Marijuana growers who want to spend less time watering and feeding their plants are going to love an innovative suite of easy to use, pre-fabricated, modularized gravity-fed growing systems made by a company called AutoPot.
Based in the United States and in Europe, and with AutoPot systems operating in cannabis and non-cannabis gardens all the way from home growers to large-scale commercial indoor and outdoor farms worldwide, AutoPot is seen as a leader in irrigation and root zone innovation. Its systems are as basic as one self-watering pot with its own reservoir and water-holding tray, but can be expanded to industrial scale, allowing dozens or hundreds of cannabis plants to be grown using gravity and specialized patented methods to automatically water and feed plants.
The AutoPot system is founded on the principle of “passive irrigation.” It uses an ingenious patented valve called an AQUAvalve, a reservoir, tubing, trays and individual pots that allow gravity to feed water to each pot. The AQUAvalve allows just the right of water to flow from the reservoir to the plants. Once connected to the water supply, the AQUAvalve controls the flow of water by simple gravity pressure from a reservoir or tank of any size. No pumps, mains water pressure, electricity or timers are required, and the AQUAvalve automatically opens and allows water to fill plant trays safely, with no chance of spillage.
The AQUAvalve won’t refill a tray again until all the water has been used, but doesn’t send so much water that the plants’ roots sit in water, nor does it send too little. The patented AQUAvalve technology virtually eliminates the risk of flooding, which means AutoPot systems can be left relatively unsupervised, especially compared to hand-watering and pump-driven systems.
Although some marijuana growers use electricity and pumps to aerate AquaPot reservoir water, you don’t absolutely need to do that. AutoPot’s North American marketing manager Manny Pelaez explains that AutoPot saves growers money in several ways. They use far less electricity because irrigation is passive rather than pump-driven. They use far less water because the AQUAvalve doles water to plants only as they need it. Unlike other types of passive and pump-driven irrigation systems, the AquaPot system doesn’t rely on plants standing in water. This cuts down on problems such as root rot.
AquaPots reduce nutrients and water usage as well, Manny explains, and these efficiency features save the grower money, and creates a marijuana growing situation that doesn’t have as much negative ecological impact because waste is greatly reduced.
The AQUAvalve and the entire AutoPot system also save growers money because an adequate size reservoir can be filled with water and hydroponics nutrients, then left unattended for many days or even weeks—greatly reducing staffing and labor costs.
AutoPot comes in several configurations so growers can choose the system that works best for them. Many AutoPot systems include modularity and offer the opportunity for scale-ups to increase garden size. Here’s a brief summary of their most popular systems and gear:
Auto 9XL: This system irrigates nine solid-wall approximately 7-gallon pots or nine 5-gallon fabric SmartPots in single tray and lid assembly measuring just over a square metre. All the pots are fed by a single line controlled by a single valve.
In case you haven’t heard of SmartPots, they’re the most well-known gardening pot made from fabric. Fabric pots offer many benefits. They’re moderately porous so they allow constant air transfer from within and without, greatly assisting root oxygenation and preventing waterlogged conditions that drown roots and kill plants.
SmartPots’ porosity also assists in root pruning. Root pruning is an automatic process that takes place when roots reach the oxygenated edge of a porous container. In rigid containers made of plastic and other materials, roots reach the edges, and then begin circling in on themselves. This creates a rootbound condition that eventually strangles plants’ roots, leading to slow growth and poor yields. With SmartPots’ air pruning, root binding problems are eliminated.
Because nutrients water can flow from the sides of SmartPots, not just the bottoms, transfer of water and nutrition to a broader range of root mass is enhanced. Most SmartPots come with handles, making transport and movement of the pots much easier than with normal plant pots. SmartPots can often be washed free of embedded roots and root zone materials, making them reusable and saving you money.
The Auto 9 XL is probably the easiest AutoPot multi-pot system to run and set up, since all the pots are on one tray. In other AutoPot systems, each individual pot has its own tray, and its own AQUAvalve and water feed line. The Auto 9 XL’s simplicity has led some growers to stack single trays on tiered shelving, using modified sea of green and SCROG approaches that maximize vertical space. Manny says that AutoPot has worked with growers to produce customized trays that fit the grower’s specific stacking systems.
Easy2Propagate: This is an AQUAvalve-fed propagation system for seeds or clones. It includes a 6.6-gallon tank, an AQUAvalve, a fitted tray, a deep adjustable humidity dome, and hardware. The grower places a “cocomat” and “root control pack” into the tray, and then places seedling or clone cubes on top. The humidity control dome is mostly used for clones, which need high humidity until they’ve established a root feeder system, but in arid climates that lack ambient humidity, even seedlings can benefit from humidity domes.
FlexiTanks: These innovative water storage tanks are especially useful for outdoor cannabis growers who use remote sites that lack reliable water supplies. Tanks range in size from 105 gallons to seven gallons, and some have a white, reflective exterior that prevents fertigation water from being overheated by the sun. Some are also completely collapsible and portable, so they can be carried in to remote grow sites. They’re covered, so no debris or other contaminants can enter, are easy to clean, and are constructed of very resilient material that repels puncture and other damage.
Several of these tanks mounted at a higher elevation than a cannabis garden and connected to AQUAvalves can irrigate and feed a substantial number of full-size outdoor cannabis plants.
Outdoor cannabis growers will also appreciate AutoPot WhitePots. Most plant pots including cloth pots are black, a color that absorbs heat from the sun and grow lights. Cannabis roots prefer a temperature of 20-22°C, but plants growing in black pots outdoors often experience sun-heated root zones a lot warmer than that. Too much heat in the root zone bakes roots, stresses plants, and slows or stops growth. AutoPot WhitePots avoid this problem, and range in size from 8.5L to 25L. These sturdy, reusable white pots are very popular in Saudi Arabia, Spain, the tropics and any other place where searing direct sun hits plant pots.
You may be wondering whether there’s sufficient oxygenation of the root zone and nutrients water in the AutoPot systems. In pump-driven hydroponics systems such as deep-water culture and aeroponics, the sufficiency of oxygenation is obvious. AutoPot’s Manny Pelaez says the pots should be filled with 50% clean, washed coarse perlite and 50% quality solid media such as rockwool chunks, coco coir, or a similar non-peat based media. It’s important NOT to use peat-based media, as that media tends to pack and condense, which significantly decreases root zone oxygenation.
This 50-50 combination provides sufficient oxygenation, but for added oxygen stimulus, the company makes a pump-driven AirDome that is placed at the bottom of each pot. The added oxygenation stimulates root growth which in turn stimulates above-ground growth, speeding up crop cycles and increasing yield.
What you should most remember about AutoPot gear is that depending on the plants’ growth phase, relative humidity, temperature, the type of grow lights, and other factors that influence water and nutrients intake, an AutoPot system with a sufficiently-sized reservoir can sustain plants for many days or even weeks with minimal attention given to watering and feeding.
There are of course nuances and details about procuring and setting up an AutoPot system that makes it useful for growers to first contact AutoPot to ask for advice before procuring this equipment. For marijuana growers wanting a hassle-free, time-saving way to automatically deliver water and nutrition to their plants’ roots, the AutoPot method is well worth looking into. Check out this info-filled video that gives you a detailed insight into using AutoPot systems…