Every cannabis grower is not a plant enthusiast only, but they are also businessmen: large-scale controlled environment agriculture requires knowledge with regards not only how to produce the best crop, but also how to do it efficiently to increase revenue. There are many aspects of a cannabis operation that can be better fine-tuned to improve the overall performance; yet, as the saying goes, well begun is half done; and the very first aspect of cannabis growing is the cloning stage.
There are many different ways to carry out cannabis cloning, and each of them comes with its pros and cons. “Usually, growers use rockwool for cloning,” says Ophir Nevo, General Manager of the Israeli Cannabis Association. “Although it is a rather easy methodology, rockwool has many pros as well as many cons, from both an environmental and financial standpoint. First of all, rockwool plugs can be used once only, which means that at the end of a cloning stage, a grower has to dispose of all the plugs, and this comes at a cost. Additionally, there is one thing that is more cultivation-related: the watering of clones is an extremely delicate process, and you need to be no less than perfect if you want to grow healthy clones. In cloning, underwatering and overwatering can be devastating for young plants: when you overwater them, you are creating a lack of oxygen which ultimately results into root and stem rot; when you underwater them, instead, you are inducing unnecessary stress to the plant, which does nothing but harm the plantlet at this stage.”
At the same time, there is yet another cloning methodology that is both environmentally and financially sustainable: aeroponics. “This methodology does not use any medium at all, and water mixed with nutrients are sprayed directly to the roots,” he explains. “This results in less water being used, and the water in excess is recollected and then reused. Thus, this method qualifies as extremely environmentally friendly: there are no plugs or material to dispose of, and the precious water resource is used efficiently without any waste.” But aeroponics is not environmentally friendly only. “In aeroponics, environmental and financial sustainability really go hand in hand: since you are cloning in aeroponics, the rooting time of the clones is faster: if we made a general calculation, we can see that if you reduce even by two days the rooting time of the clones, you’d get 20% more revenue. This means that at the end of the year, you have carried out more cycles, which also means that you have more yield.” At the same time, aeroponics is not a particularly easy methodology. And that’s why Quiclone has developed a fully automated aeroponic cloning machine that ensures that a cannabis operation starts the cultivation on the right foot.
Controlling the cloning process
“Such a machine allows growers to have utter control over the cloning process,” Ophir points out. “Not only is every single aspect of the aeroponic cloning well under control, but also it allows to save labor as everything is automated, and the only thing you need to take care of is to check the stats and be sure that everything is going according to plan: adding water, adding the pH solution to the dosing pumps, placing cuttings into the collars, and turning on the machine are the only hands-on activities a cloner needs to be concerned about, as then the unit itself will take care of everything following the user’s settings.” Now, Quiclone’s machine has also been upgraded with new features that give additional peace of mind to growers. “We have now included microbubble technology that injects oxygen into the water, thus increasing the amount of oxygen that the plant ultimately takes up. This is extremely important, as the more oxygen roots have, the faster they develop,” Gilad Krakower, CEO of Quiclone, explains. With regards to taking care of the roots, Quiclone’s unit allows to control and adjust even the root zone temperature. “The temperature of the water in aeroponics is one of few very important factors,” Gilad says. “We have installed a heat exchanger into the machine to allow growers to control the temperature of the root zone: if the water is too cold, or too hot, the plant either wouldn’t grow at all, or it would grow rather weak and won’t produce to the full extent of its genetic potential. For rapid and vigorous roots development, the water temperature should stay within a specific range.”
When using rockwool, clones tend to have their roots tangled up, and when picking the rockwool cubes out of the tray, the tangled roots usually damage and stress the clone. “That’s why we have installed an ATS: Advanced Tubing System that prevents cross rooting; in this way, the little clones won’t undergo the stress of having their roots ripped off.”
Another challenge that the Quiclone’s machine addresses is the space optimization within a cannabis operation. “The way you utilize the space directly affects the eventual yield,” Gilad explains. “Space optimization is extremely important especially for those growers growing vertically; Quiclone’s technology offers 140 clones per sq. ft., making the use of it a no brainer if a grower needs to improve the space optimization in their cultivation facility.”
Cloning is a very delicate process, where plantlets need the utmost care to develop roots faster. Thus, it goes without saying that it is critical to address any potential risk immediately. “It might happen that your facility has a power outage, and this is potentially disastrous for clones,” Gilad remarks. “You could connect the machine to the WiFi, but that also relies on electricity. That is why we have implemented a backup battery with 4G connectivity that sends an SMS with an alert. So, any situation that might come up, Quiclone machine got your back.”