text/email alerts for when something goes wrong. Base packages start at just $500 on Kickstarter for the month of November, 2016.
We wrote a post last week on how to estimate your lighting need in your hydroponic system based upon the lux hitting your plants. Now we want to go a step further and allow you to model what kind of lux you can expect from your bulbs at what distance. You can enter your desired lux and the spreadsheet will tell you your optical distance. Other lux calculators are missing a key component that is most relevant to hydroponics - distance from bulb. Lux is a measure of area, but lumens – which lux is calculated off of – decrease the further away your plants are from a light. Traditional lux calculators assume a fixed distance (usually 1 meter or 1 foot). We allow you to input the distance as well.
What you need to know:
What the calculator will estimate:
You can download the spreadsheet here:
There are so many moving parts in hydroponic systems that it is easy to forget about one of the most important factors...water. Water, which makes up most of the earths surface also is the majority "body". It requires aeration and circulation - not to mention, it's the driver of nutrient delivery. So, let's look at a few of the key aspects of water and how to optimize it for your hydroponics system. Poor quality water can cause toxicity problems; disease, pH problems and the blockage of drippers and plumbing.
Plants are a vital part to our environment. They are involved in a variety of functions that assist in creating a health eco-system. Excess carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by many factors is a building up in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.
When it comes to consumers, though, the production of edible plants is a unique situation. Thanks to consumer demands on quality and quantity there is often times a negative influence from growing plants. Producing this much yield means that fields must be massive and continuous be farmed, often times using heavy chemicals. This growing requires massive amounts of water and proper growing conditions - which is usually a challenge. Let's look at how plants work and how hydroponics and aquaponics can increase their yields and quality.
As the holiday season continue to creep up on us it's time to look at special gifts available for those we cherish. Members already well versed in the alternative farming movement, specifically hydroponics, know that there are various options available for systems that can range in scale. Here are a few for shoppers who may want to entice the novice into the future of gardening. These range from more locale hydroponic/aquaponic outlets to large scale retailers.
Due to the growth of the alternative farming industry, it's understandable that many companies have been looking to manufacture different varieties of nutrient solutions. Those who are more inclined to take on the challenge themselves are not without other options. Thanks to the simple concepts involved in hydroponics and the ever growing flexibility and functionality of the systems, it makes the "do-it-yourselfers" life much easier. Not only easy but also logical - which is the thing we will try to touch on in this post. Check out a few "recipes" for nutrient solutions that can be cooked up with household items.