William Texier is a renowned expert in hydroponic cultivation and the author of the world-famous book "Hydroponics for Everyone", co-founder of General Hydroponics Europe (GHE), Terra Aquatica and many other plant cultivation projects. So I took the opportunity to talk to this world-renowned expert with great pleasure.
When and how did you first encounter hydroponics?
It's been a long time, in the late 1960s, during the hippie era, my girlfriend and I moved to the country, as many people did then. We had no money and were looking for a way to make a living. One of them was hydroponics. I started learning about technology and learned what was known about it at the time. But it wasn't until much later, in the 1980s, that I began practicing it in California.
Hydroponics was already known to the ancient Egyptians. Do the original systems and the modern ones have something in common? Or what has changed?
Everything has changed. I could write a whole article on this question, but to answer briefly - previously the elements necessary for the functioning of modern hydroponics were missing - substrates, chelates, complex nutrient solutions, efficient circulating pumps. Plastic ducts or tanks are also new and their use makes a huge difference.
A quality substrate was developed only after the end of World War II. The first humans used sand or gravel, which are too heavy and too porous, which led to poor results. Then we switched to rockwool, which was not a good idea, because this material is created for insulation, not hydroponics. Its properties are better than sand, but not by much. Today we have expanded clay and coconut fibers, which are excellent substrates.
Chelates are large molecules that act like a claw. They hold the microelements and release them only when there is a lack of them. Thus, they not only help keep them in solution, but also regulate their level and prevent possible overdose of the plant. One hundred years ago, growers used sulphate, which is much less stable and unregulated
Plastics make our lives easier. Without them, modern hydroponics would not exist. As for everyday objects, such as straws, cups and many others, which we throw away after a single use, their use is controversial for obvious reasons. But you get a completely different picture when you find out that recycled plastics are used to make containers or ducts that last for many years and can be recycled again.
Efficient circulators and timers complete the range of what's new in hydroponics today.
What hydroponic system is best for home growers?
There is no single answer to this. Several systems are perfectly adapted for small growers. Our classic system, the first in the series since the 1980s, is AquaFarm. It is driven by a small air pump and uses expanded clay as a substrate, which provides some protection to the root zone. We have recently developed Ebb & Grow using the flood growing method (Ebb & Flow). It is used with textile pots filled with a coconut fiber and perlite substrate and is powered by a small water pump that runs for 15 minutes per hour. Both systems use almost no energy and are user-friendly. In fact, the grower may have no experience in operating this type of system, and yet he will achieve unsurpassed results. We have simplified hydroponics so much that even a beginner can get crops of the same quality as a professional, just follow the instructions.
Both of these systems are made to work with a single light, and you can only grow plants from seeds or cuttings until flowering with one system. But if you want to keep the mother plant, it's a little more complicated, though not by much; you only need two different rooms, one with 12 hours of light (flowering) and the other with 18 hours for your mother plants and cuttings. The light in the growing room is a fraction of the natural, so it has little penetration and only the part of the plant that is directly exposed to it will bring a good yield. Therefore, it is better to grow many small plants than a few large ones. Depending on the type of system, I personally place 24 to 36 plants per square meter. Even if you start with seeds, it is good to let the plant grow, then remove the cuttings from it and let them bloom. In addition, this work will reward you with a rich harvest.
For me personally, the perfect hydroponic environment is as follows:
- AquaFarm for the mother plant. Need more cuttings? You can on one tray
place as many AF as you want, always with an LED or fluorescent light. You don't want to
the mother grew too fast.
- Cutting board under fluorescent lamps (Turbo Neon works well).
- For flowering, you can choose between the Ebb & Grow or Growstream 20 table (20
plants from Aeroflo). Both fit under 600 HPS.
This way you can achieve incredible rotation. I did 5 harvests a year in one space. I could have done 6, but sometimes you need a vacation
Can hydroponics be a way to feed the incredible 7.5 billion people on Earth?
Certainly not on its own, but it can help a lot. Forget cereals: wheat, barley, rye, etc.… It is also difficult to imagine how rice would be grown in hydra. Not that it wouldn't be possible, but it would require too much space. Virtually anything else can be grown efficiently in hydra.
Today, technology is poorly used in the food industry. They use a type of system that is harmful to the environment and thus produce food without taste or nutritional value, which is largely contrary to the original purpose.
hydroponics. For this reason, this technique is underused and its full potential has never really been developed. I believe that it will take a more important place in food production methods in the future. After all, hydroponics has something to offer growers and the final consumer:
- Modern hydra use closed systems, recirculation of rich nutrients
solution. Water savings are significant, even compared to the best system
soil irrigation. In the future, when water becomes a luxury, this feature itself
moves technology forward.
- Plants do not have to form a large root mat, so they can be grown more on
smaller space, which leads to a more efficient use of the growing area.
- Of course, we do not need herbicides that poison our groundwater today.
We also use IPM (integrated pest management), which means use
living organisms in pest control. It can be insects, bacteria or fungi. For
I have never used pesticides in my entire growing life, nor do I know them. Plants
grown hydroponically are more resistant, which makes pest control even easier.
- If you choose varieties well and supply them with complex nutrients, you will get crops,
which are not only full of flavor and aroma, but also very nutritious. They also carry more active ones
medicinal substances. Tests performed by independent laboratories on tomatoes
grown in our system show on average twice the content of vitamins and vitamins
mineral salts in comparison with data in the literature. Similar or better data than
the best organically grown products.
Far from the use of plastics and pumps, there is low-tech hydroponics that is used in Africa, South America and India. You can check out the Simplified Hydroponics Institute website at www.carbon.org. He currently works in many countries and teaches people how to create a water system from virtually nothing, mostly from leftovers. They do a great job. They even experimented with putting hydrosystems in emergency shelters, such as those used after the earthquake. Hydroponics, contrary to what many people think, is not only a technology of developed countries, but also has a place in developing countries.
with countries and can literally "feed the hungry," said Larry Brooke, the founder of GH.
You are one of the founders of GHE, one of the most famous brands on the market, but now you have founded a new company called Terra Aquatica. What is your reason for this?
My God, it was a nightmare. We have been waiting for legalization for 50 years, and now that it is finally here, at least in many US states, more problems have emerged than have been resolved. It is said that more grass is now grown illegally in California than during the Prohibition era. Mainly due to high taxes, poor management and many traditional growers who are not in places where they can be licensed. Worse, it has brought large international companies into our industry.
General Hydroponics has been (and still is) the market leader in indoor cultivation in North America, especially in nutrients, supplements and hydroponic systems. It still represents more than 80 % nutrient markets. For all these years, there was no competition from traditional producers of fertilizers and gardening supplies - large companies. It was because of our connection to cannabis, but legalization changed it all. Now that it is in full swing, the whole industry is moving into the hands of multinational companies that would not have affected the cannabis trade or the ten-meter bar a few years ago.
For example, Scotts Miracle Gro is a multinational corporation headquartered in Maryville, Ohio. The company started in 1868 as a family business selling seeds. In 1995, it merged with Miracle Gro to form the Scotts Miracle Gro Group, which is now a leader in lawn maintenance and horticulture in general. They produce a wide range of products, including some controversial pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. They are also the exclusive distributor of the infamous Roundup, licensed by Monsanto.
In 2014, SMG acquired General Hydroponics and Vermicrop, in 2016 Agritech (Botanicaire) and 75 % from Gavita, all through its Hawthorne subsidiary. It now owns the main brands of fertilizers
and hydroponic systems, lighting, organic supplements and various cultivation supplements. In the fall of 2017, they strengthened their cannabis presence with an acquisition of CanFilter ($ 72.2 million), bringing the total investment to $ 565 million since the process began in 2015. At the beginning of 2018, they acquired Sunlight Supply, one of from two leading distributors in the United States, for $ 450 million. The total investment is more than $ 1 billion.
Here in Europe, we are General Hydroponics Europe, a French company owned by Larry Brooke, founder of GH and co-founder of GHE, Noucetta Kehdi, my wife, also co-founder of GHE, and I, William Texier, co-founder and
executive. Fortunately, the Scotts group didn't buy us and we remain an independent small company with the same values all the time.
To cut a long story short, SMG bought the name when they bought GH. We can no longer use it and by 2021 we must change our identity. Terra Aquatica existed before. It's a small company that also belongs to Larry, Noucetta and me. The company manufactures organic products for GHE. We decided to choose this identity, and the more I get along with it, the more I like it. Terra Aquatica is GHE without toxic owners. But not only that. It is a new beginning for our company, with new team members and great enthusiasm.
Will the new company offer any other and new products?
Of course there will be new products, but we will keep all our current ones.
Fortunately, SMG only bought the label on the bottle, but not what's inside. They can't take our recipes. All historical GH recipes, such as the famous three-component Flora Series system, were developed by Call Hermann, our longtime friend and
co-worker. Newer recipes and organic range have been developed here in GHE or Terra Aquatica. Therefore, the products do not change. In our company we already produce more than 90 % from our line, including plastic containers. We are buying equipment for the production of the missing 10 %.
We already had line differences with our sister company in California, mainly due to differences in regulations and markets. What will change in the future will be that completely new products will be developed here. Previously, I worked with the research team at GH on some projects and they were a great support. We are now renewing a full-fledged European team and we need to explore a lot of projects.
What do you think the future of cultivation will look like?
The future of our industry will be affected by a change in cannabis laws. It happens practically everywhere. Although slowly but irreversibly. In the future, hydroponic technologies will be used to grow most medicinal cannabis worldwide,
in a controlled environment, under artificial lighting to prevent contamination from the ground and possible contamination.
As far as food is concerned, we will have to completely change the practices we use to produce it. Hydroponics is a way to provide large quantities of fresh vegetables even in places without soil. Growing populations and water shortages mean much more hydroponics in the future.
Technology itself will not change much. We have long developed high performance systems. We are working to shift the oxygen content of nutrients almost to what the laws of physics allow. But it will take a while before we have a working prototype.
The nutrient solution has been improved for so long that there is no further improvement in this area. In Terra Aquatica (not GH) we have developed organic hydroponics. There is a lot that can be done on this journey. We are currently working to bring more life to hydroponic cultivation to make it a more ecological method. This means introducing more microorganisms into it. In the future, you will see how the results of this research enter the market.
"Today, technology is misused in the food industry."
"Hydroponics is a way to secure large amounts of fresh vegetables even in places without soil."