Hydroponic systems have been around for a while now, and have certainly made a name for themselves in the growing industry, so much so that most professional and commercial growers rely on some form of hydroponics. Today we will be taking a look at Autopot products, and how they fare against traditional DWC systems.
If you’re not familiar with Autopot, this is a UK watering systems brand that applied the ebb and flow farming principle to hydroponic by introducing their revolutionary AQUAvalve technology. Ebb and flow is a farming principle that’s been known and applied all around the world for thousands of years.
Some of the earliest farmers and settlers raised crops closed to their local rivers, knowing they could rely on them to flood the area and water their soil and crops. Once the water level drops and the tide goes away, this is known as the ebb phase.
In order to replicate this natural process in a controlled environment, Autopot systems mimic the rising tide by releasing water from the main tank through the tubing to each and every pot connected. Once the water rises to a certain level, the pots start to drain slowly as the medium and roots absorb water.
Autopot vs DWC
Back in the day, many DIY growers started doing hydroponic growing with nothing more than a 5-gallon bucket, and in that process got introduced to DWC. Deep Water Culture (DWC) is a hydroponic system that is notoriously simple and easy to set up, all the while giving great results with minimal effort.
The DWC systems rely on the plants and most of their roots to spend time in the water, absorbing nutrients from it directly instead of having them in soil or any other growing medium. This allows the plants to have faster absorption rates and makes them grow faster and stronger.
On the other hand, DWC systems have their flaws as well. The static water environment can lead to dangerous mold and bacterial growth forming in and around the root area, which can severely damage the plant’s health.
This is where Autopot really outshines DWC. Due to the nature of the ebb and flow system, the water periodically fills and feeds the plants. Once the plant absorbs the water, the residual moisture dampens the grow medium, which also retains some of the nutrients from the water.
The roots spend only a very short amount of time completely flooded. This makes it so that root rot and other water-made issues are less likely to happen.
This can also be improved with the Airdome kits, an optional component of the Autopot System which is buried at the bottom of the pot and connected to an air pump, this will ensure there is always oxygen thorough the medium and avoid suffocating roots or any other issue of this nature.
One of the biggest issues growers face is scaling up their operations. However simple it may seem, it is extremely hard to grow a significantly larger amount of plants while retaining the same quality as if you were growing in small batches.
This often means that growing operations need to be somewhat automated in order to save up on time and labor costs. It would seem that the designers of Autopot products have thought about this issue, seeing how they have successfully helped many commercial and home growers to increase their production and yields.
Autopot pots can easily be connected into huge systems, provided that it is done correctly. They are even sold in packages of up to 100 pots per system. They take up very little space while being easy to set up and monitor for issues such as leakage. Individual AutoPots can also be connected to pre-ordered AutoPot systems, making this modular solution perfect for scaling up!
Deep Water Culter systems, on the other hand, are notoriously hard to scale up. Many growers have tried to scale up DWC systems using pools with expensive filtration systems and realized there are cheaper and better options - such as ebb and flow, and drip systems which are very cost-efficient.
Current Culture is a brand of DWC watering systems that looks somewhat similar to Autopot, to the untrained eye of course. They also run a system of plastic buckets, including a lid on top of them. Their solutions for scaling up are much more expensive than the ones offered by Autopot, once again showing that DWC is just hard and sometimes costly to scale up.
On top of all that, AutoPot systems are extremely easy to set up. They are easy to use and even easier to operate. They don’t have any complex pvc tubing and fittings, no loud pumps, timers, runoff trays, and reservoirs other than the main tank.
Best grow mediums for AutoPot
Seeing how using AutoPot requires using a medium, there are several schools of thought regarding which one is the best growing medium for AutoPot. The most commonly used grow mediums for AutoPot are coco, soil, and clay pebbles.
Regardless of the chosen medium, the best way to go about this is using it in combination with a drainage medium such as perlite or clay pebbles. Most growers agree that the bottom of each AutoPot should be filled with a thin layer of clay pebbles to help with drainage as well.
The most common practice is to fill out on top of the bottom layer with a 50/50 mix of coco and perlite. Some people also like to cover up the top layer with perlite, in order to protect the medium below from any airborne pests.
Aside from working very well as a hydroponic solution - AutoPot can be used as a regular soil pot as well. All you need is a bit of soil (preferably organic soil) and again some perlite to make it a bit looser which will allow for easier watering and drainage.
Best nutrients for AutoPot
Just like anything else - the choice of nutrients is a hotly debated topic. However, before we jump into that, it’s important to mention that almost any grower with AutoPot experience will tell you to get a water pump. A small water pump can be used to mix the nutrients in your tank so that it is well mixed at all times.
As for the nutrients - always keep in mind that you want to have a different NPK ratio for the veg and flower phase. The best NPK ratio for growing in the veg phase is 3:1:1, while the flowering phase needs a 1:3:2 ratio. You can even replace that in late flower with a nutrient solution that has a 0:3:3 NPK ratio.