Q&A with AEssenseGrows’ Phil Gibson

AEssenseGrows manufactures aeroponic cultivation equipment that combines plant science, innovative technology, and precision software for superior results. Wouldn’t it be nice to plan your grow operation, set up your personal grow recipe then simply push start? AEssenseGrows does just that with the AEtrium System. Intelligent automation software drives sophisticated sensor-driven electro-mechanical systems ensuring the grower’s personalized recipe is strictly adhered to. The result is a “cruise control” approach to indoor cannabis and hemp cultivation.

If outdoor farming is the horse and buggy, aeroponics is the Ferrari. Recognized for its ability to speed plant growth, aeroponics brings velocity —and some risk; driving a Ferrari is fun as long as you don’t crash along the way. Aeroponics is the most sophisticated form of hydroponics (plant roots dangle in air, getting maximum oxygen, and are sprayed on a schedule with nutrient-enriched water). No soil or media of any kind is required. At the same time, water and nutrients are recycled, needing just a fraction of that used for traditional cultivation.

Aeroponics brings superior yields and very low cost with the elimination of soil, but that upside does come with its own set of challenges. To stay on track and maximize results, the grow environment — air, water, nutrition, lighting, and temperature — must be closely monitored and tightly controlled. Without a smart, automated system, failure to manage these labor-intensive tasks (pH levels, nutrient chemistry, CO2 PPM, light timing and intensity, and more) poses a significant risk to the cultivator. This risk has limited the widescale use of aeroponics.

And that’s where AEssenseGrows comes in. Phil Gibson, the company’s vice president of marketing, recently addressed the competitive advantage aeroponics can deliver and how the company’s “cruise control” system makes it easy for every cultivator.

Why have your customers turned to AEssenseGrows for indoor cultivation, rather than traditional soil, media, or coco-coir with drip systems?

 

Phil Gibson: The answer, in a word, is profit. We have been able to demonstrate to our customers that the AEtrium system and our Guardian Grow Manager software can deliver superior buds with higher yields and minimal labor at levels simply not possible with soil. Bigger buds, easy harvests, and faster room turns translate directly into dollars in pockets.

In fact, we are introducing a new product at the MJBizCon show in Las Vegas that we’re confident will enable cultivators to harvest 2 pounds per square foot per year of dry-trim bud from their production flower rooms. No one has reached that level of yield at scale. This is the Ferrari of cultivation.

What is the typical elevator pitch you use for those who are skeptical about moving indoors and, specifically, to aeroponics?

 

Gibson: Well, we certainly understand folks hesitating to leap from the horse and buggy to the Ferrari, but once they see the Guardian Grow Manager control software dashboard and the AEtrium System in action, their concerns generally fade. So, I typically invite them to see and touch the machine, and I emphasize the benefits they can expect: speed, faster yields, precision results, laboratory consistency. For example, the system makes producing superior-THC-level craft buds automatic with medical-grade standards. The tight controls make recipe development with A/B testing significantly easier, and wireless messaging keeps growers constantly in touch with their tightly controlled environment.

If I’m talking with a company’s financial person, like a CFO, the economic story of velocity of production with minimal labor and resources is usually enough to start the engine. For the artist, controlling every dial gets them excited.

Explain the technology involved in the AEtrium system.

 

Gibson: We have two different types of hardware — one for the nursery, clone and veg, and another for mothers and blooming. The common driver for all of our products is the ultra-smart Guardian Grow Manager software. It’s the autopilot that monitors and controls the grow environment 24/7.

So how it works is a that grower would enter his or her own specific grow recipe into the Guardian — lighting, pH levels, nutrient balance, etc. — then hit the start button. The AEtrium system takes it from there. Sensors throughout the grow environment monitor the variables and the software makes adjustments when necessary to maintain the grow recipe. If there’s a bit too much Nutrient A in the root spray, then the system holds off adding more until it’s within the correct parameters. All this is being done without human intervention.

If the Guardian Grow Manager detects anything going awry with the plants or the AEtrium system, it immediately sends alerts to the responsible member of the grow team so they can make timely corrections.

Managers and operators always have complete visibility into what’s happening with the grow. They can monitor the data by opening the Guardian Grow Manager software on their phone or laptop from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. And the manager can make changes to the recipe remotely as well.

True story here: Last Christmas break, we closed our headquarters on December 12th for the holidays with plants growing in the AEtrium Systems. Twenty days later, we return and the plants are thriving, just larger. No human intervention in all that time.

That sounds terrific. So then, why isn’t everyone driving a Ferrari?

 

Gibson: The barriers are somewhat predictable. Aeroponics is a completely different approach and people are often resistant to change, especially when they’ve grown very comfortable with their current way of getting around and they consider it low risk. We’re generally perceived as high risk with high returns. And of course, there is the capital investment. It takes a certain kind of investor or cultivator to reach for a new level of performance and win highly competitive races.

 

What do you see as the future for aeroponics and, in particular, AEssenseGrows?

 

Gibson: I feel like we’ve just left the starting line and there’s so much farther we can go, as a company and an industry.

There’s a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson named Joel Cuello, and he has developed a concept “Cuello’s Law,” the indoor farming version of “Moore’s Law” for ICs. Cuello’s Law projects that, in a tech-dense indoor farm, crop productivity with respect to resource use will double every four or five years.

That’s where AEssenseGrows wants to be — smack dab in the middle of agricultural innovation that makes Cuello’s Law a reality for all indoor cultivation.

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