Solving Plant Problems in Vertical Farming

Kelly, our Leader of Plant Health, breaks down how we tackle horticulture problems in our vertical farming systems.

Here it is, every answer you have ever been looking for to solve every problem with plants in your hydroponic system...or not.

Growing plants in a controlled environment should be easier than growing outside, right? Not always...we are still dealing with a living organism with quirks all of its own.

At Planted Detroit, we grow many different varieties of plants from leafy greens to herbs. This keeps the process exciting, but also keeps it challenging. I am constantly using my background in horticulture to figure out the best way to grow a certain cultivar. 

Let me paint a realistic view into the daily life of our Horticulture department by using an example of a recent issue that we tackled. We were having growing issues with a few of our microgreen varieties (low yield, spotty germination, wilting). The team started an abbreviated version of the scientific method in order to resume production quickly.

1. We observed every variable that was noticeable to the naked eye.
2. We each made a hypothesis as to what caused our lack of growth.
3. (Here comes the abbreviated part) We quickly went down a list of steps that happened in the life of these plants before this point and decided which ones to test following our hypotheses.

Here is a short list that we used to form and test our hypotheses:

  • Seed lots - did we change them recently?
  • Seed Treatment
    • Rinsing water - did the temperature change?
    • Ultrasonic cleaning - is the machine working properly?
    • Spreading technique - were seeds sown at an event rate?
  • Germination cabinets
    • Wiring - was there something wrong with the cabinet itself and its heating element?
    • Did the team on the floor fill the water reservoir at all/sufficiently?
  • Media - did we change our lot recently?
  • Watering in the nursery - has it been consistent?

Take a guess...which of these was the problem?

Well, after a careful testing process, we figured out that media was our issue! Did you speculate correctly? We had a new lot of media that was started when our problem first appeared; that media was delivered to use with a different recipe that affected our crops negatively.

So, as much as I love all of my plants (as well as all of my children if they are reading this), having the understanding that we are still growing live organisms is so important. Being able to be malleable with our production as well as being able to critically think through an issue is really the "secret sauce" in this industry.


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