What is an Autopot system?
The Autopot is a passive hydroponic system, which is based on the principle of automatic watering. It is one of the most economical systems. The nutrient solution is brought in sufficient quantity to each plant by gravity and does not recirculate. So there is no loss of water and nutrients.
The Autopot system is also modular, you can add/reduce the number of pots in the network. This does not limit the amount of plants you want to grow. However, if you want to multiply crops, it is preferable to use plants with similar nutritional needs within the same network.
How does an Autopot system work?
The Autopot system consists of a tank, which feeds the network pots, through a pipe. This hose connects to an automatic valve, called an Aquavalve. It is located in the cup of each pot and allows the plants to be fed by gravity.
How does the Aquavalve work?
By following the diagram, we understand a little better the principle of the Aquavalve:
- The nutrient solution comes through the feed nozzle and settles into the main body of the Aquavalve and then into the cup. As the cup fills, air becomes trapped in the main body and around the internal float causing it to become blocked.
- The upper floats then begin to rise.
- They are connected to a bar which closes, at the top of the main body, a small hole, which allows the air to be blocked. When rising, the upper floats release the air present in the main body.
- When the air escapes, the internal float can rise in turn.
- This causes the feed nozzle to close. As long as the plant has not drunk all the nutrient solution present in the cup, the nozzle does not reopen.
How does Autopot work?
The Autopot system therefore comes in the form of a network of pots with a central reservoir. The substrate that is mainly used in this system is coir . It has good water retention and it also ensures the absorption by capillarity essential in this passive system. All you have to do is fill each of your pots with this substrate and install your plants there. Don’t forget to also fill the tank with a nutrient solution suitable for the culture .
It is advisable to water your young plants in the traditional way for the first week, so that the roots have time to spread properly through the substrate. Indeed, during any transplant, it is very important to keep the substrate moist but not soaked to promote root recovery. However, in our experience, often only one hand watering is needed the first time. The Aquavalve being effective, the substrate remains saturated via capillarity.
Once the root system is established, the Autopot system takes over. You just need to control the level of nutrient solution in the tank and top it up when it is empty.
What can you grow with an Autopot system?
You can grow any type of plants with this system. But as mentioned above, we advise you to grow plants with identical nutritional needs in the same network of Autopot. For example, a tomato stalk can support an EC of 2.0 while a lettuce stalk supports a maximum EC of 1.5. If you want to grow plants with different needs, therefore, it is necessary to use several tanks and create other networks.
What are the advantages of the Autopot system?
First, the Autopot system takes care of the watering for you without waste. It requires very little human intervention. The time that was previously spent watering each plant manually can be used to focus on other tasks, such as plant pruning or harvesting.
Besides, the time saving does not stop there. Since the reservoir is external, the plants cannot change the parameters of the solution, and the latter is only used once via the Aquavalve which prevents any recirculation, unlike other active hydroponic systems such as the NFT . It is therefore necessarily more stable. Just adjust the PH and EC once, and wait for the tank to empty to fill it again.
In addition, the Autopot system can be used both indoors and outdoors because it does not require the use of electricity. If you don’t have an electrical outlet on your balcony, you can still indulge in the joys of hydroponics outdoors while saving energy.
The Autopots are also modular. Additional pots can be added simply by purchasing an extension. So you can start with a basic system to try out. And if you later want to grow more plants, all you have to do is add one or more Easy2Grow extension kit(s), for example.
What are the disadvantages of the Autopot system?
You should know that it is essential to place the Autopot tank on a higher surface than the pots. Without this, the gravity distribution cannot be done correctly, unlike a DWC system where the tank and the growth chamber merge .
In addition, the system requires at least special attention during the first weeks of the plants’ life. Make sure the substrate stays moist. This requires a few manual waterings until the root system is properly established and can benefit from capillary watering.
The different Autopot models and their extensions
Three Autopot systems based on the standard model exist:
- Autopot EASY2GROW 8.5 L : This is the beginner model in the range, consisting of a base for two 8.5 L pots.
- Autopot Standard 15 L : The “original” Autopot model. One base and one valve per 15 L pot. Allows more freedom in crops than the EASY2GROW.
- Autopot XL 25 L : The big brother of the Autopot. Just like the standard, a base and a valve, but for a large 25 L pot. Ideal for extreme growers.
Extensions are also available to grow more plants:
- Autopot extension kit EASY2GROW 8.5 L
- Extension kit Autopot Standard 15 L
- Extension kit Autopot XL 25 L
- 47L Autopot tank