Coconut coir is rapidly gaining popularity as a substrate for cultivation. This growing media provides excellent aeration, drainage, and water retention while being more environmentally friendly than the alternatives. According to several studies on different crops, coconut coir substrate is showing results similar to, and even better than, peat moss and rockwool in terms of yield and fruit weight.
Lucky Plants is a Belgian company that aims to make soilless cultivation more affordable in times of labor shortage. They developed SmartyCoir, a patent-pending transplanting and growing system that allows growers to save time and cost on the installation of new production sites. "With the increasing overall costs being a challenge for growers, using the SmartyCoir provides them with an opportunity to make more profit," says Uliana Durbak, Co-Founder of Lucky Plants.
SmartyCoir is essentially a container with high-quality compressed and dehydrated coconut coir substrate inside. "All you have to do is place a plant inside a special pocket in the container and add some water. The substrate will completely enclose the plant. This product removes the need for digging and taking out the substrate, allowing you to speed up transplanting by 5-10 times, depending on the size of the plant", says Uliana. "SmartyCoir saves time, costs, and physical labor. In addition, transplanting can be performed directly on the site without moving plants around."
A special gradual transplanting protocol also lets growers distribute costs on the substrate over several years, normally one of the most cost-intensive parts of setting up a production site.
High labor costs in blueberry plantation
The founders of Lucky Plants created SmartyCoir to solve their own problem when they faced extremely high labor costs associated with setting up a blueberry plantation in Belgium. They started thinking of ways to speed up the transplanting of plants from small to larger pots, a process that takes a significant amount of time. SmartyCoir idea was developed into a working product with the support of the Flemish government. After some time, they filed a patent application, extended the product line to plants, and entered the substrate market. "As plants have to be transplanted quite a few times throughout the growing process, we realized that the industry also had a high need for such a product," Durbak says.
Apart from the transplanting system, Lucky Plants supplies a wide range of grow bags with the highest quality coconut coir substrate and compressed coco coir substrate bales for standalone use and mixes. They are also looking for cooperation in joint projects with other companies in the industry to make cultivation more cost-effective.
Durbak explains that substrate delivery has become more expensive but that they are working on ways to lower the cost of their substrate as much as possible. "With our partners, we are trying to find solutions, such as low-cost transportation channels. We do a big part of our transportation by land, which is more affordable. Depending on the location of the client, we work to find the best route. Sometimes this means not going the most obvious way, but trying to find a way around."
Lucky Plants believes that coconut coir substrate is the future of growing media. "Its properties make it a great alternative to peat moss and rockwool. If used correctly, coconut coir shows amazing results for many crops. Generally, it provides very good drainage as well as great water holding capacity. That means that the roots get enough water and don't dry out as fast as they would in peat moss, for example. Moreover, coco coir is clean to use, and you can easily control how much fertilizer and pH your plant experiences. As coco coir does not deteriorate for a long time, it can also be used for much longer than comparable substrates," Durbak adds.