Wednesday, January 17, 2007

California Deep Freeze, EC-PPM Discrepancy

With the deep freeze hitting California, that state’s vegetable and fruit crop has suffered a billion dollars worth of damage. Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency and asked for federal aid.

One man’s disaster is another man’s opportunity. Chuck was excited when he heard the news and immediately began contacting our outlets to see how many additional heads of lettuce they required.

Prices of leafy vegetables are going to skyrocket, since California is North America’s major producer of lettuce and salad greens.

The plans for our expansion have moved ahead and another possible partner has appeared, who would like us to build not two but ten new greenhouses, along the lines of the controlled environment experiment that our 3000 sq. foot Boston lettuce growing operation has perfected.

Instead of producing 400 heads of lettuce per day, once the ten greenhouses are built on a slightly larger scale, they could each produce 600 heads of lettuce or pak choi per day. Chuck is still reluctant to grow spinach, since according to Cornell University, it is a difficult crop.

Indoor hydroponic horticulture is definitely the wave of the future. I see on the web that the Saudis are doing it, they’re growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the desert in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) fibreglass greenhouses in the desert.

Chuck always finds something new to worry about, even though our business future looks rosy at the moment. He noticed on the Advanced Nutrients Nutrient Calculator that their EC and PPM numbers didn’t match our EC and PPM numbers.

We called the tech guys at that great Canadian company, and they clarified the discrepancy. It seems that there are different standards in converting EC to PPM, and that our metering system was using a different conversion standard from theirs.

EC or Electrical Conductivity measures the ability of the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in our Nutrient Pond to transmit electricity. Depending on how quickly the charge is transferred from one electrode to another in the meter, results in a reading of EC 1, EC 2, EC 3, etc.

The German-made Utech EC meter which we had incorporated into our computer controlled setup converted EC 1 to 640 parts per million (PPM). Electrical Conductivity is measured in microsiemens (mS) per centimetre (cm).

Advanced Nutrients, on the other hand, is using a Bluelab Truncheon meter that is manufactured in New Zealand, and it reads EC 1 as 700 PPM. Volia! Thus the discrepancy.

Chuck contacted our computer whiz immediately and had him rewrite the code for the logarithms that control the interconnected metering system that runs our mostly automatic hydroponic grow operation.

The whiz was burning the midnight oil for several days and nights in a row, until he managed to incorporate the new conversion data into the system. The hardest part was compensating for the extra 60 PPM that the German meter omitted to count.

Advanced Nutrients told us that they find the EC measurement much more reliable than PPM so they are emphasizing that reading in the future. Their Nutrient Calculator will carry both numbers, however, since so many people are habitually using PPM-counts and are not yet thinking purely in EC.

Since because of the discrepancy our PPM readings were now slightly off, we decided to flush our entire system and remix our nutrient solution which we then feed into our Nutrient Pond.

In addition to our basic fertilizer, the best hydroponic plant food for our crop, Micro and Grow (without the Bloom factor), we mixed in SensyZym, Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice to strengthen the roots of our lettuce with beneficial enzymes, fungi, bacteria, and microbes respectively.

Since we experienced some root problems previously, due to the overly zealous root colonization of these very effective products, we now use them at half strength. Their own technical guys recommend this for hydro, but you can still go full strength in soil.

Then came the ever-important Scorpion Juice, which imparts what we call Systemic Acquired Resistance (SAR) to our lettuce. It enables our precious crop to fight off invading pathogens and pests very effectively, indeed.

Barricade is a potassium silicate product that we find takes a bit of extra time to dissolve but it’s worth the wait. It strengthens cell walls and imparts another layer of immunity to the plant. Diseases, bugs, invading parasites are not allowed to enter the cells, thus saving the lettuce from many possible maladies.

As Kermit once said “It’s not easy being green,” and I’m sure our lettuce would echo this sentiment. In order to ensure the bright green appearance of our crop and thus make it more marketable, we mix in Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid into our Pond. These very special ingredients aid the photosynthesis process in chlorophyll formation, among their many benefits.

B-52 is administered to reduce plant stress, much the same way that my B-Complex 50 reduces my stress and elevates my ability to cope with the daily grind.

Mother Earth Super Tea Grow enhances the organic nutrients that are contained in the Grandma Enggy products. All vegetables benefit from rich organic food, such as that contained in humus, which is where Humic Acid derives its name.

Sensi Cal Mg Grow is included in the mix, in order to ensure that our lettuce receive the much needed Calcium that they require for good health. The Magnesium aids in Calcium absorption.

Chuck is running around with all these business plans in his attaché case detailing Capital Requirement Estimates, Annual Production Cost Estimates, Estimates of Construction Costs, Market Patterns, Price Charts, etc.

It seems that Fuel and Energy Costs add up to a large percentage of running a large-scale operation that is proposed, so Chuck is being true to his visionary self and exploring alternate fuel possibilities.

Sharp Instruments sells large format solar panels that could supplement our electrical requirements and ensure that in case of a power failure, we could rely on an alternate source of energy.

I wonder if after all this hoopla about frozen California produce dies down, whether our new quasi partner will still be as enthusiastic about our expansion plans. Only time will tell.

posted by silvio @ 10:30 PM   0 comments


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