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Steerability of root zone critical to ensure a high-quality harvest

"If you want the best results in hydroponic growing, either medical cannabis or fresh produce, you need to have maximum control over the root zone," says Sander van Golberdinge of Grodan. "Of course, there are other elements to take into account, but the root zone is particularly critical to ensure best results in terms of yield and quality."

Thus, it goes without saying that a grower needs to achieve the maximum steerability of the root zone in order to give the plant exactly what it needs at the right time. "If a grower can master that, then the cultivation will most likely end up with a high-quality harvest," Sander continues. "Controlling the root zone is not a matter of the grower's skills only, but also of the growing medium utilized."

Organic media and rockwool 
According to Sander, regular soil or organic growing media bind part of the water and nutrients that are added via the irrigation system. "This makes it particularly difficult to steer. Not only water content but also electrical conductivity (EC) in the substrate."

To address these challenges and issues, Grodan has developed a special stone wool solution manufactured from basalt rock that does not bind water and nutrients so that everything is available for the plant. "On top of that, this characteristic of Grodan's stone wool allows growers to recycle and purify the water that drains out. All this is not only beneficial for the grower but also has a great positive impact on the environment."

Sensors for the root zone
Further control on what's happening in Grodan's stone wool medium is also given by GroSens sensors and their proprietary platform e-Gro. "It is a tool for supporting growers making informed decisions about their irrigation strategy," Sander says. "We provide sensors which measure the activity in the root zone, and the e-Gro platform gives recommendations based on data and parameters of the root zone, climate, crop, and harvest. At the same time, the e-Gro platform can integrate also most climate control systems; this gives growers more insight into the operation as a whole and makes them in control."

Growers using Grodan's stone wool indeed are very satisfied with the product. "At ANTG, we made the conscious business decision to de-risk our operations by using Grodan's stone wool products for our medical cannabis crops since the inception of our licensed production facility in regional NSW, Australia," the ANTG team explains. "The clean and inert nature, homogeneity, and strength of the stone wool plugs have allowed us to live up to our quality and purity ethos. Besides, we achieve great propagation consistency and success rates. The stone wool cultivation products, especially Grodan's new Max V1.0 range, have allowed us to optimize our irrigation strategies to grow strong, healthy, and resilient plants by utilizing the wide steering possibilities to control the amount of water and fertilizer across the crop's growth stages and our growing environment. Furthermore, to continuously unlock the plant's potential and produce exclusive, pharmaceutical grade, Australian cannabinoid-based medicines for patients worldwide, we leverage Grodan's products such as e-Gro and their GroSens network to make data-driven decisions the cornerstone in our cultivation practices."

There are also growers that see an immediate improvement after switching to Grodan's stone wool. "At CANN Group, we transitioned our Melbourne indoor facility's production system to Grodan stone wool in 2019 and instantaneously achieved a 20% increase in biomass while maintaining Cannabis quality," the CANN Group team explains. "Since the update to the Grodan Max product range, we've achieved a steady increase in yield through the optimization of our crop-steering strategy for each of our unique cultivars. For our team, the key advantage of Grodan's media is the consistency of the product and precise control we can achieve at our crop's rootzone regarding water content, EC, and pH using the GroSens platform. This makes it possible to deliver the perfect balance of generative stress and yield-rewarding comfort to each of our unique Cannabis chemotypes." 

"Due for completion late-2021, our Mildura Facility's nutrient recycle and table/block automation system has been designed around Grodan's stone wool media. The new Grodan Max range will enable our team to reduce our grow media input volume substantially (5 x reduction compared to non-stone wool media per sqm.) and minimize our risks to nuisance cannabis pests, such as fungus gnats, that enter a production system through non-stone wool media."

"Finally, the technical support we've received from the Grodan team and AIS Greenworks here in Australia has been world-class. Through adoption of Grodan's media, we've been granted access to a network of industry-leading growers and data-driven decision-making which enables us to produce in the regulated medicinal cannabis industry efficiently for production and research purposes," they conclude.

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