We had the opportunity to answer some questions on DFZ Radio about the GroGuru solution, which you can find through Hawthorne and SureTEST for plants growing indoors. Ryan from the GroGuru/Hawthorne team talked about how the “SureTEST GroGuru system” can benefit hydroponic grow mediums by monitoring the plants and providing feedback to the grower. The full video and written interview is here below. Take a look!:

Heavy T: We talked about the Mother Earth brand of soils. In our last talk, we went into detail and covered the basics. What we’re going to be talking about now is Sure Test from GroGuru. This is a sensor that you can put in your garden. It will monitor your grow medium. Break it down a little bit, Ryan.

Ryan: It’s a monitoring system. It’s going to look at and help you track water content percentage, the temperature of the grow media, the salinity and the EC. What grower is going to grow without knowing the temperature and humidity of their environment?

Heavy T: Let’s have a hygrometer and thermometer at the very least. 

Ryan: We need to know what that is so that we know where the danger zones are. This is for your media. You can use it in soil. You can use it in rock oil. You can use it in cocoa. You can use it in sphagnum, peat moss and perlite. 

It’s going to tell you water content percentage, temperature and salinity. That will help you make better decisions. Everyone is looking to get more efficient. Everyone is looking at their ROI. Growers need to be efficient to get ahead of the next guy. If you have something that gives you data that helps you save water or nutrients, or saves you from burning your plants, that’s invaluable. 

Heavy T: GroGuru also syncs up with your smartphone.

Ryan: Yes, it’s app driven. You get all the data on your app. There are two basic components of the GroGuru system. One of the GroGuru base. That’s the brains. It’s basically a computer. It collects data and then sends it to the cloud so that you can get it on your phone. 

Devon: This doesn’t plug into wi-fi or a home router?

Ryan: There is a wi-fi version that’s coming out. This one is cellularly driven. It hooks up to the cellular system and sends a signal out. Not everyone has great cellular coverage. We’re moving to wi-fi, but this will always be an option.

Heavy T: This is great for the rural person, too.

Ryan: As long as they can get some kind of cellular signal, absolutely. 

Heavy T: Let’s get back to what it does. It monitors the water content, temperature, EC and salinity of your grow medium.

Ryan: Correct.

Heavy T: For the listeners, a lot of guys are newbies out there. They say, “These guys say that environment is key. I’m looking at my temperature and my humidity.” Why do the growers need to know the water content?

Ryan: You don’t want to overwater or underwater. You can help manage your water by knowing where it’s at. To some degree, it’s a reference tool. Every media needs to be watered a little differently. We’ve calibrated it for different medias. Let’s say that it’s a cocoa 70/30 blend versus a 60/40 blend, they’re going to be off a little bit. It’s a reference tool, like a pH meter or EC meter.

Heavy T: It’s a guidepost, it’s not a crutch for you to lean on. It’s a guidepost so that you have more information to make the right decisions.

Ryan: Right. You still have to pay attention, but it gets you close. Once you know how your media reacts, you can really dial it in.

Heavy T: Do you have a recommendation on how dry your soil should be before you rehydrate it?

Ryan: It depends on a lot of different things. We’re seeing anywhere from 10% to 20% water content. It depends on how that media holds onto water. 

We talked previously about the Mother Earth Cocoa Peat. I like to blend peat and cocoa together because I feel that cocoa holds onto water a little bit too tightly. It doesn’t want to give it up. Peat is hydrophobic and wants to resist the water. When you blend them together, they work synergistically to manage water better. 

It will depend on each one of those, the calibration, and what other components are in it. As we move forward, we’ll dial it into more and more specific blends. Then it’s easier to answer that question.

Heavy T: You’re being candid. I appreciate that, and the listeners appreciate it. The temperature of your grow medium. We know we don’t want to water with hot water or freezing cold water. What is the point of knowing the temperature of the grow medium?

Ryan: If the temperatures are too high, the roots will suffer. They’re not going to get as much oxygen. You have more chances of contracting root pathogens like Pythium and Phytophthora. People have done studies in greenhouses. They’ve tracked the root temperature and correlated it to the air temperature. 

We all clue in on the air temperature. If you can somehow control the root temperature, or at least know where it’s at, you can better guide it with the air temperature. If you were able to control the root temperature, your air can get hotter than you normally think it could. You’ll still grow great.

Heavy T: I’ve said that to growers. They’ll have a late-spring frost in a greenhouse. They say, “Oh no. What do I do?” If you keep the root zone warm enough, the plant can have snow fall on it and it’s going to live. 

If it’s a cold night, keep your root zone nice and warm. It’s the same with keeping your root zone cold. If you have a chiller in a recirculating system and your water is at 68, if you have an AC failure and your temperature spikes to 110, rather than your plants will be stressed but they will survive that incident. 

I get the EC. You want to know your EC and how it’s working with any fertilizers or amendments that you’re using. Again, those are just guideposts, right?

Ryan: EC is a little more complicated. In acquiesce based hydroponics, you put your fertilizers in. You take an EC reading and it’s true. You know what it is. Now you take 2.0 EC and water it into certain medias. The composition of the media can mask the EC. 

We have a write up in the product guide that tells you what to take away from the EC. Then you can use that as another reference tool. I like to clue in on salinity. I know that it’s not something that we traditionally talk about in our industry. Honestly, it is much more pertinent and important to the grower to track the salinity. That’s what can get you into plant damage areas. 

Let’s say that your salinity gets up to 4 micro-siemens. You’re probably going to see burn and plant damage. EC and salinity work backwards. As the media dries down, the salinity goes up. The salt content gets stronger and more concentrated. EC is not quite as helpful because, as it dries down, the EC goes down. It needs that water to conduct the electrical conductivity. 

Heavy T: It’s masking how wet it is. Organic matter can also mask it. It needs to interact with a charged particle. Not all organic matter is charged, but you may have a build-up of something.

Ryan: Right. Something that’s really consistent and doesn’t have a lot of organic things in it, in rock oil, it’s easier to convert the EC number that you’re seeing on your app to the number that you poured in of the solution. Salinity is more of a true number. You can look at it and say, “Am I nearing plant damage or not? Do I need to water quicker? Do I need to lower the intensity of my nutrient solution?”

Heavy T: For the expert grower, it’s more information and more data. It’s easy to assess right there on your smartphone. For the newbie, this costs about $500, right?

Ryan: The base is $500. Each stem set is about $400. That comes with two probes. You only need one of the bases per location. You can run up to potentially 1,000 of the stems.

Heavy T: You spend a couple Gs on your setup. You drop another $700 or $800 on this setup. You’ll get more data. It’s going to get you where you want to be quicker. We talked about the experience. The experience is how you get your green thumb. That’s what you do. 

You learn how to do it. You go through the pitfalls. You identify what’s happening before it bites you in the butt next time. If you have more data off jump street, that’s going to accelerate and allow you to be where you want to a lot faster. 

If you want to put a bunch of grows under your belt where you’re not really looking at it and you don’t understand what’s going on, that’s fine. But why not do a couple of grows using the right equipment, get the data and information, and become a better grower quicker?

Ryan: Yes. We have a video available that shows you what you need to do and how to make the most of it. 

Heavy T: That’s on Heavy T’s Grow Show Facebook page, too. You can check it out.

Ryan: The app will show you what’s going on right now in the root environment. You can click on it and see what the last 24 hours looked like. You can see your moisture content going down and salinity going up. If you want more data than 24 hours, you can get a subscription to get weekly or monthly graphs. 

You can store all of this information in the cloud. It’s expensive to store information. Besides being able to get more data and information, you’ll also be able to set alerts. You can set a high temp and low temp alert, high salinity and low salinity alert, as well as a water content alert. 

It can text you. It can give you a phone call. It can email you. All of that takes money and time. There is a subscription involved. If you just want to know what’s happening right now and what has happened over the last 24 hours, that’s invaluable data.

Heavy T: I agree. It’s the Sure Test GroGuru available exclusively from Hawthorne Gardening Group. The last thing about the Sure Test GroGuru that you really want people to know is the quality of the components, specifically the probes. What’s up with those?

Ryan: These are lab-grade probes. They’ve been certified by a third party called SWAT. That is Smart Water Technology. They quantify and test these to make sure that they hit ultimate specs and have the right kind of accuracy so that growers and/or landscapers or farmers are going to be able to achieve the efficiency that they want to. 

If you have cheap probes and they don’t have good tolerance or precision, then you’re not going to hit the benchmarks that you’re looking to hit. Nothing else out there in our industry has any kind of third-party certification that shows the efficiency and has passed the SWAT. It took almost a year to get. That, coupled with plug-and-play, makes this such an easy system to use. It’s a no brainer.

Heavy T: For the layman, SWAT certification is like the UL certification for probes. They put it under rigorous tests for 12 months, right?

Ryan: Yes. They put it under all kinds of conditions. They make sure that it works the way that we say it does, and that it hits the precision and accuracy over and over. They don’t just put it through some little test that takes a couple of hours on a bench top. They are actually putting it into use in different situations. They make sure that you will get the efficiency out of it that is being claimed.

Heavy T: It’s Sure Test GroGuru. Hawthorne does it again. They’ve put their money where their mouth is. They come out with innovative products that are affordable. At less than $1,000 to know what’s going on in your grow, it’s an investment that’s worth it. 

This type of equipment can cost you $5,000 to $10,000 if you’re working with other companies. They’ve put it in an easy-to-use and easy-to-assess platform. Go to HawthorneGC.com to learn more about it. Let’s thank Ryan for coming all the way from Vancouver, Washington.

Ryan: Thanks for having me. It’s been great. 

Heavy T: Bob has a question about Sure Test.

Bob: I was curious of the value. Is this something helping out some of the veterans get their grow? Is it something they might be able to afford in the future? Is it ideal for tent setup or more controlled environmental rooms?

Ryan: It’s really not about space or the amount of plants. It’s about what information you’re looking to get. If you’re looking to be efficient and maximize yields as well as if you need to manage water and nutrients. It’s for anyone who wants to get all the data and put it together. 

Years ago, I used to conceptualize design atmospheric controllers. When I started using the Sure Test GroGuru, it was an ah-ha moment. You start to relate your environmental temperatures with your root environment, and how that affects your dry down times. You can do some advanced things with it, but if you’re a smaller grower and you want to maximize things, you can use it as the tool to get you there.

Bob: I’m going to these veterans and getting them set up on their own grows to get everything started. I get a hold of gear and donate it to these guys to get their grows started. I thought, if I was able to use this to get them dialed in with their environment to make adjustments, I could take it from one grow to another to eventually get them all dialed in. I know that environment is just as important as nutrients and light. 

Heavy T: This is a product for someone who wants to learn. If you are a consultant and you’re going around helping people on a low-income budget to get started, this is something that they’re going to add to the regimen up and coming. 

This isn’t the first thing that you’re going to buy necessarily. You’re going to get a pH pin. You’re going to get lights. You’re going to get your grow system set up. You’re going to use your experience and knowledge from what you’ve done out in the field and listening to the show. Then you’ll apply that. 

This doesn’t take the place of that. These are guideposts to give you markers of what’s going on to make you a better grower. If you have more data and you can identify that your yield was lower, and you have a graph that you can pull and analyze from when your yield was great to see discrepancies, do you know how valuable that is? Rather than guessing about it, this is a grow journal on steroids. It’s giving you so much more than what you’re going to get from a hygrometer and thermometer. Bob, I appreciate your support. Thanks again, Ryan.

If you’re looking for a solution to your monitoring questions, talk with a member of our team. We are happy to answer questions!