Adam Dixon, co-founder and CTO of Phytoponics

"Deep water culture offers a sustainable, efficient, and consistent methodology to grow uniform crops"

Although the cannabis industry is projected to be a multi-billion dollar business, it is still a young industry, and there are many things to fully understand still. One of the biggest challenges that growers have encountered over the past couple of years is achieving product uniformity and high quality consistently. “Growing crops for diverse active ingredients at volume requires a certain high level of crop control and mastering the plants' morphology to draw out a range of these ingredients,” Adam Dixon, co-founder and CTO of Phytoponics, explains. “For cannabis, it all comes down to adapting horticultural practices for scale from the commercial horticulture sector, and reconciling that with the knowledge gained from the pharmaceutical sector. Bluntly put, it is all a matter of establishing effective agronomic practices at scale to draw out quality, whilst simplifying it enough to reduce risk and cost.”

Growing for active ingredients
It seems as if there are some profound differences between more ‘traditional’ horticulture and cannabis horticulture. “At the same time, the main difference is growing a crop for an active ingredient vs for vegetation or flowers/fruit,” Adam remarks. “This requires a deeper level of plant physiology and manipulation to do it effectively and efficiently, as cannabis has a very diverse range of active ingredients.”

All of this becomes exponentially more complex when it comes to scaling up such an operation. “Scaling such a thing up and ensuring quality and potency for mass production is a different matter,” Adam says. “The cons are of photoperiodic limitations and limited quality control, as many cannabis varieties developed for higher quality aren’t so suited for traditional cultivation due to pathology/pest risk, and photoperiods, and so on.”

Deep Water Culture
That is why Phytoponics has developed a concept that is crop agnostic, where efficiency and consistency are the top priorities. “We have developed our own unique deep water culture hydroponic technology, designed for commercial scale and sustainability,” he says. “I’m an inventor. So, ultimately, we are about enacting my vision for new forms of growing, starting with mastery of the root zone via deep water culture, but also technologically enabled by deep water culture and our technology portfolio. So, we provide systems at scale, for growers and projects, quite simply.”

Phytoponics Tomato Trials in 2020 at Stockbridge Technology Centre, United Kingdom

Even though the majority of large-scale cannabis growers have never used deep water culture, its history is tied with cannabis nonetheless. “Deep water culture has already been championed by the small-scale cannabis sector (mainly illicit) over the last 50 years – with ‘space buckets’ and bubbler systems being pioneers of the technology,” Adam explains. “Learning about deep water culture earlier in my life involved reading a lot about what cannabis growers were doing with the approach, and how they solved the issues. I expanded on those insights and combined it with mine, and invented a way to do it at multi-hectare scale, economically.”

“The way we do it is by installing/replacing/retrofitting our deep water culture liner and frame system into glasshouses and poly tunnels, along with our secret root zone agronomy knowledge, and fertigation systems and regimes, so that for an equivalent cost to drip coir and soil systems on gutters and tables, or ground planters, we can serve the sector.”

Phytoponics’ system has hydroponic planters with integrated aeration, thus giving the root zone an agitated and oxygenated environment to enable root zone uniformity without depletion zones amongst the roots. “This prevents pathology from low oxygen and boosts yield via giving roots optimal nutrition without depletion,” Adam continues. “Coupled with our recirculating closed-loop nutrient system, it is possible to maintain uniform EC, pH, and dissolved oxygen levels – and even temperature, in some applications. Further product evolutions in our pipeline will add to this offering, but maintaining a uniform root zone for cannabis is a key tool to ensure uniformity of growth conditions and product quality at scale. Our technology makes this economical.”

Thus, deep water culture offers a sustainable, efficient, and consistent methodology to grow uniform crops. “I think it will certainly become the gold standard in terms of the medium and higher technology, and product quality sectors of the cannabis industry, such as bud and flowers, for instance,” Adam concludes.

For more information:
Phytoponics Limited
Stockbridge Technology Centre, Stockbridge House, Cawood, Selby. Unite Kingdom. YO8 3TZ 

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