Spacers: How they have evolved and their role in efficient drainage systems for hydroponic agriculture


Spacers: How they have evolved and their role in efficient drainage systems for hydroponic agriculture

Since their appearance, the Spacers have marked a turning point in the efficiency of hydroponic cultivation drainage systems. There are significant advantages to their use and, at the end of the cycle, they have a positive impact on crop quality and yield.

The main advantages of Spacers include good root aeration, separation of roots from drainage water (drain spacer) and improved leachate circulation by ensuring that there is an appropriate distance between roots and flow, thus minimising moisture accumulation beneath the substrate.

The aforementioned culminates in strong, healthy roots across the production cycle. Furthermore, it thwarts many of the diseases caused by fungi and bacteria that are common when there is moisture accumulation. These factors ultimately decrease handling and treatment costs and ensure that kilos of crop production is not lost due to issues of this kind. The overall result is an improved yield at the end of the cycle. We were acutely aware of this at Hydroponic Systems when we launched our first Spacer for soil level drainage systems onto the market. In fact, the actual results obtained have been even better than expected.

When bags of substrate were initially used for hydroponic plant spacing in greenhouses, they were placed directly on the floor. A number of accessories for this farming method have emerged over time and gutters started being used to channel the water draining off crops and proving the importance of plant spacing. They ranged from ditches at floor level to gutters made from a number of different materials. Polypropylene gutters have been the most popular of all because of their cost-advantage ratio.

However, bags of substrate placed either directly on the floor or on drainage gutters led to a great deal of contamination since the stream of water draining off all the plants ran along the entire length of the gutters, coming into contact with the bags of substrate on its way. In the case of certain diseased plants, drainage systems of this kind spread the issue right across the crop.

As a result, different means of raising substrates off the floor were introduced so that the leachates could flow below them without coming into contact with the bags. Bricks and even polystyrene plates were used because they were a cheap option.  However, since bags of substrate were always supported entirely on a flat surface, even with a good drainage circulation, there would always be moisture remaining beneath the bag. Eventually, this would necessarily lead to algae and fungal growth, bacteria and disease.

PREMIUM system (soil level gutter + SPACER + Clips + Outflows)

In 2014, Hydroponic Systems launched its first patented Spacer onto the market. Its main advantages include excellent aeration and elimination of the moisture accumulated between the substrates and the surfaces they rest on. Due to that, the Spacer quickly found the expert grower’s approval. They appreciated that, when used, the Spacer avoided a number of issues and diseases across the production cycle. The main results obtained included healthier, stronger roots; fewer diseases; improved aeration; and elimination of accumulated humidity below the substrate. The overall result was an improved yield.

Over time, Hydroponic Systems has worked hard to transfer the advantages of our soil level Spacers to other gutter systems for drainage collection in hydroponic crops. This has included testing the use of Spacers on the top of metal gutters. The results obtained have been excellent. Again, in the case of elevated metal gutters, since bags of substrate were supported on a flat surface, there would always be some moisture remaining underneath. Incorporating a Spacer on the top of the metal gutter helps aeration improvement significantly and the accumulated moisture that is so damaging to crops is eliminated.

When Hydroponic Systems launched its elevated gutter systems onto the market, right from its conception and design, a Spacer was incorporated. Due to that, all our elevated gutter systems provide the advantages of an elevated system but with the added value of already having a Spacer. This means that, to the advantages of an elevated system, we add all the benefits of a Spacer. In short, at Hydroponic Systems, ever since the very first Spacer for soil level drainage systems was made available, our commitment to innovation and development has remained firm. We aim to launch new products that bolster the excellent results that have already been achieved and make transferring the advantages of Spacers to elevated crop drainage systems possible. Moreover, we are currently developing new systems that work hand in hand with technological advances applied to intensive and protected agriculture of a wide range of crops.

New hydroponic crop mobile drainage systems with a Spacer incorporated into the structure (designed primarily for strawberry plant spacing and other berry crops) go hand in hand with market trends and the demands of the visionary producers who hear about it. They understand that, by using appropriate technology, they will achieve crop quality and yields that will increase project profitability.

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