In the age of smartphones and ever increasing technology, agriculture is also moving into the 21st century, and growers are seeking grow room automation.
An ever-increasing number of growers are looking into automating portions or nearly all of their operation.
Technology is available to control temperature, humidity, ventilation, and carbon dioxide (CO2) content. There are even nutrient dosing and pH control methods that all work through your mobile device.
Whether you are new to automation or tech-savvy, there are options out there for all growers to help reduce the workload and free up some of your time for other aspects of your business or life.
In this section of our learn to grow series, we will discuss grow room automation. As you gain experience and your operation increases in size, the next step should be reducing your workload.
Automating your growing space requires you to first have a good understanding of the ideal environmental conditions for your plants. So, if you haven't read our grow room atmosphere and ventilation guide yet, start there.
What does grow room automation mean?
Before we go any further, let's discuss what automating your grow room means.
It doesn't mean you plant your seeds, and come back to the grow room 4 months later to freshly harvested flower. You can't automate everything, and there will always be some level of work you need to do.
But, grow room automation is about using technology to cut back on your workload, human error, and just make things easier for you.
Most of automation in the grow room involves turning things on and off at the right times, without you being there. This includes your grow lights, fans & ventilation system, watering equipment, etc.
Now, let's start with the most basic automation: getting your grow lights turned on and off without you doing anything!
Automating your grow lights
This guide will detail how to automate environment of your grow room, but not your grow lights.
Your grow lights are so important, and automating their use is not as simple as other aspects of your growing space.
You will need to use a lighting controller in conjunction with a light moving system, and meters to test the efficiency of your lights.
Thus, we have an separate guide on automating grow lights. This is a very important topic, so we encourage you to take a look at this as well!
Now, lets get on with automating your grow room environment.
Grow Room Temperature Controls
Temperature is important to plants, as it sets the stage for growth and proper development of the plant.
Clones and seedlings need higher temperatures, because it allows them to absorb more moisture out of the air through their foliage.
At this early stage, they will have little or no root mass. Therefore, they need to take in moisture through the stomata in their leaves.
If temperatures are less than ideal, it will increase the risk of mold, mildew, and pests.
The ideal temperature will depend on the kind of crops and growth stages being grown. Keep clones in an environment of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
As these plants begin to veg and harden off, you can slowly decrease the temperature to a low end of 70 degrees. While plants are flowering, decrease this a little more to the range of 68-73 degrees. This will simulate the changing of seasons, and help with flowering.
It is important that day and night temperatures do not vary by more than 10 degrees.
While grow lights are off, temperatures will inevitable be lower. Using a temperature controller will turn off fans and air conditioners in accordance with grow lights, to maintain optimal conditions.
Managing grow room temperature with a controller
Using a temperature controller in your grow room will ensure your temperature stays in the optimal range. You can set it and forget it.
Some temperature controllers even have photocell, which enables them to work on the same cycle as your grow lights. This is important for managing day time/night time temperatures. These controllers will turn off fans, A/C's, and CO2 devices when lights turn off.
If you need to cool down your grow room, increase ventilation or add in more circulation fans. Using LED grow lights will provide the same intense light as HID's, without the added heat.
If you have a serious heat problem, you will need an air conditioner. There are tons of great grow room A/C's available at Hydrobuilder, and you can learn about them here.
If you need to make the room warmer, add heating pads or additional lights, or switch to HID lights that will produce more heat. As a last resort, you can use a space heater or greenhouse heater. These are best used in large grow rooms or greenhouses.
For more information on managing heat in your grow room, check out this full guide.
Grow Room Humidity Controls
Temperature and humidity work together to create the growing conditions for plants.
Similar to temperature, each crop and growth stage will have an ideal humidity.
During propagation humidity should be higher than normal, up to 70-75%. As plants begin vegging and develop a root system, drop humidity to 40-50% and maintain this during flowering.
If humidity levels are too low, the plants may take up too much nutrient solution because they are not able to get moisture through their foliage, leading to nutrient burns.
If humidity is too high, excess moisture will contribute to mold and mildew development, and invite pests into your grow room.
Managing grow room humidity with a controller
A humidity controller will work in conjunction with your dehumidifier and/or humidifier. These devices will measure moisture levels in the grow room, and adjust accordingly.
If you do not have a humidity controller, you will be stuck constantly stopping by your growing space to read your hygrometer, and adjusting devices accordingly.
There are even controllers that can work with temperature and humidity simulanteously!
Grow Room Ventilation Controls
Having a high-quality ventilation system will help keep temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels within the optimal range. Your ventilation system is crucial for creating an ideal environment, and controlling odors.
A simple ventilation system will have an inline fan, to exhaust air. A more complex ventilation system will have an intake and exhaust fan, to bring in fresh air while simultaneously expelling old, hot air.
You want to exchange air at least every 3-5 minutes. It goes without saying you will need a timer or controller to achieve this.
Managing your grow room ventilation system with a controller
To control your ventilation system, you will use what is called a fan-speed controller.
With one of these, you can control the power of your fans, set your ventilation intervals, and turn on/off fans in accordance with your grow lights.
Connect your controller to your inline fan, and set the interval on which you want to recycle air. Many of these contain a temperature sensor, and will adjust use accordingly.
Make sure your unit has photocell, so that it will turn on and off with your grow lights.
Grow Room CO2 Controls
Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be harmful to humans, but incredibly beneficial to our plants!
Supplementing your plants with CO2, provided you have ample grow lighting, will show decreased time to harvest and increased yields.
CO2 burners are one of the most common methods for supplementing the grow room with CO2. There are also tank and regulator kits, which are equally effective, and sometimes more convenient.
Since CO2 is heavier than air, use oscillating fans to evenly distributing the CO2 in your grow room or tent.
You can learn more about CO2 here, in our detailed guide on how to use CO2 in the grow room.
Managing grow room CO2 with a controller
As plants grow, testing CO2 monthly will help you adjust the system to the optimum levels.
CO2 controllers will continually measure the CO2 in the area, and open and close the regulator accordingly.
Without a CO2 controller, you will be stuck manually turning on and off equipment. A controller will also help keep the CO2 levels at a safe level!
Again, these controllers often contain photocell, to ensure your CO2 devices run at the same time as your grow lights. While grow lights are off, there is no need for CO2.
Nutrient and pH Autodosers
Potentially one of the biggest automation breakthroughs in grow room technology, is the nutrient and pH doser.
Autodosers allow you to optimize nutrient levels and maintain pH to achieve maximum yield. Products are available for all operations from a small hobbyist to a large commercial operation.
If you are not able to stop by your grow room to feed your plants daily, or plan on taking a vacation, you need an autodoser.
These will feed your plants a perfect ppm ratio, with the correct pH, with or without your presence.
Autogrow's Automation Devices
Autogrow offers a range of products that allows your business to expand and grow. The Minidose has the ease of a singular function of controlling fluctuations in electrical conductivity (EC) and pH.
The Autogrow Intellidose is designed for small commercial operations. In addition to the 9-part nutrient dosing with variable ratios, it also allows for day/night automation to allow different EC to optimize nutrient delivery.
Additionally, up to four irrigation systems can be controlled. This system is easy to set up and easy to use. The autoset feature automatically tests the pumps and sets dose times. This system will also send you SMS alerts if something is not operating correctly.
The Multigrow system allows for the delivery of nutrients and control of humidity, temperature, and light all from a large touch screen or can be directly connected to your PC, iPad, or other internet connected device.
Up to eight greenhouse compartments and eight tanks for nutrient dosing can be controlled with just one unit.
The irrigation controller can be set by timer, time of day, or by solar integrator to measure radiation. As a bonus, each Multigrow purchase comes with a one year subscription to My.Autogrow.
My.Autogrow stores all your data in one place for climate, nutrient, and irrigation so you can easily share data with a crop consultant. It also offers the freedom of SMS and email alerts if a system is malfunctioning and allows for settings to be changed remotely.
Bluelab's Automation Devices
Bluelab also supplies a similar range of autodosers.
The Bluelab pH Controller is the simplest, controlling only the pH. The Bluelab Pro Controller integrates automation of pH, nutrient, and temperature.
Automatic Temperature Compensation (ATC) allows the pH meter to accurately determine the pH value at any given temperature.
This system is compatible with the Bluelab Dosetronic Peridoser kit includes the doser and controller. This system allows for the management of two-part nutrient solution (A and B) and to control pH.
Multi-function Grow Room Controllers
Using a separate controller for temperature, humidity, fan-speed, and CO2 can get messy.
While automation will improve growing conditions and make your life easier, you don't want to crowd your growing space with equipment and devices.
Multi-function grow room controllers were designed with this in mind. You no longer need a controller for each of these, instead, you can use one master controller.
A multi-function grow room controller will manage the entire atmosphere and ventilation system of your grow room.
The Best Multi-function Grow Room Controllers
When you grow crops indoors, you have created a completely artificial environment where you provide for the basic needs of the plants.
In order to achieve maximum yields and quality, everything from the lighting to ventilation to watering system must dovetail 24 hours a day.
It can be a complex feat, but with the right grow room controllers can easily be managed by even a novice grower.
While there are numerous options out there, we have selected a few master controllers available using today’s technology.
TrolMaster Hydro-X Environmental Control System with 3-in-1 Sensor
The TrolMaster Hydro-X Environmental Control System with 3-in-1 Sensor is one of the best environment controllers. It grants you the ability to automate every aspect of your grow:
You can control your grow remotely, using the TrolMaster smart phone app. You'll recieve push notifications about your grow, so you can monitor conditions from home, on the road, vacation - anywhere you have cell service!
To make this controller work, you just need to grab whatever sensors you want to control - there is a separate sensor for each condition: temperature, humidity, etc.
Its fully customizable, modularly designed, and one of the most cost-effective, efficient ways to automate your grow and get back to doing the things you enjoy.
Titan Controls Spartan Series Digital Environmental Controller
While the Titan Controls Spartan Series Digital Environmental Controller doesn't control your lighting like the TrolMaster, its a great budget friendly multi-function environment controller.
You can precisely monitor every aspect of your atmosphere: CO2, temperature, and humidity.
The interface is super easy to use, and programming it initially is a breeze. Each set point has a designated knob to control it, and the readings are displayed on the large digital display.
If you are a hobbyist looking to get started with automation and don't want to spend a ton of money on it, this is a great option! Its everything you need, without the frills that lead to a higher price point.
Link4 Corporation iPonic 624 Dual Zone Environmental Controller
For those that like the idea of controlling their grow room from anywhere in the world, iPonic offers several controller options designed for the hobbyist grower to large commercial operation.
The iPonic Series developed by Link4 Corporation provides grow room control with platform independent mobile control and alarms.
Using cloud technology, the iPonic Cloud connects all your controllers for easy remote management.
Data is also stored in the cloud which allows you to go back and review conditions which may have resulted in your bumper yield or various problems.
These controllers are more expensive than the Titan or Autopilot controllers, but that may be outweighed by the one year warranty and the ability to improve record keeping by storing historical data.
When it comes to grow room automation, just about everything can be solved with a multifunction controller!
Final Thoughts On Automating Your Grow Room
This is the end of our how to grow series, but we will never stop providing fresh, original content for you!
Our goal is to continue helping growers cultivate the strongest, healthiest plants possible.
By now, you should have a good understanding of how to grow. But if there is anything you are still not sure about, we are just a phone call away. Our expert growers are available to help you at 888-815-9763.
Grow room automation is very important, but maybe you're not quite here yet. If you want a beginners guide to indoor growing, visit our blog!