Rockwool Growth Media: Does size matter?

After trying two different sizes of rockwool cubes for our hydroponic tower I now know a much easier way to plant in a Tower Garden.

A difficult initial planting

I recently published an article outlining my experiences with the Tower Gardens. When I first planted in our Tower Garden I found it to be quite a messy endeavour, as the small rockwool growth media I used required us to fill the plant baskets with clay pebbles that were difficult to evenly distribute.

Below is a picture of the rockwool growth media that I used for the initial planting – note the small cylindrical shape.

Small Rockwool
Media is quite small for the basket
Trying something new

I decided to try a different size and shape of rockwool for my second planting. This time the rockwool was quite a bit bigger and square shaped. My concern was that it was too big for seed propagation, but from the looks of our current seedlings things are currently going well. Now, with these new rockwool cubes, I’m able to transplant seedlings without having to use clay pebbles to fill the rest of the basket. This shaves off about 20 minutes, if not more, of labour time required for each tower for transplanting.

Why does this even matter?

A large focus of mine, even outside the realm of indoor farming, has been creating efficient systems and practices. Sure, I could put in an hour of labour to harvest 20 heads of lettuce, but is that the most efficient way? Will such a system be able to feed the world? Will it be profitable and, in turn, be sustainable in the long term? These are some of the questions I ask when it comes to indoor farming practices. The Tower Gardens, as I was using them, were quite inefficient if one were to try and use it for a large scale and, ideally, profitable operation. Although, I won’t immediately dismiss them, instead I want to look at ways to improve their ease of operation even further.

It’s about making the system as easy to operate as possible

This brings me back to one of my favourite quotes by Einstein:

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” 

I believe that the less moving parts a system (ie. an indoor farming system) has the more optimal it can become in the long term. This can be due to easily being able to easily add to the system since it has less complex interrelated processes and that it has less risks of faults.

Rockwool growth media
Our old (left) and new (right) media
How will this apply to an indoor farm?

Looking at an indoor farm as a system you could better analyze areas of optimization and if you yourself don’t want to take on such a task then I’m certain there will be and are currently companies out there that assist with such a thing. This is one of the great benefits of indoor farming – the ability to tweak and refine the process to create the most optimal system possible. This is made possible by the closed environment that an indoor farm operates in – the variables are in your control so use them to your advantage!

James B. Lindsay
James B. Lindsay

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