Photo: Tomatoes growing in the AutoPot® 10" Double Module
The AutoPot® Smart-valve
The Smart-valve is the heart of AutoPot® Systems - this unit controls the water level in a module (or your own tray) to give your plants the wet-dry cycle. Over thirty years of trials, refinement and development have resulted in today’s Smart-valve.
The Smart-valve and AutoPot® Systems have won a number of awards including the Inventors Association of Victoria, Australia, First Prize in 1992 and the best Victorian invention at the Royal Melbourne Show of that same year.
How does the Smart-valve work?
Unlike a conventional ball cock type float valve, the Smart-valve allows total reduction of the fluid level before it refills. When connected to a low pressure water supply (which can be from either pressure reduced mains, pressure pump (like the AutoPot® Smart Pump Set) or gravity tank, the Smart-valve opens to allow water to enter the bottom of the growing container to a set depth (approx 35mm).
The Smart-valve then closes and will not permit further water to enter the container until all the original supply has been used up by the pot. This absorption is achieved by capillary action that occurs in the growing medium. Once the water has been absorbed to the extent that the film of water under the Smart-valve has gone, the Smart-valve re-opens and another supply of water enters the growing container, thus we have wet-dry cycles dictated by the pot's own rate of consumption.
Features - Where AutoPot® Technology Excels
Where water is scarce, AutoPot® Systems has no water wastage or nutrient run-off.
Ease Of Use
No electricity is required as AutoPot® Systems can be run by gravity. If pumping is used, the amount of energy required is so small that a single car battery powered by the sun would be sufficient to produce 25 tons of tomatoes annually!
Without nutrient run-off, there is no pollution.
Take agriculture to places previously thought impossible such as non-productive or marginal land and building rooftops. Where soil is poor, AutoPot® Systems can produce good crops out of pure sand or gravel.
Farming on a commercial scale is easier and less labourious.
Crop yields and quantity are consistent and of premium grade.
How AutoPot® Systems Differ From Other Hydroponic Systems.
Many hydroponic systems recognise the fact that nature conditioned most plants to get alternating cycles of moisture so that they start out wet and then gradually dry out before it rains again to supply more moisture. If the water comes too frequently before the plant has had the chance for a drier period then plant growth is inhibited. If the plant dries out completely and stays that way for a period longer than it is conditioned to tolerate, it will either die completely or suffer a severe setback in its growth pattern.
The most common conventional hydroponic systems using media are "drip to waste" and "ebb and flow". In a variety of ways and under a variety of systems of control, a water/nutrient mix is supplied to the plants in the system. The control at its simplest is manual, and at its most complicated, computer controlled. Even in the most comprehensive computer controlled Nutrient Film (NFT) systems, the cycle is normally dictated by the needs of the thirstiest of the plants in the system, so the average plant will get more water/nutrient than it needs which is usually also more than is good for it. This is done on the basis that a bit too much water, while perhaps not the ultimate in supplying the best growth rate, is better than too little water. There’s an old farmers saying that “you can always grow something in mud but you can’t grow anything in dust”.
Another issue with conventional hydroponics is that all systems recirculate nutrient which very often accounts for the nutrient becoming imbalanced and also the spread of disease through the entire system. To alleviate this problem it is standard practice to constantly monitor and balance the pH and CF level of nutrient which requires a significant investment in both equipment and time, or in many professional systems, excess water and nutrient is run to waste.
The Five Major Features Unique To AutoPot® Systems.
1. Water Efficiency. Every drop of water that goes via the Smart-valve to the growing container is available to the plant. The single minimal wastage of water is through evaporation from the surface of the container. There is no run-off and no recycling of water.
2. Watering According To Demand. The AutoPot® module via the Smart-valve dictates that the amount and frequency of water provided is exactly as the plants require.
3. Electricity Supply Not Critical. AutoPot® Systems can be run by gravity with a tank fed system. No electricity or battery driven devices are mandatory.
4. Inexpensive to buy and maintain. There is no expensive outlay in electrical connection, pumps, computers and piping. All the water connections are by a 4mm and (optionally) 13mm tubing. This small diameter tubing is practical simply because the valves operate independently and seldom will more than one be open at a time. Therefore the demand for water is spread throughout the day. Running the tube over or through walls, under paths, across rafters or wherever it needs to go is very simple compared to the problems and expense of achieving this with polythene, copper or galvanised piping that also normally requires a plumber to install. The thin tubing is normally held in place by simple, inexpensive plastic saddle clamps.
5. Self-scheduling. Conventional irrigation requires expertise in scheduling an irrigation cycle, relying on human judgement for interpretation of the needs of the plants and at best only satisfying the needs of the average plant. The AutoPot® System caters exactly for the plant’s ever changing needs throughout the year, come winter or summer.
How an AutoPot® system can benefit you.
For hobby growers :-
* Control of over watering and under watering. Look at the various house plants that you have. If you are an average hobbyist many of them will be in poor condition. Usually because of over or under watering through over eagerness to prevent drying out or because you were busy and forgot to water.
* Control of over or under feeding. A common problem. And one that is hard to handle. Too little feeding and the plant will not perform. Too much is likely to kill the plant. AutoPot® Systems provides an exact dose every time the plant gets water.
* A solution to the time problem. Especially in summer when many plants need water two or more times a day to give the best results.
* The ability to take a vacation. Every AutoPot® System is designed to give a long period of watering and even the systems with relatively small storage tanks can be switched over to larger tanks for the period that you are away.
* Avoidance of the drip problem. Particularly with hanging baskets used indoors, excess watering can be a problem. With AutoPot® Systems, there is no run off, hence you are able to put one pot plant below another.
For commercial growers
* Water conservation. The cost of purification or supply of good quality water is one that continually increases, AutoPot® Systems are extremely water efficient as the plants only take what they need.
* Avoidance of recycling costs. Particularly where legal or financial constraints dictate the elimination of pollution by run off or the cost of water supply is high, the AutoPot® Systems excel. No capital cost for pumps, ponds, disposal and treatment. No running costs in fuel or power for pumping.
* Avoiding overhead watering problems. Plants that need sub-irrigating to avoid damage to flower or foliage love the AutoPot® System.