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144 plants per square metre:
Growing in barrels instead of gutters
Instead of cultivating herbs and leafy vegetables in vertical NFT gutters, German developer Marco Tidona, decided to bend the gutters to cultivate in cylindrical cultivation barrels. With these Aponix barrels he can place about 144 plants per square metre in a space that is 2.30 metres high.
In the system, developed by German company Manticore, herbs, leafy vegetables and all sorts of small vegetables can be cultivated in water. “The major advantage is that you do not have to build any complicated constructions,” Marco Tidona says. “The system is based on Lego bricks. The barrels can be easily stacked by clicking them in place, as high as you want. It is completely modular, and can therefore easily be started, and it is easily scaled-up as well.”
The development of the Aponix was started in 2014. Since then, the product has been further developed with cultivators, and it was tested at the Staatliche Lehr-Uni Versuchsanstalt für Gartenbau Heidelberg. The barrel has been ready for the market since late last year. “We are thinking of, for example, placing them in rooftop greenhouses,” Marco says. “Smaller, decentralised nurseries, where you want to be able to cultivate intensively.” Moreover, because the system looks good, prototypes have already been placed in visitor’s rooms of city nurseries worldwide.
Production numbers can increase considerably in the barrels. Per square metre cultivation space, 144 plants can be cultivated with a height of 2.30 metres and with a pot size of 2x2 inches. For each additional 15 centimetres, 12 plants can be added. “We have calculated that you need about 525 to 630 m2 for a daily yield of 1,000 heads of lettuce,” Marco explains. “That is including an error margin and a fairly safe plant density. You can naturally further increase plant density, but that is also riskier. Especially in the beginning you need to gain some experience with the system.” The system can also be illuminated, and if desired, the barrels can rotate evenly so that all plants get the same amount of light.
The roots of the plants hang inside the barrel. Irrigation takes place by means of a spray nozzle on the inside of the barrel. With a kind of inverse sprinkler, the fertiliser can be evenly spread from the inside out. A wing-shape has been realised for every plant hole. Because of that, the water immediately flows to the roots of the plant. It is also possible to place the spray nozzles on the inside, to create an even mist inside the barrels.
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Publication date: 3/1/2017
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