Ecomix Coco Australia, is an Australian-based coco peat supplier. During the last several months, demand for Cocopeat has been steadily increasing. Contrary to the Covid restrictions, Ecomix is busier than usual. “The demand for coco is increasing because of the demand for Australian grown produce,” says Martin Vadakekuttu, Director of Ecomix Coco Australia.
“Luckily lockdown restrictions have eased and we’re up and running again.” The company’s main markets are Australia and New Zealand. “Australia and New Zealand are not strong in vertical farming production, but there are lots of new projects going on with micro and leafy greens that we’re supplying and supporting,” he adds.
Australian growers have been successful with microgreens previously. Especially after the lockdown, traditional growers have found it difficult to adapt due to their scale. Microgreen growers, in contrast, are able to quickly adapt their business to manage consumer demand and labor shortages.
‘A great substitute’
“Coco grow mat is a great substitute for peat moss from a renewable point of view. Both cocopeat and peat moss can also be successfully used in vertical farming. In comparison to peat moss, I believe Cocopeat is more convenient for the grower - it gives the produce a better flavor and it’s more economical to grow crops,” Martin states. Ecomix also supplies coco grow mats for clients involved with vertical farming as they retain more moisture, allowing the grower more control. In the end, it’s a user-friendly product: clean and easy.
“Cocopeat is in great demand due to rapid conversion of high-tech farming, which is increasing the cost of the raw product. It really depends on how the farmer is looking to manage his or her farm,” explains Martin. “Most coco substrates are imported from India and Sri Lanka which may be highly-priced, in comparison to the peat moss locally sourced. Farmers use a range of different substrates, which can make it confusing for the grower. Usually, they pick the substrate through a local supplier. Having limited knowledge and experience, they are immediately directed to a low-quality and cheap substrate. Growers need to look at consistency, quality, and cost.”
Substrate quality really depends on a proper manufacturing method. Plus, when choosing a substrate many factors need to be taken into account: The growing area, the recommended plant density, the water requirements of the crop, and seed types that are chosen. “When looking at grow mats, it really varies on which mat you choose. Not all seeds perform well on mats, so it all comes down to selecting the correct mat and substrate. Some crops might perform better on peat moss and some on cocopeat. Ecomix has also blended both together in order for crops to create a hybrid setup,” Martin Affirms.
“Using different cocopeat blends, we can change the capability of the medium to retain moisture, depending on the crop and growers requirements. Using different particle sizes, as well as varying the coir mat thickness and using different components of the coco (fibres, chips, fines and other elements), we can vary the water retention and drainage.” Martin explains. “Air porosity is also an essential component of a good medium which is achieved by developing a substrate structure that increases oxygen availability within the coco grow mat.”
Overall, the increase in control of the growing medium means that cocopeat is rapidly growing as one of the primary mediums used in commercial microgreen production. Growers like the ease of use, efficiency and affordability of Coco substrates which is proving to be a highly productive element of any microgreen setup.