Healthy Hydroponic Project Update – March 2021

It’s already been six months since we launched Healthy Hydroponics! Time is going by quickly in the midst of the pandemic. We continue to thank our growers, some of whom we know are operating at reduced personnel capacity. As a small operation ourselves, we are working hard to process samples and continue to develop our analysis pipeline.


Growers are getting results

Since our last update at the end of January, we generated the first set of microbiome reports for three growers. These reports show a few things: 1) the microbiome composition of nutrient solution, leachate, and root samples, 2) the abundance of pathogens detected over the sampling period, and 3) a Healthy Hydroponic Health Score that estimates the health of the hydroponic system based on the presence and abundance of pathogens detected in the samples. These results help growers understand what microbes are in their system and how the abundance of pathogens changes over the growth cycle of their crops. 

When we send off reports to growers, we offer to virtually meet with them to go over the format, results, and some of the potential significance of these results based on what is known about certain microorganisms and their prevalence in environments. Since not all growers have experience with microbiology, we hope to clarify any confusion in these meetings with growers. Generally, the growers that we’ve met with have been happy and satisfied with the reports and they have also provided comments for improvement.

With the growers’ feedback in hand, we have worked to continually improve the reports. We really appreciate these initial growers and their comments. Their early commitment to the project would not put them at a disadvantage as we will provide updated reports to all growers when we roll out new versions of reports.

Results

Based on the results we’ve got from four growers, there are certainly microorganisms that we expected to see and some that certainly caught our eye. We are currently holding back on publishing any results due to the small pool of samples and growers currently processed. Processing more samples will allow greater resolution in the trends that we are starting to see for certain crops and hydroponic systems in general..

What are we currently working on?

Report

In addition to the custom reports that we generate for growers showing an analysis of their samples, we will be doing a combined composite analysis of all samples that we receive. We are working on building our pipeline for analyzing this composite which will allow us to examine trends e.g. how the microbiome of closely related crops from different growers relate over time and how environmental parameters that we collect potentially influence the presence of certain microbial groups or pathogens. 

We are also working on adding the foodborne pathogen database to our analysis pipeline in the first report as we know growers are also concerned about the safety of their crops. At the same time, we are updating our plant pathogen database to bring our growers the most relevant information.

Blog

We recently added a Microbiology Glossary for Growers to our blog which growers can refer to when they come across unfamiliar jargon whether it be in our reports, in literature, or in presentations. This glossary will be updated as we find new words to define for growers.

We also started a new segment called Pathogen Database in which we spotlight a plant pathogen commonly found in greenhouses and hydroponic systems. Our first post is on Pythium and you can read about it here. 

If you have any relevant topics that you would like to read about, let us know in the comments below or send us a message through the contact form on our website!

Projects in Numbers

The number in brackets is the difference from January 31, 2021 

As of March 19, 2021: 

  • Growers that received reports: 3
  • Completed sampling of 8 (+3) operations
  • Received 235 (+84) samples

We’re really happy with the progress and cannot wait to add data from more growers to our analysis soon!

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