Before a cannabis plant produces its highly valuable flowers, as a culmination of a process that made her strong enough to withstand the fruiting, it starts off as a small plantlet struggling to get its roots out. The cloning stage is indeed a delicate part of the growth of a cannabis plant. “This is one of the most crucial steps,” says Gilad Krakower, CEO and founder of Quiclone. “First of all, it is of the utmost importance to provide a stress-free cloning stage to the little plantlets. Crop steering techniques shouldn’t be carried out in this phase, as there is no response you want from the plant other than roots coming out. During this stage, it is critical to give the little plantlet everything it needs to root strongly and quickly so that it can get into the generative phase with the right foot.”
I ain't no stressin'
Stress is not a necessarily bad thing for cannabis plants. “Actually, it is necessary to induce specific types of stresses to a plant at a certain time of the growth to stimulate its development towards specific directions,” Gilad continues. “But when a clone experiences any kind of stress, it will not only take longer to root, but it will also yield much less in the end. Needless to say, in a supposedly well-oiled machine such as a cannabis operation, delays and troubles during the very first stage of the growth would reverberate their negative effect throughout the rest of cultivation, eventually hitting the bottom line of a grower hard.”
In traditional cloning, if the temperature of the roots gets too cold, the growth is slowed down. A similar thing will happen if the temperature is too high. “Considering that clones are usually grown in a humid environment, the combination with extreme temperatures creates the perfect breeding ground for molds and pathogens,” Gilad continues. “Thus, there is even additional stress on top of uncontrolled temperature. Yet, pathogens can develop more easily if the cloning environment hasn’t been properly sterilized.”
And indeed, Gilad points out that sanitation and sterilization are the top priority when it comes to starting cloning. “The medical cannabis market is extremely competitive, with growers increasingly pushing the quality bar higher and higher. On top of this, growing cannabis is financially intensive – but that is counterbalanced by the profit margins. Thus, it goes without saying that a yield loss caused by problems during the cloning stage would represent a problem not only because of the difficulty of entering certain markets but also because the product wouldn’t be as profitable, if not even at all.”
Sanitation and sterilization
Thus, Gilad and Quiclone have developed an aeroponic automated cloning machine that takes care of all the different variables to ensure the best environment for plantlets to root strong and fast. “The machine is equipped with different sensors that keep track of all the variables within the growing environment. These can be easily adjusted if something comes up – even if it is because of an electric outage: the machine indeed is equipped with an emergency battery and a built-in text system that would immediately communicate to the grower that there’s something going on.”
The different features of the Quiclone’s machine allow growers to focus more on the clones and how to root them efficiently, rather than taking care that everything is set, racing against potential stresses. “But once you have taken care of the stresses that might be caused by uncontrolled growing variables, there is still the issue of providing the plantlets with a clean and sterile environment,” Gilad says. “That is why we have developed SOPs for sterilization, making them as thorough and as snappy as possible: everything has been tested, the sterilization process is super easy to carry out: through a very quick and complete cleaning, it is possible to protect against contamination and guarantee an unprecedented level of sterilization. The machine, indeed, can be cleaned in 3 hours.”