What is Bioponics™ / “Organic” hydroponics?
“Organic” gardening or farming means different things in many countries. To many consumers it means food grown without unnecessary chemicals or pesticides: we achieve that with all our nutrient ranges and systems when used properly.
To us, ‘organic’ means nutrients that nourish a healthy microbial ecosystem that breaks down nutrients to feed your plants. And of course, our organic products contain only high-quality ingredients meeting European regulation 834/2007 on organic agriculture.
Originally, and to many regulators, « Organic » meant food produced in healthy soil. In most countries, as soon as you grow out of soil, you cannot get an organic certification for your production. The US is the only country up to now to rule, in November 2017, that growing in hydroponics with organic nutrients gives you access to the « organic » label. So currently, if you live anywhere else, even if you use a certified organic nutrients, your hydroponically grown crop will not be accepted as « organic ». So why even try soil-less organic growing?
In short, because as with mineral hydroponics; growing without substrate in recirculating systems saves water and increases productivity and yields dramatically, and growing organically can significantly increase the ratio of fruit to vegetative growth, meaning for example, more tomatoes from smaller, less leafy plants.
For many years researchers from several countries have looked for an efficient way to achieve real organic hydroponics: but whilst creating organics that can be used in soil is straightforward (manure works fine), reproducing the well-nourished but balanced microbial ecosystem found in the best organic soil, in flowing water, is not.
Then, in 2004 William Texier, Terra Aquatica co-founder, developed BioSevia (now Pro Organic),
a revolutionary ‘liquid earth’ which, when combined with the right beneficial microorganisms*, brings the activity of the humus layer of natural soil to a nutrient solution, and the first such product to perform in re- circulating, substrate-free hydroponics.
The concept was and is fundamentally different to conventional hydroponics in approach and management, so William patented the system under the name “Bioponics” – patent N° 05.11569 – 15/11/05. As opposed to hydroponics, in Bioponics, as in nature, biological life is doing the work, not the water. This is why the General Organics Thrive bioponic and soil/hydroponics feed charts are so different: organics in soil requires no new techniques for even a novice gardener, but bioponics, whilst not complex, needs a very different approach.
How to manage Bioponics?
Managing bioponics needs much more attention than traditional hydroponic growing methods. Not in terms of time spent, but in terms of “visual attention and examination”. Bioponics is managed by eye as much as with pH and EC parameters, although these do still remain important references. Here are a few basic principles for success when growing bioponically with General Organics Thrive.
Bioponics works through a symbiotic relationship between you, microorganisms and your plants. In free water, without the buffering capacity of soil, life is hard to impossible for ‘beneficials’, and even when established on roots and substrate their activity and health can be affected by rapid changes in environment
e.g. in temperature, pH, conductivity, lack of oxygen or humidity: avoiding rapid swings is the key to success in Bioponics.
can be done easily by sprinkling directly onto humid substrates such as rockwool, coco or perlite, or adding directly to the nutrient solution in recirculating systems and repeat every 6 to 8 weeks, and again after the second week in totally substrate-free systems. See product pages for dosages. However, in systems where there is no substrate at all, especially early on, it is necessary to provide supplemental microbial habitat. This is done with a device called a biofilter. Its job is not to clean your nutrient solution, but to provide a base for beneficial to reproduce and from which they can colonize your plants and system. For more details see “General Organics Thrive HOW TO USE“
G.O. Thrive has an almost neutral pH and will not affect nutrient solution pH on addition. During growth, pH is more difficult to stabilise than in mineral hydroponics because arbitrary organic regulations prohibit the use of some extremely efficient buffers. This means nutrient solution pH will tend to rise. But the pH doesn’t have the same importance in bioponics. It can rise to 7.5 with no problem. Over 7.5 it must be driven slowly down to 6.0, but progressively, over a period of five to six days. To do so, use Terra Aquatica’s liquid pH –, as it contains organic buffers which work well in bioponics. (NB: Terra Aquatica pH – is not an organic product).
Dilute pH regulator before use and add slowly, little by little. Pour it into the reservoir, far away from the pump (or switch the pump off) to avoid plant stress due to a rapid a change in pH levels. Never use: chlorhydric or acetic acids (vinegar, etc).
A significant drop in pH means the death of a large quantity of micro-organisms has occurred. In this case it is important to find the cause, treat it, and replenish micro organisms.
This is the most different part of the bioponic process because organic molecules don’t carry electric charges and so aren’t shown by EC meters. And when you dilute G.O. Thrive in water, only a small fraction is immediately dissolved and transformed into ions, resulting in very little conductivity.
On day one, with a dose of 1.5 ml/L added to normal tap water, you will obtain an EC reading of around 0.6 to 0.7 mS. This low conductivity is generally enough.
After this period, only add nutrient when your EC goes under 0.8. and respect the dosages indicated on the feed charts.
Keep your conductivity under 1.0 and above 0.8.
If possible keep using this dosage without replacing the nutrient solution to maintain all the benefits of the environment you have created. When nutritive elements are liberated, others will be absorbed by the plant, and conductivity will tend to remain in balance around the same values. When the stock of organic matter becomes insufficient, EC will drop and it is time to add more nutrient.
This seems simple, but to obtain the best results, it is important to anticipate this drop in EC, and ensure the constant availability of organic matter. Do not add too much nutrient at once as the breakdown of molecules happens according to room temperature. In fact, micro-organisms act at radically different rates depending on nutrient solution temperature (ideally 18°c to 21°c). If there is too much organic matter in the solution, a rise in temperature could increase activity and conductivity to a level that will harm your plant. It is not always easy to find the correct balance. This is where the grower’s eye makes all the difference!
Filtration is very important, especially in hot weather conditions, and when working with bare roots that hang directly in the nutritive solution. It is necessary to filter the largest particles out of your nutrient solution as they could asphyxiate the roots, particularly in hot weather. It is always better to have only easily assimilated ions in the root zone. With G.O. Thrive, a simple foam filter on the pump input is enough. G.O. Thrive will not clog the filter, but still, thorough and regular filter maintenance is required: rinse once a week for best results and make sure you stop your system whilst cleaning.
Finally, whatever species or variety you are growing, the overall environment must be adapted to the plant, independently from the growing method you use. No system or nutrient can deliver results if lighting, airflow, temperature, humidity and pest / pathogen management are not adapted to the needs of your crops. Ensuring environment is well managed is an essential step in any cultivation project.
Our professional pedigree:
At Terra Aquatica we do things differently: with 30 years of experience successfully producing all types of crops on commercial scales all around the world we sell proven systems and concepts, backed by decades of commercial results. We also work with our commercial partners to develop and improve our systems and products, and so when you buy a Terra Aquatica or General Organics product, you can be sure that you are buying a product with a real-world pedigree of performance.