Disruptive innovation in the hydroponic sector

The world of amateur hydroponics can be a confusing place if you are not an experienced horticulturist. If you go into any grow shop or browse an online hydroponic store you will find an almost endless array of products on offer. This is especially true for the fertilizers on offer, which often have crazy outlandish names. It is also rarely explained what is in the bottles or how to use all these different products. Then there are multiple offerings from lots of different producers.

To get started with even the most basic hydroponic system you would need to purchase the following resources just to meet the nutritional requirements of the plants:

A Fertilizer £6.00/L

B Fertilizer £6.00/L

Acid £10/L and bases £10/L

Pipettes, measuring cylinders, and beakers for measuring each separate ingredient £30

pH meter £160-300 and buffer solution £6

EC meter £40

So, faced with a bill of over £250, this represents a significant barrier to entry for anybody, especially those just wanting to dip their toe in the water and dabble with hydroponics.

You may also be persuaded to buy dedicated ‘grow’ and ‘bloom’ versions of each fertilizer, or to top up with feeds of specific nutrients (such as iron or magnesium), foliar fertilizers for spraying onto leaves, and finally biostimulants to get the crop growing faster. Which could easily double your fertilizer bill.

This complexity and cost is preventing many new entrants to hydroponics. It was these challenges that drove Plater Bio’s efforts to create a completely new type of hydroponic fertilizer; one that does away with the need for all the products and equipment listed above and replaces it all with a single product. This product has provisionally been titled “Gold Leaf”.

So how does Gold Leaf manage to do all this?

Gold Leaf supplies all essential nutrients at once. This is no easy feat, and has been the ‘holy grail’ of hydroponic fertilizer producers since the industry began in the 1970s. The reason it is usually not possible is because calcium and phosphate normally precipitate out if mixed together, hence why other hydroponic fertilizers are delivered in A and B bottles*.

To prevent issues with pH limiting the plants ability to access nutrients Gold Leaf is already at the pH optimum for growth (6.5). Furthermore, Gold Leaf is also highly buffered meaning the fertigation liquid will not be quick to drift away from this optimum as the plants start removing nutrients and exudes acids from their roots.

A consistent formulation means that you do not necessarily need an EC meter to get the correct concentration. Just follow the simple dosage instructions on the label. A pump dispenser is included so that every dose is the same and no measuring cylinders are required for accurate dosing.

In addition to replacing the conventional A+B fertilizers, Gold Leaf is also superior in relation to the ingredients; in particular, it is not packed with chlorides, which are often far too high in most liquid fertilizers as potassium chloride is a cheap way of getting potassium into solution. Gold Leaf uses other anions to deliver potassium. Chlorides are only required by plants in tiny amounts, which are more than easily met by the ‘hardness’ found in water. Any levels above this are of not of benefit and potentially detrimental to plant growth.

If you are using an EC meter, it is important to note that Gold Leaf contains no chlorides. You will therefore not want to match your usual EC level as chlorides give a very high EC value and the higher quality nutrients in Gold Leaf are not as conductive.

Gold Leaf also makes fertilizing hydroponic crops safer with no need to handle dangerous acids. However, as is standard for most chemical fertilizers, the product in the concentrated form is classified as hazardous (a skin and eye irritant similar to washing up liquid) so should be handled according to the stated instructions only.

While Gold Leaf was initially designed with the home hydroponic market in mind, there is no reason why it cannot also be used in the commercial sector. It would be a great option for fertilizing crops in growth rooms where space is limited and where dedicated A and B holding tanks are not ideal as they take up a significant amount of the space that could be used to grow crops. Such scenarios include the use of shipping containers to grow crops in urban areas.
In addition to being the only concentrated complete hydroponic fertilizer, Gold Leaf also has a unique colour and appearance. It also produces an intriguing ‘Pernod’ style cloud as it goes into solution.

Gold Leaf is currently a development product, and Plater Bio is interested to hear from potential distributors to take this technology to market. If you would like to know more about Gold Leaf please get in touch.

*While you may find that there are products on the market claiming to be ‘one part’ complete fertilizers, these are often very weak (e.g. NPK = 1 : 0.3 : 3 ), or are suspensions of insoluble material. In contrast, Gold Leaf is packed with fully soluble nutrients (NPK = 7 : 7 : 15 ).