Success Stories

Substrate development for a passive hydroponics system

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Les solutions horticoles HerbiaEra is a young Quebec company wishing to market an innovative residential cultivation system requiring minimum effort from the user. The aim of the project was to develop a substrate that could be used in this system. The substrate had to comply precise characteristics and respond to many factors. It was expected to evolve in a passive hydroponics system, be prefertilized, maintain the desired shape, not crumble (remain in block) and be free of harmful agents. It also had to support (physically and chemically) growing plants for a period of four to six months.

As part of a first phase, Biopterre participated in the composition of recipes (inputs, proportions), the development of binder treatments application methods, and crop tests. A second phase is underway to optimize the physical and chemical characteristics of the substrates. This second phase will also allow the company to increase and diversify the offer of its cultivation catalogue. Indeed, Biopterre developed technical sheets allowing the company to develop a virtual management tool for crop monitoring with the cultivars best suited to this cultivation system.

This led to the development of ten substrate recipes, which were tested in the standard way to validate composition balance. Of these ten recipes, five were selected for their high potential. The five substrates that stood out were moulded and tested in the culture system. The moulded substrates were subjected to physical analyses for strength, weight stability, dehumidification and re-humidification prior to being tested in the hydroponics system. As a final development phase, Biopterre conducted three crop cycles to complete the observations. The results were better than expected and made it possible to respond to the company’s goal, which was to have a working prototype within the first year of research. The first customers will be supplied with the new substrate as early as spring 2021.

We wanted to develop a robust system that would allow individuals to produce fresh, healthy food at home while minimizing food waste. Since we wanted to avoid the use of pumps or any other mechanism with potential for breakage, our challenge was to develop a prefertilized substrate with specific physicochemical properties compatible with capillary culture. It was also important for the substrate to be stable during re-humidification, resistant to manipulation, and without disintegration.

Biopterre’s team developed a first version of marketable substrate, allowing us to raise the largest overall amount in the history of the La Ruche crowdfunding platform with our first connected planter model (The HerbiaEra™ CS1)!

Along with the optimization of the mobile application, we plan on continuing our work with Biopterre in the coming years to improve our substrates. We will keep on promoting HomeFarming, and perhaps, one day, make our entrance with our smart substrate in the greenhouses of the future!

Along with the optimization of the mobile application, we plan on continuing our work with Biopterre in the coming years to improve our substrates. We will keep on promoting HomeFarming, and perhaps, one day, make our entrance with our smart substrate in the greenhouses of the future!
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-Alexandre Boucher-Doddridge, CPI., CEO
Anthony Bisson Jr. Eng., Chief Technology Officer

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