“Vertical farmers are looking at continuous improvement to gain economic and competitive advantage. HYPERroots substrate enables them to get more with less and to do so more predictably,” says Erik Caso, CEO and Chairman at Proterra Ag, Inc.
“Farmers need consistent performance they can rely on and, in fact, plan around. They want to automate processes as much as possible and generate lots of data with minimal standard deviations.”
Proterra Ag, founded in Los Angeles, California, is a startup that invented a proven gel substrate: HYPERroots. The product enables propagators to achieve higher yields consistently, with minimal OpEx.
Common Industry Struggles
“One of the biggest problems with substrates are supply chain issues and uniformity. Substrates vary widely in production, such that each batch growers receive of the same substrate is significantly different from the last one or the next one,” Erik notes.
According to Erik, this requires growers to have, and continuously apply, wisdom to deal with each grow; the plugs are more coarse this time. As he’s putting it: let’s use more water vs the plugs are very fine this batch, so let’s use less water.
“This inconsistency results in every growth having significant intervention every time as growers can’t get rid of it to streamline the process and reduce labor.”
Efficient, high throughput farming requires the ability to create predictability, claims Erik. Growers need to reduce complexity, risk and cost. “Current substrates don’t reliably do this. Obviously, some are better than others, but in general, they are all plagued with issues around uniformity, pests and pathogens and preparation of the material itself.”
“Our HYPERroots substrate is very hands-off and forgiving, which reduces work in plant propagation and lowers the risk of a bad outcome.” Next to that, it is pest and pathogen-resistant, which dramatically decreases the amount of intervention required and the risk of losing crops. Most of all, it performs very well and it does so very consistently, given all plugs are uniform.
Erik explains that growers can obtain high performance with fewer inputs (e.g. less labor, less water, less nutrient, less pest intervention, etc.) and more predictability (e.g. results should always be the same while applying fewer inputs.
The HYPERroots substrate itself encapsulates all the water the plant needs to begin a healthy, rapid growth cycle. Growers can literally not water it at all for the first 1-2 weeks, depending on the crop and the preference of managing the lifespan of the plug itself. This means growers can get the best results while doing less, and they’ll get those results very predictably. The team cannot say that the substrate works for every crop yet, because they haven’t tested all crops as of now.
New Products Coming Up
The product biodegrades and composts completely in about 30-60 days. Therefore, it naturally “recycles” during the process of composting. Beside focusing on the ecological side of the substrate, Proterra Ag will have a new product launching in January 2022, that solves CEA root nutrient needs.
Next to that, the company has one more variation on HYPERroots that will allow growers to do away with the plastic containers. This product will be launched and be available for purchase this year. Currently, Proterra is selling in the USA, Canada and Mexico. The next phase is getting distributors set up in EMEA and Latin America.