Roots takes root zone cooling tech to flourishing US pot market
Ag-tech play, Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies (ASX:ROO), is making its debut in the thriving US$7 billion US cannabis market, which is expected to surge to US$22 billion by 2021.
As ROO revealed today, it is conducting a pilot using its patented Root Zone Temperature Optimisation (RZTO) technology alongside American Farms Consulting LLC (AFC) in Washington.
RZTO is the only two-in-one, low energy, root zone heating and cooling system on the market — these features have seen it applied in a range of pilot and commercialised plants in a number of countries.
This will be the first use of RZTO technology in an open field, and will mark ROO’s entry in the ag-tech segment that services the rapidly growing cannabis space.
The pilot will be installed in Trinidad, Washington — a semi-desert climate marked by high temperature variances between day and night, about 200 kilometres south-east of Seattle.
The pilot will consist of the installation and use of ROO’s RZTO technology and associated products by AFC, a licenced breeding platform for cannabis growers for the legal cannabis industry in Washington State.
ROO will cool the roots of cannabis in part of a 30,000 square foot open field license awarded to the farm owner. Providing the pilot is successful, AFC will then purchase the RZTO system for future use.
AFC, meanwhile, is a full-spectrum cannabis consulting company with expertise in horticulture, processing, operations and marketing. It provides a sound platform for licensed cannabis producers and processors to monetise their assets in Washington’s legal recreational program.
AFC manages multiple farms, with current operations spanning over 100,000 square feet of green canopy. Its innovative approach to farming and data collection includes the planting of a wide variety of genetic strains of both seeds and clones that are grown in local soil, using drip irrigation and two main techniques: full-term open field and light-deprivation.
The pilot is not expected to generate any significant revenue for ROO. Rather, the purpose here is to demonstrate the viability of the RTZO system for the cannabis market in general — if successful, this will hopefully lead to future products sales for company.
Planting is scheduled for later this month — even in summer, the temperature difference between hot days and cool nights is high, given the semi-desert topography and elevation of 928 feet (283 metres). Results are expected in late September 2019.
It should be noted, however, that this is an early stage tech company and success is no guarantee. Investors should seek professional financial advice before making an investment.
Roots CEO, Dr Sharon Devir, said: “Building on our recent greenhouse proof of concept with cannabis in Israel, this pilot is the first time RZTO system technology is being used in the open field, a growing cannabis production method with increasing popularity due to lower initial capex and low opex. It should demonstrate how the Roots RZTO technology optimizes the root zone temperatures — in this instance by cooling—- until the optimum temperature of the cannabis plant is reached and maintained.”
Devir said that the RZTO system should cool the root systems of the cannabis seedlings and stabilise the temperature range between night and day normally occurring at this time of year in the open field.
“This should lead to three financial advantages for the farmer,” Devir said. “First, due to increased growth rates we should see an increase in flower yield compared to control plots.”
“Second, quicker growth rates and higher yield quantities could help facilitate growing two crop cycles — instead of just the one, which is common in this area for this type of crop. This leads to the farmer now being able to benefit from higher, premium prices for longer periods for a crop that would normally be out of season.”
“Third, we anticipate greater uniformity between the flowers as seen in results obtained from other crop roots' cooling.”
Devir said that other parameters to be studied include the influence of root zone cooling on flowers' cannabinoid values and composition.
Importantly, ROO is only supplying equipment to AFC and will not be engaging in any conduct that handles the cannabis plant.
Roots’ innovative tech
ROO’s patented RZTO technology optimises plant physiology for increased growth, productivity and quality by stabilising the plant’s root zone temperature.
Leveraging the principle of Ground Source Heat Exchange (GSHE), ROO installs a closed-loop system of pipes. The lower part is installed at a depth where soil temperature is stable and not affected by weather extremes, and the upper part in the target crop’s root zone just below the soil surface. Water flowing through the lower pipes is charged by the soil’s stable temperature. The heated (or cooled) water is pumped through the pipes installed in the root zone, where the heat (or cold) is discharged.
This, in turn, significantly increases yields, increases growing cycle planting options, improves quality, mitigates extreme heat and cold stress while significantly reducing energy consumption by stabilising and optimising the roots zone temperature.
ROO has also successfully installed the world’s first stand-alone Irrigation by Condensation (IBC) system utilising solar and/or wind energy. The system is capable of growing and sustaining entire growth cycles of food independent of the electricity grid or a normal water supply. Through the off-grid IBC system, users can produce food crops using irrigation sourced only from humidity in the air and energy from the sun or wind.