“It’s doesn’t make sense to use soil indoor”
Mention aeroponics in a conversation and there will be a rowdy conversation shortly. This revolutionary and controversial method of growing is gaining more fans and also more opponents. We had a conversation with Co-founder & CEO, Severin Kobelt from Sprout Systems AG to get the lowdown on why he buys into it.
Sprout Systems AG, based in Switzerland, is at the forefront of revolutionizing the cannabis cultivation landscape. With a mission to create sustainable and resource-saving growing systems, they aim to elevate professional plant cultivation to unprecedented heights. Utilizing advanced aeroponic technology, Sprout Systems is not just growing cannabis; they are setting new benchmarks for efficiency, sustainability, and compliance in the sector. Their innovative approach has caught the eye of industry experts and environmentally conscious cultivators alike, marking them as a trailblazer in the realm of sustainable cannabis cultivation. Without further ado, let’s delve into the visionary world of Sprout Systems AG as we sit down for an enlightening interview with Severin Kobelt, Co-founder and CEO, to discuss the future of sustainable cannabis cultivation.
Why did you decide to start growing with aeroponics?
A decade ago I was working with rockwool and coco coir. I started asking questions about input versus the weight that comes out. Everything costs money and this is an expensive way to grow. This is why I started considering aeroponics. I quickly realised that there were very few choices on the market if you wanted to do it. So, I started to build a system myself.
If you build it they will come, right?
Yes, very much so.
What are the advantages to aeroponics?
Overall it is easier to grow with, especially for beginners. People think that it’s a weird system, but it’s not. Everything is fully controlled and automated. The whole process literally works on a green light/red light system. The other advantage of course is the whole idea around water supply. Are you giving it too much or too little. This whole issue is now resolved with our system, because if the green light is one, you’re doing it right and when the red light is on, you fix it to become green. Another advantage is that the plants grow faster, a minimum of ten percent faster than with other methods. The plants always have the correct amount of water. For me nutrition is important but it is not the first goal in growing, for me it’s water.
What are the disadvantages?
Building the aeroponic system is more complicated than other conventional systems. Also, there is this fear from people that the plants may die which is a crazy idea because with our aeroponic system from Sprout Systems you are in full control of everything at all times. This is a weird fear that people have, because with rockwool people don’t even notice it if there isn’t enough water. Perhaps it’s because it is such an unconventional way of growing. Actually, I can’t really tell you about the disadvantages because I don’t see any. It is difficult for me to understand why people do not want to use this system.
How does it compare cost wise to other systems?
This depends on what standards you are looking at. When you buy a printer, you get cheap ones and expensive ones and they can all do the job more or less, but the real issue emerge when you start buying the cartridges. That is where the real difference comes in and where the big expenditure is. It is the same when you look at different systems out there. People talk about the price of this or that, but with aeroponics you may pay slightly more initially, but the upkeep is so much lower than any other system.
So, the cost of running it is low?
It’s super low. Looking at the labour costs first, the cleaning and restocking process is very simple. It takes an hour or two for two people to harvest 300 plants, clean the system and refill it with new plants and you are ready to go. A lot of other aeroponic systems use substrates, ours doesn’t. And of course, everything is recyclable. Therefore, the running material costs are also very low.
Do you see this as a system that will grow in popularity?
I hope so. I see myself as an activist. I don’t like seeing people wasting energy or water, it’s not good for the environment. This system is environmentally friendly. A lot of indoor growing is not. This is another way to grow to be more sustainable and efficient and create a better product.
What kind of feedback do you get from more traditional growers about this system?
(Big smile) I come from an engineering background, not a farming background. That is the reason I think so differently about this product. People have been doing the same thing over and over again in a slightly different way, so perhaps it is time to rethink the whole way in which we do things. That is aeroponics. A lot of the bigger brands do not trust technology and that is a problem. Cars are not built by humans, yet they work. Technology is the future if there is a good support system. You can either go for an operation where there are many people working or you can go for one where the system is fully automatic and controlling. This is a system that works well in places where labour is expensive. Our production facilty at Sprout Systems is running at a capacity of 3400 plants operated by only two people.
Is this the future of growing?
It has to be. It’s green, it’s cost efficient, it’s not labour intensive. It doesn’t make sense to have soil indoor. Soil is great for outdoors. But bringing it inside comes with its own problems. Not using soil is another way to prevent outside contamination. We are seeing increasingly more requests to view our system because the idea of growing without soil is becoming bigger and bigger as people are seeing the advantage.
It’s a lot easier to break the rules when you don’t know what they are. This system seems to not really pay much attention to what else is available and walks its own path.
This is my vision and at Sprout Systems we are implementing it.