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Grow Room Automation: Gro.io System Alpha Test


iwombat
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I have been a grower for a couple decades, first in CA and now here in MI.

 

In CA, I preferred to grow outdoors where I could spread out and grow 5 patients

full crops at a time.  As my back condition worsened, I sought ways to reduce

the amount of attention needed by my garden.  Eventually, I had a system that

used alternating 55 gallon nutrient reservoirs that only required me to fill and

nute them once a week.  But harvest season was still difficult and disposing of

dozens of 10 gallon soil pots was not easy.

 

Fast forward to last year.  I am now living in MI and trying to cope with being

fully disabled.  I need to live in a small apartment now, but consume enough

medicine that growing for myself is financially necessary.  I set up a 5'x5' tent

and a separate 2'x4' tent.  I decided to grow in soil, since I understood it well

and grew a couple successful crops.  But lugging in soil to fill multiple 5 gallon

pots and disposing of them afterwards was still very clunky and an unwanted

attention attractant.

 

I have done ebb&flow hydroponics before, but I was looking for something

that could automate all the nutrient and ph balancing so as to minimize

the strain on my back.  I settled on a system that I could use with my

existing grow tents and grow lights bought one of the first alpha versions

of the gro-io system: http:\\gro.io.

 

Week 00 - groio

Week 00 - Tech   Gro Io 3

Week 00 - Tech   Gro Io 2

Week 00 - Tech   Gro Io ????

 
Disclaimer: I don't work for them and I paid my own $$ for this system, though I got a
discount for buying pre-release.
Edited by iwombat
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I set it up outside my 5'x5' grow tent and within hose reach of my bathroom.

 

Week 00 - IMG 1106

Week 00 - IMG 1107

Week 00 - IMG 1090

Week 00 - IMG 1110

Week 00 - IMG 1193

 

I put it on shelves so that the waste water reservoirs are on the second

shelf were they can be emptied by gravity into the bathtub.  Fresh water

reservoirs are below, within hose reach of my bathroom sink.

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Week 01: Clones seem stable

 

Week 01 - IMG 1099

Week 01 - IMG 1100

Week 01 - IMG 1101

Week 01 - IMG 1102

Week 01 - IMG 1103

Week 01 - IMG 1104

 

After loading up all the chemicals and reservoirs, the system basically runs itself for a two week cycle.

At the end of the cycle, it stops and asks you if you want to run 'transition' or just skip into the new cycle.

Running 'transition' instructions to empty out the waste reservoirs and and fill the fresh.  Then it flushes

all the barrels out to waste, refills them with fresh and goes about adjusting nutrients and ph.  Then it

has you re-empty the waste and re-fill the fresh for the start of the next cycle.  When finish you press

the button and it starts the next two weeks of hands off.

 

Gro-io iPad App

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I have run an ebb & flow before.  My main issues with it were with algae and stuff growing in my

nutrient reservoirs.  I tried oxygenating the reservoir, adding peroxide, cooling it...  Many people

know these issues.  A promising aspect of gro-io is that it has an oxygenation cycle that empties

the buckets into the waste reservoir and them pumps them back in via a nozzle in the top of the

bucket to aerate everything.  You can keep the reservoirs away from the lights, which keeps them

cooler.  Finally, every two weeks you essentially flush the system and start over with fresh water.

 

This combination seems to keep the gunk out of the reservoirs.  At the end of a cycle, the water

in the waste reservoir smells highly of nutrients, but shows not much organic growth.  We'll see

as things get larger.

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So far the automation has worked well.  It has logged a few false alarms about

nutrient balancing, which seems to be fine despite the warnings.  For the most

part, I just sit back and watch the system balance, aerate, circulate, etc...

 

IMG 0088


 

My back is much happier not lugging soil, pots, or water around.  I just hook up

the hose and fill-er up...
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Reliable sensors are pretty necessary in this setup.  The sensors are replaceable.  You install the ph sensor from a calibration solution that it ships with.  Afterwards, you can re-calibrate it as necessary using a built in procedure and calibration solution:

 

IMG 0089

 

Same with other components.  They switched to a more reliable pump for their production devices and just shipped me

a new one to install next time I am between grows.  Since the pump is also so essential, they monitor the amps being

drawn and how long to pump dry.  If it exceeds those thresholds it pauses and sends an alert.  They tell me that when

a pump is about to fail, it usually starts drawing more amps and tips you off that it might be going bad.

 

IMG 0090

Edited by iwombat
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Another thing I like is that is supports a pretty broad range of feedings.  You get three reservoirs

that you can assign to either nutrients or additives and then can program how much of each.

I am using Hydroponics Research Veg+Bloom and all it's additives:

 

Week 00 - Feed Chart  V B

 
I mixed up a 100X concentrate of each.  It maintains PPM levels for the nute and adds the
additives on a defined schedule.  I have been running 47 days and I've only had to fill
my nute reservoir once so far.
 
Couple times a week I manually mist with HR Push.
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Looks like the system would cost a little over $1000 if you just wanted to add it to your own grow system to adjust your ph and nutes automatically, or about $1000 more if you want their 6 plant system stuff too. 

 

I initially thought about buying a bloom box.  What I liked about gro.io that it is modular.  I started out with my own lights.  No enclosure means you can use tent, room,..  Plus, you can get it in an ebb&flow configuration where it just adjusts your reservoir, or you can use the full modified-aeroponics setup.  In ebb-flow configuration you can have as many plants as your reservoir supports.

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Curious as to whether you believe the ph stability of the system is due to the automation or your use of Veg+Bloom.   I have been using Veg+Bloom now for 18 months and have found it to be extremely steady with regards to PH.  

 

I am using it in a rock wool set up.  I have the blocks in simple dutch drip trays with the run off returning to my reservoir.  Once set up, the ph holds constant for ten days.  The reservoir is drained every 10 days, the blocks flushed with clean water for a day and then the reservoir is refilled with fresh nutes.  

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This is my first grow with Veg+Bloom, so I don't have any experience pre-automation.  However I use the iPad/iPhone app

to check in regularly and see how things are going.  I can see the pH and Nute levels changing as the plants grow and

watch the "balance" events execute and those things adjust.  And those levels definitely change constantly.

 

I like the fact that "balancing" happens every couple hours automatically (by default, or as often as you program). 

Otherwise, balance is your responsibility.  The amount of time your nutrients are in-balance vs out-balance affects

growth and vitality.  As the plants get bigger, they get out of balance more quickly, so by the end of the grow

you are running around like a mad-man.

 

IMHO, the percentage of time you are in-zone is important.  Glad to hear that Veg+Bloom might contribute to that.

 

BTW: have to make a comment on rock wool.  I have used rock wool for cloning for almost 20 years.  When I was starting

this hydro grow, I needed a bunch of similarly sized clones, so I cut up a large mother plant and started a dozen clones.

I only had a couple rock wool left, so I used a few coco-plugs that came with the gro-io supplies.  To my astonishment,

the coco-plugs started showing roots much earlier.  Many of the rock wool never showed roots, so in frustration I yanked

them out of the rock wool and shoved them into coco-plugs.  In a couple days, they had roots growing out the bottom!

Have no idea if I flubbed something with the rock wool, but I am now superstitious about coco-plugs.

Edited by iwombat
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Another comment about Veg+Bloom.

 

It is a powder, my nutrient reservoir must be a solution.  I did not have any guidelines about how strong to mix a concentrate

for my reservoir.   So I measured tap water ppm, then nuted it up according to the instructions and re-measured.  That gave

me the target PPM to set in the program.

 

Then I decided to try a 100X concentrate, since round numbers are simpler.  As a user of V+B, you know how fine it is, it is

almost like adding cornstarch to water except that it dissolves better.  But with so much powder, I found that even after

thoroughly mixing, I would set it aside and come back later to find powder settling to the bottom.  I had to agitate my solution

for several days before it all went into solution.

 

These facts I did not realize during my first nutrient reservoir filling, so I hooked up a res of half mixed solution.  The result

was pretty comical, as the automatic doser started pulling from the bottom of the reservoir and sucked milk-of-magnesia

concentrated stuff into the barrels.  The algorithm adjusts based on the effects of adding, not by you having to tell it the

concentration.  From the last nute res, it has already decided how much to add to bring it up a level, but when it added,

it quickly overshot the target and instead of my target 1100 ppm, it was something like 40,000 PPM.  The Alert notifications

turned on, the machine started flashing red lights.  After I investigated and determined what happened, I quickly emptied

the buckets to the waste reservoir (button), refilled from the fresh (button), re-emptied and filled the water reservoirs (manual),

and re-started.

 

This time the system recovered perfectly and re-balanced everything, but by then it was 3am and I was pretty wrecked.

 

Live and Learn

Edited by iwombat
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Friends recommended V+B to me two years ago so I researched it on the web, there are quite a few threads on the various cannabis forums regarding its use.

 

 I have a 70 gallon reservoir and the tap water (Great Lakes Water Authority) runs 110ppm.  I add 5.5 g./gallon and it brings the resv. to 750-780 ppm.  Reservoir level is maintained with tap water thru a simple float valve.   Runoff from the 6" cubes  (15 of them) runs back into the reservoir.  With 3 ml/gallon of peroxide added at the start, the system holds 5.8-5.9 ph over a 10 day period.  

 

With regards to mixing, each tank has a 300 gph pump used for circulation.   I add the powder mix directly into the reservoir.  When adding I drop in a 2000 gph pump and dump the powder directly into the pump inlet.  Same procedure for adding the bloom booster, Shine.  This seems to do a pretty complete job of dissolving the powder.   At the end of the full bloom cycle I will have added approx 2000 g of V+B to the reservoir between the various fill and drain cycles and there is very little residue at the end.  The reservoir is located under the drip trays and while it is drained and refilled 5 times during bloom, it is not drained to the point that I could remove any undissolved nutes until harvest.  

 

I am curious if you are using the RO mix or the Dirty mix.  I have not used the Dirty, but friends that use it have reported much more undissolved nutes.  

 

I agree on problems with grodan cubes for cloning.   I use an aero cloner and transplant directly to the 6" cubes.

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Sounds like a nice setup.  My base water is 350 ppm.   So I use Tap Hard:

 

vegbloom taphard logo large

 

With nutrients at recommended dose I measured 1100 ppm.  So I set my nutrient range to 1000 - 1200 ppm.

 

It was still fairly easy to dissolve at 1100 ppm.  But my 100X concentrate is approx 60,000 ppm.  It takes a little time to dissolve.

 

My meter taps out at 4000 ppm, so I can't directly measure my concentrate.

Edited by iwombat
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Looks like the Hydroponic Research guys have hired some marketing people.  When I started using V+B they only had two blends, Dirty and RO, now I see they have 4.  I was not familiar with the blend you are using nor the HD version where they mention problems with PH swings and dissolving issues.

 

I wonder how this will affect availability.   Initially I bought direct but then found a few local shops stocking it, but not in all sizes and blends.  I have found that the 25# size seems to be the best value.  It is typically $402 out the door including tax.    That said, I have found only two shops in SE Michigan that dependably stock the 25# size, one in Sterling Heights and one in Whitmore Lake.

.

Unlike other hydro products, the V+B guys do not have a distributor. They ship direct to stores so there are significant swings in store inventories.   I keep hearing rumors about them going with a distributor, but them never seem to happen.

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