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Ask Erik: RAW! - Groovy Gear: Picking Winners

Giving a hydroponic product the official Erik Biksa thumbs up or thumbs down isn’t always popular with manufactures of inferior products. Giving a hydroponic product the official Erik Biksa thumbs up or thumbs down isn’t always popular with manufactures of inferior products.

Q: I have been reading your Ask Erik columns and feature articles for over ten years now, and it’s been cool to see your solutions and thoughts regarding growing, especially hydroponics under lights, evolving and changing with the industry.  Sometimes I look at your contributions as “the chicken or the egg first” kind of thing.  We have definitely seen a few trends surface after you go ahead and tell readers about something new in our industry.

How do you decide what kinds of technologies to feature?  Obviously, you can’t show us everything at once, and we all know there is a lot to choose from out there these days. 

A:

I have done my best in answering a variety of questions through the years, and more recently have been able to take the gloves off in my writings, especially with features such as this Ask Erik: RAW! column.  This, in part, reflects some of the bold steps forward our industry has made, as well as where the writing is published.

There are always lots of developments going on as hydroponic technology moves forward.  Sometimes a new technology moves the industry forward in baby steps, sometimes in giant leaps.  Sometimes, it can even move us all back as growers.

Usually, once I get wind of something new or different through the grape vine or as approached by a manufacturer or distributor, I start to do some casual research.  Checking in with growers I have had the fortune to network with from around the world is a good place to start, however, the stuff that excites me (and you) the most has usually not been out for long, so feedback is limited if available at all.

Through the years, I have received everything from genuine heart-felt praise to outrage for my selections.

After gaining some insights, observations and learning more about “how it works”, I question “is this a viable solution for growing”?  If it seems that way, the next step is to get into contact with either the manufacturer or distributor of the new tech.  From there, I pick their brains and try to determine if it sounds like the real deal.  If it is, I do my best to get my hands on it for trial and review.

After that, it goes to my test garden(s).  Sometimes you can tell that something works great within days, sometimes you need to spend months or even years to really gain the depth of insight as to make a definitive “yay” or “nay.”

When I feature something new, it isn’t always because I think everyone should go out and get one right away; it’s often more to do with keeping readers informed about the latest, and sometimes greatest that is available to them.  From there, I hope people can find what they need from the experiences, observations, data and insights shared whether through my own observations or those from other leading edge growers to make the right decision for their own growing needs. By the way, feedback from growers is always welcomed, so drop me a line through my contact page at rosebudmag.com to share your experiences.

Through the years, I have received everything from genuine heart-felt praise to outrage for my selections.  For example, I feature Manufacturer A‘s Product X, but do not feature Manufacturer B’s Product X simply because I couldn’t get my hands on the one from the other guys, or they were dragging their feet, etc. Naturally, this gets people upset in a very competitive and technologically driven industry.

It isn’t always that one is much better than the other, although at times that is in fact the case. Also, it simply doesn’t make any sense to show you eight kinds of flexible ducting, so this means being selective in what is featured. My experience has largely been that those suppliers who really want me to try out their product first, before reporting to you the growing public, usually have the superior product.

In the end, it is the grower who decides what is going to become a part of the industry and what is not. I feel privileged and honoured to be a part of this process in bridging the proverbial drawing board to your grow room. A final note on test piloting: sometimes you reach new heights whether in yield, quality or efficiency; however, with anything new there are risks and it’s true that I have had to the pull the “eject” cord on a crop on more than one occasion and have even crashed and burned on a couple of gardens while trying something new.

Cheers, Erik Biksa

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Testing new products has its rewards, but also its hazards.
Last modified on Thursday, 19 July 2012 18:02

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