A HYDROPONICS SEMINAR IN FRANCE
Noucetta Kehdi - GHE
When we decided to invite UK shop-owners to a seminar in France last November it seemed like a good
idea. But then, while getting ready, all kinds of questions started to rise: shall we be ready on time? Will the
lodging be satisfactory? Will the group be cool and friendly? Etc, etc, : a non-ending list of unanswered
questions. Then it was April 24th. Here they were! And from the moment we picked them up at Blagnac,
(Toulouse airport) until we drove them back to board their plane and fly back home, it was a succession of
excellent moments, in learning, and in partying.
I wanted this seminar to combine pleasure and “education”. Of course
I intended it to be a visit to GHE, with a training on hydropnics and our
products, and an introduction to organic hydroponics or «bioponics». At
the same time I wanted my hosts to relax, enjoy, and discover the beautiful
landscapes and excellent gastronomy of this beautiful countryside, which
is the Gers, in the South West of France.
To accommodate my group I chose two very nice 4 stars B & B in the midst
of our lusciously green and hilly countryside. For 2 days everybody lived
under the “French way of life”. Nice and healthy lunch breaks at noon, and
a typically traditional dinner at night. The first night we went to a secluded
restaurant, known only to artists and the “happy few”. The next day we
went to a quite famous restaurant called “La Table des Cordeliers”, situated
in an old 13th century chapel, where we ate a delicious dinner under
beautiful gothic stone arcades, and next to … Terry Wogan… whom we
discovered dining 2 tables behind us!
The seminar took place on Tuesday all day and Wednesday am, three sessions
in all. It was conducted by William Texier, our greenhouse manager, senior chemist, and head of R & D
since more than 20 years. William is extremely knowledgeable in hydroponics and plant nutrition. He learned
his chemistry from Dr. Cal Herrmann, chief chemist at the Water Purification Department at NASA for 13 years.
Furthermore he is the inventor of bioponics, and as such he could tell you anything you want to know about
it and its astonishing way of operating.
Talks and discussions were conducted on all subjects: our
nutrients and systems, hydroponics in general and bioponics.
Product presentation, questions and answers, punctuated
the sessions and the hall often resonated with laughter.
To my opinion 3 main topics were most informative: disease
prevention, pH regulation, and bioponics.
In our line you can find products that are preventives. They
protect from disease and insects. But for the shop owner
these products are not always easy to sell because the end
customer doesn’t necessarily recognize the actual effect
of the product. Indeed, if you use prevention, plants don’t
get sick, and there is not much to see. But for those growers
who try prevention, when they compare with their past crops, they realize the benefits of applying it on a
constant basis. This is one of the most efficient methods to keep your plants healthy: it is thus recommended
to encourage preventive products and help customers avoid pest
infestation, root fungi, and other problematic and costly infections.
pH regulation is an important parameter in plant nutrition. In bioponics
the gardener leaves his pH to drift as high as 7.0 before interfering.
As William pointed out, it is scientifically recognized that plants
can live in a range of pH between 4.5 and 7.0. So you don’t need to
keep adjusting your levels. Adding constant acids, especially if they
are not top quality, may end up being more damaging than helpful.
If it is generally recommended to stay in the range of 5.5 to 6.5, it is
to guarantee best assimilation of mineral salts by the plant, and to
protect the chelates incorporated in all good quality nutrients.
To Ebbe Thiery describing a situation when his pH suddenly fell from
6.2 to 5.0, while all parameters looked perfectly normal the prece-
dent day, William said that this doesn’t frequently happen and is
not directly related to the plant’s nutrition. Generally the pH would
tend to go up rather than down. When it falls, it is often due to
the sudden and massive death of living organisms colonizing the
solution (all kinds of bacteria, harmless, beneficial or pathogenic,
can colonize your nutritive solution). There is not much to do in this
event, just adjust your pH, or change solution. If the problem persists
identify the problem and treat it.
Organic hydroponics is quite particular in the sense that, although
it is hydropnics, it is doesn’t function exactly the same way: for
instance, you feed the plant on a daily rather than on a weekly
cycle, your EC meter reads only part of the salts included in your nutritive solution, and your plants aren’t
as green as when they grow with mineral nutrients. You can read more about bioponic feeding and EC on
www.eurohydro.com under Bioponics, and you can contact us if you need more clarification, we will be
happy to help you.
But I would like to comment on the last aspect: plant leaves aren’t as green as they would be when grown
with a mineral nutrient. Indeed, bioponics is founded on one of the basic principles of sustainable organic
agriculture, which consists in giving little quantities of nitrate to the plant in order to increase flowering and
fruiting rather than producing abundant, but useless vegetative growth. As we now know, although nitrate
is essential for a healthy plant growth, too much of it is useless, and detrimental for our already very polluted
underground and river waters.
Finally it is important to know, especially for the shop owner, that a bioponic nutrient is generally exhaustive,
liquid and readily available to plants. It is perfectly adapted to «fertigation» (contraction of fertilisation and
irrigation) and drip irrigation, a practical improvement which represents a huge leap forward for all types of
organic farming, from the small family vegetable gardens to the larger commercial crops (allowing them to
simply pour their plant food directly in a reservoir and irrigate, instead of carrying endless bags of heavy, smelly,
and long to dissolve powders of blood, horn, feathers, etc) - a new and welcome market diversification …
In between sessions we visited the greenhouse (although it wasn’t
finished building completely) and talked about the different applications
for hydroponics, and projects that are very important to
us and could be generalized in the near future, giving even more
openings to our industry:
s Research is made to commercially grow high cash crops like
physalis peruvianus for instance, a plant which is very much in demand
in hotels and restaurants, and still quite scarce in our countries.
s Under the sponsorship of the Conseil Général du Gers, we are
starting a series of medium size tests growing medicinal plants to
produce herb teas for companies already interested in buying
them. The test will be conducted hydroponically and bioponically
on chamomile, sage, and two varieties of mints. If it is successful, we
will be looking to extend the production to other small-scale commercial growers and start developing new
and highly viable hydroponic companies, a project we have been working on for a few years now.
s A few months ago, a French scientist contacted us. He had patented the way to extract the active principles
of plants from the nutritive solution in which they are living - without harvesting them. He calls it “milking”
plants. It seems that the AeroFlo is the perfect tool for it. First tests have been particularly successful, and
a medium size operation is starting in a couple of weeks: another interesting application of hydroponics in
the realm of medicinal plants production.
The seminar went by very fast. Everybody returned safely home
and the next few days we received a series of happy emails
from all participants, which Dave Suffolk from Progrow summed
“Many thanks for a terrific few days! I had a wonderful time. I
think I speak for us all when I say I found the trip to be interesting,
helpful and relaxing all at the same time!” Thank you Dave, this is
exactly what I was aiming at. And thanks to the whole group, a
mix of different people who hardly knew each other and were
competitors on a highly competitive market, but still were open,
communicative and friendly. Next year we will organise a new
seminar. If interested, don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
The group (standing from left to right):
Ryl from Growell, Jason from Ponics, Greg from CC.com, Phil
from Rootzone, Anelise from Hydroponics of Denmark, William
from GHE, Nikki from Holland Hydroponics, David from Progrow,
Ebbe from Hydroponics of Denmark, Ben from Green’s, and
Justin from Growell.
Sitting: Noucetta from GHE
Anelise and Ebbe Thiery are our Danish distributors
from Hydroponics of Denmark, . When they heard
about this seminar they asked to join in, and I
invited them to come, of course. They blended perfectly
in the group and had lots of fun. Unfortunately
we missed Matthew Douglas from Tigerlily, John
Baxter from Growin, and Kinh Nguyen from Forever
Green, who, for different reasons, couldn’t make it. I
hope that they will come next time, and we will try
to find a space for them with the next groups.