“Up until now, there has been little focus on labor savings, reduced labor, and improving efficiency. That is how AeroMax and our family of hydroponic plugs got started. We sought to cut labor requirements and increase efficiency in the entire process,” says Dr. Vijay Rapaka, global research manager at Smithers-Oasis Company.
Horticubes AeroMax was successfully launched earlier this year by OASIS Grower Solutions, a division of Smither-Oasis Company. "We have received many positive reviews thanks to the substrate’s versatility and user-friendliness since then," the OASIS team states. "A major advantage of Horticubes AeroMax is the multitude of ways in which the substrate creates labor savings and improves operational efficiencies."
Ready-to-seed and automation-friendly
Preparing trays for seeding can be a very labor-intensive process, especially when using peat-based loose fill. Whereas filling trays with loose media is time-consuming, Horticubes AeroMax comes in 10” x 20” sheets of interconnected, pre-dibbled cubes which are easily slipped into trays. This, according to Dr. Rapaka, eliminates much of the preparation requirements ahead of seeding.
Horticubes AeroMax is also designed to be adapted to automation, such as vacuum and drum seeding. "The dibbles are uniform in shape and center-to-center spacing, which ensures the placement of seeds in the dibbles by automated seeders, saving time and labor," the team continues.
"Whereas other substrates require vermiculite topdress to ensure uniform germination, Horticubes AeroMax does not require this extra step thanks to its low strength, low density, and optimal water-to-air ratio. You can establish a uniform, young plant while reducing labor by not needing to topdress,” says Vijay.
Brenton Williams, OGS Sales Representative, demonstrates how Horticubes AeroMax substrate speeds up the seeding process.
Growth uniform improved
As Vijay explains, Horticubes AeroMax continues to provide labor savings after seeding, as the uniformity of the young plants reduces time spent sorting when transplanting young plants into the production area. It also increases the number of plants transplanted in a given period.
Further, Horticubes AeroMax reportedly increases growth by roughly 20%, allowing young plants to be transplanted two days sooner. "Through faster, uniform growth, we cut down on the transplant production time by two days, so you can grow 10-15% more biomass in the same footprint, using the same labor,” quips Vijay.
Less time spent cleaning, more growing
Growers can also expect labor savings by reducing the amount of time spent cleaning; as an engineered substrate free of organic matter, Horticubes AeroMax eliminates the need to sweep up loose materials. Moreover, the substrate sheets are placed in flat trays rather than multicell trays, the former being much easier to clean. According to Vijay, the physical integrity of Horticubes AeroMax even reduces cleaning requirements in hydroponic systems as the substrate is inert. This is compounded by the fact that the surface of AeroMax sheets stays fairly dry, limiting the growth of algae and biofilm on this surface.
A finished, healthy product
Finished plants are consistent and clean
"Plants’ uniform growth in AeroMax continues well beyond the young plant stage, as finished plants also exhibit consistent quality and size. This reduces the time spent sorting plants. Further, the inert nature of Horticubes AeroMax means that plants do not need to be washed upon harvest, saving even more time while simultaneously reducing waste.
"Altogether, the labor savings provided by Horticubes AeroMax translates into more time spent growing, or creating value, and less time spent on menial, low-value tasks.
“It’s all about minimizing the labor that doesn’t necessarily add any value to the product. Sure, there are things we need to do, like cleaning and maintenance, but they do not add much value to the crop. With Horticubes AeroMax, we have not only sped up the growing process and helped create stronger, healthier plants, but we have been able to reduce the time needed on invaluable steps and processes,” finishes Vijay.
For more information:
Vijay Rapaka, Global Research Manager
Oasis Grower Solutions