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Soil vs. Hydro

I’m noticing a lot of growers are opting for soil over a hydro system.
We are planning on going Ebb&Flow with our indoor farm.
I know everybody has personal preferences and I am curious as to what those are.
Do you use soil or hydro? And why? What difficulties have you experienced in your system and what successes have you had because of it?

Thanks in advanced!

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The soil growers claim that soil tastes better than hydro. Don’t know if it is true or not.

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In general, connoisseurs prefer hydro. Much easier to flush and overall a smoother, cleaner smoke or vape. And tastier.

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Hey Bryan,
Would it be possible to speak this week? Our product is ideal for ebb and flow technique, saves a huge amount of water, and is entirely reusable. Would you be interested in PMing me your number and we could discuss? We would be happy to send you a sample and would be grateful for your feedback.
Thanks in advance,
Todd

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I found that hydro growing gave me the fastest, most explosive growth I’ve ever seen when growing cannabis. Night and day visual difference. The problem I found was that hydroponic required quite a bit more upkeep and attention; where problems may take awhile to manifest with soil (or soilless) growing mediums, you also typically have a lot more time to fix and cure those problems. With hydro, that window is much, much shorter and 24 hours can literally wreak complete havok on your crop if you have system failure or simply don’t have something dialed in yet.

I’m a connoisseur, I can’t tell the difference. One could make the same argument for organic versus salt based nutrients, flushing versus not flushing (there’s some debate flushing is a futile exercise for example,) etc. Outdoor growers claim their terpene profiles are unparalleled to indoor growing too. There’s unfortunately a lot of ego swinging in the growing community lol :wink:

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You gotta take them to school Todd!

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Some very good points Jordan. There is some good discussion online regarding the perceived differences in product quality, but that is not the whole story.

Soil does leave room for error and requires less attention (and time), as you pointed out, directly impacting the quality of life of the cultivation team. Then again, there are differences in market valuation due to those visual differences you mentioned.

My question to @bryan.eden is, what are your goals? And, since there are also differences among hydro methods, why did you choose Ebb & Flow?

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Those are great questions.
Our overall goal is to focus on a “small batch” quality and style of Cannabis, but at a commercial scale.
Without giving away to much, as we are in the R&D stages, we have come up with a modular system to suit this need. With the end idea to be a supplier of craft quality cannabis.
One of the problems we have to deal with is our location. We are in a small town of only 10,000 people so we have to keep staff numbers low. We have decided to automate (this is where I’m sure people are going to tell me how bad automation is, but don’t worry, we figured out how to do it and keep quality) as many steps and processes as possible to make up for that.
So we felt that hydro was the way to go to achieve those automation and modular goals.
In the past when I had a personal set up of 1 light in my basement I used a drip-feed system and it worked great for me on that scale. But on a commercial scale we chose ebb&flow due to the simplicity of it. Drip-feed has a lot of small parts and requires more maintenence. Plus you run the risk of clogged lines and losing money because of it. We felt the ebb&flow helps to reduce or eliminate these issues. Plus we also feel is a better fit to our specific facility concept.

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I think those are excellent goals and a great way to get there @bryan.eden. Sounds well thought out with the right kind of financial backing too!

One of the biggest problems with E&F systems is that there is typically a large amount of nutrient in the room at all times, making mold a potential issue. So, adequate humidity control/monitoring and FAILOVER CAPACITY is important. If you can design your system to store the nutrient outside the cultivation area between feeding cycles, that could be a big plus.

For your boutique-style cultivation, in addition to genetics a dialed-in/tightly-controlled feed schedule is important as well as proper curing as I’m sure you know. Some boutique cultivators have really long cure cycles. Would like to hear your thoughts on curing.

Btw, you might look into multi-ion ppm probes for precisely replenishing your nutrients during the feed week. Always wanted to do that with my top-feed/recirculating clients, but none of them were doing what you are. Best of Luck!

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something to consider when making a decision, why am I doing this? if as a hobby then it is purely what would you like to work with. If this is a state sanctioned business, and you need to pay bills and live of this business than looking at labor cost alone, using soil, peat ,coco is not as cost affective.

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I think soil is more forgiving, but either one dialed in will produce great products, imo.

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Stick with what you know!

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Thanks @JoeGrow it feels good to have my ideas validated.
To go off of your comment of having the nutrient storage out of the room, that’s exactly what we plan on doing. My thought was because I wanted to use as much room as possible but now the humidity level makes sense as well.

As for my thoughts on curing, this is something I thought about for a bit as I know different people have different thoughts.
At the end of the day, because I don’t have the ability to experiment just yet, I have to go off of the data that I have in front of me. I do my best to be non-partial until I see both sides. I looked at people who like quick curing (or even non at all) and it seemed most of them were black market growers or basement growers who just wanted to turn a profit quickly.
On the side of Pro-curing, I was able to gather real data with numbers to prove its effectiveness in creating a better consumption experience, as well as a more potent product. Plus the visuals of the product seem to be significantly improved if cured correctly and with care, which is going to be important for us with the goal of “top-shelf”.
So all that being said, I would say that I am a firm believer in curing. And curing properly. Take the time needed so the Cannabinoids have the time to develop.
If you run a commercial farm, then yes it will take a little longer for your first harvest to be sent for sale, but if you time your crops right and have a consistent production of product, then taking the time to cure should only help your bottom line.

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I will always be on the “pro-cure” side. The only thing to consider, will it make more money? Unfortunately in the CO market, most grows that I’ve seen don’t do a long cure due to the fact it won’t make them any more money, or enough to warrant it. If there is at least a 4 week cure, most places are selling it as soon as they can.

On the other side, I’ve heard of grows in the Nevada market not being able to cure long enough because of the demand of the market.

I will always be on the side of a good cure though.

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I’m with Andrew here: a good cure is always worth the wait. Unfortunately, there often exists a disconnect between the owners of grow operations/dispensaries and the growers themselves.

I worked for an owner that never allowed for more than a day or two of curing before finished flower hit the shelves. No matter how much I balked or complained about the quality, the practice never ceased. As such, my image as a grower was tarnished. Needless to say, I don’t grow for them anymore.

We are entering a consumer-driven market here in America and in Canada… The consumer will ultimately make the decision as to what products he or she will purchase. Gone are the days where your shelves can be stocked with jars that smell like hay or freshly-cut grass. I predict boutique cannabis flower with a good nose will be the only product U.S. and Canadian cannabis consumers will prefer.

Cure on!

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I would completely argue the opposite! Ha! Interesting! Flushing isn’t necessary in an organic grow (important to note the difference between soil vs soil-less medium with synthetic nutrients) as the plant doesn’t get more than it asks for, no extra metal accumulation, etc - which I realize is a whole other debate! And it’s SUPER smooth! And secondary metabolite profiles like terpenes and cannabinoids are much more complex due to the plethora of compounds that are produced by a complex microbial ecology. I think many folks struggle with soil growth rate because they lack enough air exchange for the roots. Microbes and plant roots love air!

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The Wine and Weed Symposium just wrapped in San Luis Obispo (http://wine-weed.com) that explores the challenges and opportunities that cannabis presents to the wine industry. Cannabis appellations are also becoming a thing:

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It’s so interesting to see the blending of the boutique cannabis industry with the wine industry. It’s a natural pairing. One doesn’t have to look very hard to see the parallels between the two industries - from cultivation techniques that work in both viticulture and cannabis cultivation - to how consumer preferences drive the varietals that we ultimately plant.

Also cool to see the designation of regions specific to the needs of a given plant; say, grapes for wine, for instance? Industry associations and governments are seeing the need for appellations.

Thanks for bringing that to us, Joe!

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I agree that we are moving into a consumer driven market. Unfortunately the consumer isn’t always the best gauge lol. In CO, we still have a good chunk of uneducated customers. This leads to many businesses opting for the “quantity over quality” business model. Once it becomes federally legal, I predict the industry will straighten itself out. There will still be budget weed, but a lot bigger market of boutique cannabis.

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Aeration is absolutely key! I always suggest adding some kind of buffer like perlite, hydroton, growstones, etc. to increase porosity in heavy mediums. Microbes DO love air! I agree that some growers don’t give air its fair due. Roots love oxygen

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