Getting started growing with your OpenAg™ Personal Food Computer (PFC) is easy. You’ve assembled the Personal Food Computers and now its time to start propagating. While the PFC can bring all types of plants––tomatoes, basil, broccoli––to maturity, it’s best to initially germinate your seeds outside of the bot.
Purchase the materials listed above to kick things off. Start the germination process by placing a seed of your selected variety into roughly 5-10 of the root cubes. These root cubes act as a foundation for the plant, something for the seedling’s initial roots and stem to grow through since it won’t have soil. A PFC is equipped to grow roughly five plants, but it’s best to germinate more seeds in case of any mortality along the way.
Thoroughly water the tray such that each cube is saturated, then drain excess water, leaving 1cm of water in the bottom of the tray. With seeds in place and watered, cover the tray with its plastic humidifying dome. Early seed germination requires a consistently moist environment for proper growth.
Determine the specific light and temperature needs of your seeds, often described on the side of the seed pack or most certainly with a simply Google search. Place the seed tray roughly one foot under a light module, programming its schedule accordingly.
Most plants do better in warmer conditions and will sprout faster on a heating pad. Basil needs warmth to germinate place it on a heating pad. Spinach is an exception to this rule of thumb and germinates only in colder temperatures. When in doubt, Google standard temperature and humidity regiments for the plant at hand for more information.
Regarding light, basil will germinate in either light or dark. Light is often not a determining or limiting factor for germination. Again, search the web for information on the specific plant you are growing if unsure.
Check on the trays of seeds regularly to maintain their root cubes’ water saturation and their tray’s 1cm water level. Also regularly check for sprouting.
After two to ten days, sprouting is indicated by the emergence of two small embryonic leaves called cotyledons or “seed leaves.”
At this point the seed has exhausted its own embryonic food and is ready to be supplemented. Over the next several days, add a diluted amount of fertilizer to the seed tray’s water.
Two to the three days after sprouting, ensure the trays are moved under full light at a 16-hour photoperiod schedule. Continue to maintain a 1cm water level inside of the trays.
Seedlings will then sprout their first “True Leaves,” which are the first food-producing set of leaves for the nascent plants. They are larger than cotyledons and located at the seedling’s apical meristem. True Leaves are the plants’ primary indicator that they are growing photosynthetically, durable to their environment, and ready to be transplanted into the OpenAg Personal Food Computer™.
When plants are ready to be transplanted, break off individual horticube. If there are two or more plants growing in the horticube, simply pinch off the smaller plant at the stem so there is only one plant per cube. Ideally, roots should be coming out of the bottom of the horticube to ensure root contact with the water solution. However, if there are no visible roots, be sure that at least the the bottom ½ inch of the horticube is submerged. Wedge the horticube into your Food Computer's growing tray, leaving about one inch of the horticube under the tray. Secure the horticube in place (try rotating the cube about 45° in the opening so it neither slips through the opening nor tips over as the plant grows).
Once your transplants are in place, add nutrients to the water in your PFC reservoir (this process depends on the nutrient solution you're using and which PFC you've built). Make sure the bottoms of any horticubes are in contact with the water tray.
Voilà, your seedlings are ready for food computing!
For more info on seed germination, see the following articles: