Automated gardening systems are growing environments controlled in part or entirely by technology. This in turn lowers or eliminates labour demands on the grower. Cannabis cultivators need to continually monitor and modify many factors throughout the grow cycle to ensure the highest-quality and quantity yields possible. These factors include watering schedules, nutrient cycles, fresh air exchange, lighting, and temperature.

Controlling all of these factors manually every day can be quite time-consuming and labour-intensive. Perhaps less so for those overseeing small operations in their bedrooms, but much more so for larger-scale and industrial growing operations. Regardless of the size of a grow, all growers can benefit in some way from automation, a term that refers to the automatic completion of a task at the hands of technology.

YOU CAN IMPLEMENT AUTOMATION TOO

Small home-growers may choose to only implement automation into a small aspect of their grow, such as lighting. Large-scale growers can greatly benefit from automating as many of their systems as possible in order to free up time and energy. Full automation allows growers to leave their crop unattended for fairly long periods of time.

Automation technology can replace pretty much every aspect of manual work. If you are new to this domain and want to try it out, start off by replacing one system at a time with some form of automation, and see how it works for you.

Automation Technology

THE ENVIRONMENT DICTATES DEMANDS

Demands for automation change vastly depending on the growing environment. Outdoor plants usually require much less automation as they receive light from the sun, some water from the rain, and natural fresh air exchange. However, automated watering through irrigation can greatly assist plants in drier regions.

Plants cultivated indoors or within greenhouses are ultimately being grown in an environment unnatural to them. This makes them more reliant on technology in order to survive and thrive, and more technology means more opportunities to develop automated systems. Factors such as humidity and temperature are especially important within indoor settings.

TIMERS

Timers are one of the staples within automated grow-ops, and are also one of the simplest forms to set up. Timers can be used to facilitate different aspects of climate control indoors, and therefore have the potential to greatly lower overall labour and repetition of tasks.

One area in which timers are often used is lighting. During the vegetative phase of the grow cycle for photoperiod strains, a light cycle of 18–24 hours a day is often used. During the flowering stage, a light cycle of 12 hours on and 12 hours off is applied. This means that growers have to visit their tent on a daily basis to manage just one of the many demands of their crop. This can also cause problems when growers need to travel and leave their plants unattended.

An analogue or digital timer can be rigged up to the lighting system to fully automate this task at different points throughout the grow cycle. This simple adjustment to the system makes lighting completely automated. Yet lighting isn’t the only use for timers in grow operations; they can also be used to automate fans, pumps, and CO₂  systems. Both analogue and digital timers can get the job done.

Automate Lights And Drip Irrigation System

TOTAL CLIMATE CONTROL

Indoor and greenhouse plants require extra attention when it comes to climate control. Plants demand closely regulated humidity and temperature levels to stay comfortable. Devices such as hygrometers are vital to monitor both of these factors throughout the entire grow cycle.

Indoor environments are all different, with varying levels of humidity and different temperatures depending on the season and climate. Devices such as ultrasonic misters can be used to boost humidity, while dehumidifiers can take moisture out of the air when there is an excess.

When it comes to temperature, simple heating and air conditioning units can be used to keep plants within optimal conditions. Growers can hook humidity systems and temperature-regulating devices up to sensors in order to fully automate these fluctuating variables. This can be done fairly cheaply and with a little know-how.

Growers overseeing large operations with adequate funds can also purchase autopilot digital environmental controllers to monitor and control humidity, temperature, and CO₂ levels. These devices also store data regarding the growing environment, which can help growers determine future decisions regarding the space.

Automated monitoring systems can even monitor soil pH and TDS (total dissolved solids). This information is highly valuable to growers as it allows them to see directly what changes need to be made to optimise the grow.

AUTOMATED IRRIGATION

Irrigation is yet another system that can be fully automated, but it’s less common among certain types of operations. This is largely because things can get quite complicated. Different genetics and specific plants may require different amounts of water and varying schedules. For small home-grows, it is often easier to simply manually water crops.

Drip irrigation is a form of automation that uses very similar means. This method involves piercing small holes into a water pipe, ensuring the holes are positioned over the root networks of each plant in the system. Water then slowly drips over each plant zone, providing a constant flow of hydration. This system is cheap to make, yet not as accurate as more expensive options. Large automatic watering systems can be purchased for professional operations. These will provide accurate quantities of water within specific timeframes.

Automated irrigation systems can also deliver nutrients in a method known as “fertigation”. Such technology is becoming more common among commercial-scale operations. It works by calculating, mixing, and feeding nutrients to plants. This system provides accurate doses, reduced leaching, less water consumption, and less labour overall.

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