“I believe that Horticubes AeroMax will be one of the most relevant substrates in the industry,” says Dr. Vijay Rapaka, global research manager at OASIS Grower Solutions, a division of Smithers-Oasis Company. This substrate is engineered for precision growing of young plants for hydroponic farming of leafy greens and compact plants.
OASIS Grower Solutions was established in the mid-1950s and began with the development of ornamental growing media. Fast forward to present day and the company has expanded its product offering to meet the demands of the ever-developing horticultural industry, which now includes vertical farms and highly automated greenhouses. OASIS® Grower Solutions currently has manufacturing locations in 20 countries and develops new products through in-house research and customer feedback. The company introduced its Horticubes line in the 1980s, then added Horticubes XL in 2011. Now, OASIS Grower Solutions introduces Horticubes® AeroMax for the hydroponic production of leafy greens.
Designed specifically for hydroponic farming, new Horticubes® AeroMax helps increase the uniformity and yield of leafy greens, herbs, and vegetables.
When designing the Horticubes AeroMax substrate, OASIS Grower Solutions focused on what they consider to be the three cardinal rules of horticultural substrate development. Firstly, a substrate should allow the grower to propagate healthy, uniform, and vigorous young plants. The second rule is that a substrate should support growers in modulating crop growth by facilitating the acceleration or deceleration of growth, or the use of wet and dry cycles. Finally, substrates should be able to withstand automated processes. This, according to Vijay, is especially important in controlled environment agriculture as automation is becoming increasingly used.
“With more LEDs, IoT, and automated processes, we knew that we needed a substrate that allowed us to precisely control young plant growth. We needed a smart substrate exclusively designed for precision hydroponic farming,” says Vijay.
Better circumstances for roots
The Horticubes AeroMax is engineered according to these cardinal rules and is unique from other substrates in five main ways. As denoted in its name, AeroMax is a very porous media that enhances the oxygenation of the root zone so that seeds can germinate quickly and uniformly. According to Vijay, more air in the root zone also increases root health and root branching. AeroMax is also different in that the substrate is low-density, low-strength which makes the substrate light and airy. As a result, roots can easily penetrate the substrate and express their full potential without expending much energy.
“With hydroponics, we need the roots to get to the nutrients as soon as possible. We don’t want the substrate to be a barrier,” explains Vijay.
The third advantage of Horticubes AeroMax is the good drainage which virtually eliminates any chance of overwatering because the excess water easily drains out. This also means that growers can achieve maximum nutrient refreshment rates. Fourthly, OASIS Grower Solutions tested multiple substrate colors but eventually selected black as this allows growers to increase the surface temperature of the substrate by a few degrees, thereby accelerating crop growth. A final benefit of Horticubes AeroMax is the reduction in algae growth on the substrate surface as the high drainage rate ensures that the top surface is dry.
According to Vijay, “these five key features weren’t present in our previous substrates. Overall, we achieved in making a substrate that will respond well to controlled growing environments, allowing the precision production of plants.”
Horticubes AeroMax was primarily developed for leafy green production in vertical farms and was engineered to be future-proof, according to Vijay. “This industry is progressing with LEDs, IoT, automation, etc. We developed Horticubes AeroMax with all of this in mind and believe it will be the most relevant substrate in the industry.”
OASIS Grower Solutions is currently developing Horticubes AeroMax applications for high-wire products and has another product coming to the floriculture industry.
For more information:
Vijay Rapaka, Global Research Manager
Oasis Grower Solutions