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Substrate-free propagation technology aims to reduce reliance on mineral wool, peat

“In contrast to all currently established cultivation systems, our Sinterra Hydrostarter works without using any substrate,” says Matthias Dicks, co-founder of the German agtech startup called Sinterra. As he explains, the company was founded out of a desire to reduce the demand for hydroponic substrates thus shrinking the environmental footprint of controlled environment agriculture.

Hydrostarter: a propagation and plant growth device
Sinterra’s flagship product will be the Hydrostarter, a propagation and cultivation device that does not use any substrate. According to Matthias, “a seed is inserted into the upper opening of a device, falling into a germination chamber. Through capillary action, water passes up to the seed and the roots then grow down into the water.” Depending on the plant, the seedlings can be grown to maturity in the device and harvested completely intact or transplanted into another medium. The Hydrostarter can then be cleaned and reused immediately.

“A main advantage of our device is the ability to extract bare-root seedling at any developmental stage for harvesting or transplanting. Another advantage is the elimination of waste and substrate. Popular substrates like mineral wool and peat have negative impacts on the environment, so we are eliminating both of these,” explains Matthias. “This also allows growers to save on the recurring acquisition costs for substrates and become more independent of the supply chain.”

Sinterra has tested roughly 20 versions of the Hydrostarter and is using its current version for both testing and production, focusing on leafy greens but also finding success with certain vine crops.

Hydrostarter available in 2023, first in EU
As Matthias explains, Sinterra plans to begin serial production and have its Hydrostarter on the market in early 2023, first in the European Union and then in the United States. Over time, Hydrostarter will be available around the world. Sinterra is also looking to develop partnerships and collaborations to help make the product available for both residential and commercial use.

“Our device is suitable for both home growers with small hydroponic systems and large-scale commercial vertical farms. While the environmental impact is largest for commercial growers, we believe that home growers can also profit from the comfort and ease that comes with our simple design,” says Matthias.

For more information:
Matthias Dicks, Co-Founder