The Human-Cloner Interface...the #kaizen of Cloning
Our first article in this series we adjusted the biochemistry of your mother plants. Next we discussed sterilizing your cloning system...reliably. Today we’re going to dive into methods for improving how you or your employees interact with the cloners to decrease workload, improve efficiency and eliminate failures.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that has become associated with improving production or business processes by continuously optimizing workflow.
Now, for some system modification to "Kaizen" your clone game!
A common cause of clone failure is forgetting to plug in the cloner. If you’ve cloned for a while, you know this! There is a simple solution that will end this problem for good--Cycle timers. Cycle timers eliminate this problem by allowing you to initiate an “off time” without ever unplugging your cloners. Even more awesome is 1 cycle timer can power up to 10 cloners!
I recommend ‘dial type’ cycle timers because their function is more intuitive. These generally cost $50 - $100. Cheap timers with 15 min intervals work too. Just add 15 - 30 min off times every 15 - 60 min on time. To check on the clones spin the dial to a 15 - 30 min off segment and you now have about 15 - 30 min to check your clones.
Cycle timing is also the least expensive way to manage excess heat caused by pumps. I choose an ON/OFF ratio that will maintain temperature between 75 - 87 °F (24 - 30 °C ). 2 min on, 10 min off is 20% on and will minimally heat the water. You can increase from there. If temps are getting too low, increase the % on time.
Using an IR Thermometer allows for a quick measure of water temperatures without infecting your system. We have found external IR readings to be within 0 – 2 °F (0 - 1 °C) below actual internal temperature. This range depends on the ambient room temperature. For example, if your ambient temperature is 75 °F and your cloner is at 85 °F (29 °C), you IR reading may be ~83 °F (~28 °C). Alternatively, if your ambient temperature is 75 °F and your cloner is at 77 °F, your IR reading will be relatively precise.
Automating Dumping & Filling
Dumping and refilling your cloner can be inefficient and cumbersome when employed manually. Adding an exhaust valve for dumping AND a float valve for refilling improves the scalability & efficiency, while eliminating the risk of overfilling the cloner. It has the dual benefit of eliminating the chances of you or employees touching the interior of your system. Manually dumping and refilling your systems increases the human interaction adding both labor and increasing the chance of introducing unwanted bacteria or other microbes.
Don’t Veg in your Cloner
Vegging in your cloner is tempting but the longer you veg, the more you increase the chance of getting root debris in your pump intake manifold. This is particularly important for clones going into medium or hydroton because longer roots bundle together and are difficult to separate...adding to transplant shock and labor. A good practice is to switch to you next system or medium once your roots are 1 - 3 inches (~3 - 8 cm) long.
Dedicated pH Meters
Maintain a sterile pH meter dedicated to your cloning space decrease the chances of inoculating your system with beneficial or other bacteria found outside your cloning room. This is an ideal practice for growers utilizing water culture and hydroponic. In fact, all my cloning recipes don’t require pH adjustment until they have root formation to avoid the risk of contamination and added labor.
Most Important Changes:
Your budget or schedule may not permit all these changes, but the three most important improvements are Cycle-timing, an IR Thermometer, and not vegging in your cloner! The other suggestions are simply for added "kaizen" to your cloning methods.
Today Shopping List (at least):
- Cycle Timer
- IR Thermometer
Next up, Game Changing Cloner Recipes
...and, as always, reach out anytime!