HYPERroots™️ Case Study

Proterra Ag Case Studies

Solving Supply Chain Issues with Plant Substrates

The Challenge

Proterra Ag™ is a leading developer of smart, sustainable agricultural technologies. Our products help growers predictably and consistently increase yields, lower costs of labor and inputs and become environmentally sustainable through reduced water use. Our product development cycle is almost universally driven by growers at our sister company, Local Urban Vegetables (LUV) located in Los Angeles, CA., where our engineers and bioscientists work directly with the growers to solve critical problems in ultra-high yield, precision farming. Most recently, we started working with Jonathan, Head Grower at LUV to solve a critical issue he was facing on a daily basis – supply chain issues with plant substrates.

With the rise of precision farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), growers are now focusing on traditionally mundane agriculture products, such as substrates, as a way to improve operations. This has resulted in the humble substrate creating an opportunity to reduce the attention it requires, often resulting in farmers being mired in tactical decisions throughout the day. As our growers encountered these issues, they regularly requested a way for our technologists to assist them with a new substrate that required less attention and was more predictable.

Whether using peat, coir, soil or hybrid substrates from a variety of producers, supply chain inconsistency makes the simple substrate the focus of undue attention. The lack of uniformity often means that one batch of substrates is course, while the next is fine; resulting in varied water retention properties the grower must constantly monitor and respond to. Pest and/or pathogen infestation is very common and requires varying applications of chemicals or treatment; often only noticed during critical early plant growth. And substrate preparation regularly requires rinsing and pH balancing, which is made worse by common irritants in many hybrid products.

The Solution
Through our work with Jonathan, Proterra Ag developed our patent-pending HYPERroots™ gel substrate. HYPERroots is a proprietary hyrdrogel that is 98% water, with the remaining 2% consisting of natural organic materials found in nature. This polymer matrix holds water into a structure, providing unmatched moisture availability. It is highly customizable, created in a clean, lab environment (entirely made in the United States) and is totally uniform – every plug is the exact same and performs predictably. It requires no preparation, is irritant free and performs as well or better than any natural substrate on the market. Critically, it is naturally pest and pathogen resistant, all but eliminating commons pest such as fungus gnats, soil aphids, white flies and thrips.

The Results
Prior to this operation in LA using HYPERroots, the daily life of the growers consisted of making continuous tactical decisions around how the substrate was hydrated. At their request, Proterra Ag produced 45mL plugs for their vertical wall system that resulted in a direct replacement of previous peat and coir-based substrates. The immediate benefit was a dramatic reduction in daily, tactical decisions by the head grower.

Since switching to HYPERroots gel plugs, we more or less entirely ignore starter plants once we’ve planted the seeds or put in the cuttings. We’re no longer using any chemicals to assist the plants health at this stage, and I can spend my time planning more for our long-term development instead of having to respond to daily issues with these starter plants.
- Jonathan, Head Grower at LUV

With a US, Canada and Mexico-based supply chain, Proterra Ag is able to provide deliveries to this customer on a weekly basis with absolutely minimal lead time, further reducing the required planning on the part of growers.

We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of labor necessary to start a whole crop, while simultaneously getting significantly higher yield from our propagation work. All just from this new substrate.
- Jonathan, Head Grower at LUV

HYPERroots is an excellent substrate for seeds. With high moisture availability, seeds germinate 20-30% faster along with higher germination uniformity, while requiring less attention. For propagators using cuttings, HYPERroots enables easily and consistently achieving the highest viable plant yield without the use of rooting hormone or the threat pathogen infiltration. All this is achieved without significant requirements for external or additional hydration, something only required to manage the lifespan of the substrate before it fully composts in one to two months.

At this point, my labor requirements are lower, and I have more time to spend on strategic decisions, such as future crop research or business planning. It’s not often that just changing to a new substrate can have a significant impact on the business, but that’s exactly what HYPERroots gel plugs have done for us.
- Jonathan, Head Grower at LUV
It’s hard to say what the biggest benefit is with HYPERroots. We use less material and have less waste, labor is definitely reduced, but I’m most amazed that we simply don’t have any bugs in the propagation rooms. We used to have all manner of pests, from white flies to fungus gnats, but without a place to pupate, they’ve simply all gone away and that’s a really big deal for us.
- Jonathan, Head Grower at LUV