Photo: Tomatoes growing in the AutoPot™ 12" Single Module.

The AutoPot™ Smart-valve
The Smart-valve is the heart of AutoPot™ Systems - this unit controls the water level in a module (or your own tray) to give your plants the wet-dry cycle. Over thirty years of trials, refinement and development have resulted in today’s Smart-valve.
The Smart-valve and AutoPot™ Systems have won a number of awards including the Inventors Association of Victoria, Australia, First Prize in 1992 and the best Victorian invention at the Royal Melbourne Show of that same year. 

How does the Smart-valve work?


Unlike a conventional ball cock type float valve, the Smart-valve allows total reduction of the fluid level before it refills. When connected to a low pressure water supply (which can be from either pressure reduced mains, pressure pump (like the AutoPot™ Smart Pump Set) or gravity tank) the Smart-valve opens to allow water to enter the bottom of the growing container to a set depth (approx 35mm).
 
The Smart-valve then closes and will not permit further water to enter the container until all the original supply has been used up by the pot. This absorption is achieved by capillary action that occurs in the growing medium. Once the water has been absorbed to the extent that the film of water under the Smart-valve has gone, the Smart-valve re-opens and another supply of water enters the growing container, thus we have wet-dry cycles dictated by the pot's own rate of consumption.

Where AutoPot™ Technology Excels 

Resource Efficiency - Where water is scarce, AutoPot™ Systems has no water wastage or nutrient run-off. 

Ease Of Use - No electricity is required as AutoPot™ Systems can be run by gravity. If pumping is used, the amount of energy required is so small that a single car battery powered by the sun would be sufficient to produce 25 tons of tomatoes annually!

Environmentally Friendly - Without nutrient run-off, there is no pollution.

Flexibility - Take agriculture to places previously thought impossible such as non-productive or marginal land and building rooftops. Where soil is poor, AutoPot™ Systems can produce good crops out of pure sand or gravel. 

Automation - Farming on a commercial scale is easier and less labourious. 

Consistency - Crop yields and quantity are consistent and of premium grade.

How AutoPot™ Systems Differ From Other Hydroponic Systems. 

Many hydroponic systems recognise the fact that nature conditioned most plants to get alternating cycles of moisture so that they start out wet and then gradually dry out before it rains again to supply more moisture. If the water comes too frequently before the plant has had the chance for a drier period then plant growth is inhibited. If the plant dries out completely and stays that way for a period longer than it is conditioned to tolerate, it will either die completely or suffer a severe setback in its growth pattern. 

The most common conventional hydroponic systems using media are "drip to waste" and "ebb and flow". In a variety of ways and under a variety of systems of control, a water/nutrient mix is supplied to the plants in the system. The control at its simplest is manual, and at its most complicated, computer controlled. Even in the most comprehensive computer controlled Nutrient Film (NFT) systems, the cycle is normally dictated by the needs of the thirstiest of the plants in the system, so the average plant will get more water/nutrient than it needs which is usually also more than is good for it. This is done on the basis that a bit too much water, while perhaps not the ultimate in supplying the best growth rate, is better than too little water. There’s an old farmers saying that “you can always grow something in mud but you can’t grow anything in dust”. 
Another issue with conventional hydroponics is that all systems recirculate nutrient which very often accounts for the nutrient becoming imbalanced and also the spread of disease through the entire system. To alleviate this problem it is standard practice to constantly monitor and balance the pH and CF level of nutrient which requires a significant investment in both equipment and time, or in many professional systems, excess water and nutrient is run to waste.

The Five Major Features Unique To AutoPot™ Systems.

1. Water Efficiency. Every drop of water that goes via the Smart-valve to the growing container is available to the plant. The single minimal wastage of water is through evaporation from the surface of the container. There is no run-off and no recycling of water. 

2. Watering According To Demand. The AutoPot™ module via the Smart-valve dictates that the amount and frequency of water provided is exactly as the plants require. 

3. Electricity Supply Not Critical. AutoPot™ Systems can be run by gravity with a tank fed system. No electricity or battery driven devices are mandatory. 

4. Inexpensive to buy and maintain. There is no expensive outlay in electrical connection, pumps, computers and piping. All the water connections are by a 4mm and (optionally) 13mm tubing. This small diameter tubing is practical simply because the valves operate independently and seldom will more than one be open at a time.  Therefore the demand for water is spread throughout the day. Running the tube over or through walls, under paths, across rafters or wherever it needs to go is very simple compared to the problems and expense of achieving this with polythene, copper or galvanised piping that also normally requires a plumber to install. The thin tubing is normally held in place by simple, inexpensive plastic saddle clamps. 

5. Self-scheduling. Conventional irrigation requires expertise in scheduling an irrigation cycle, relying on human judgement for interpretation of the needs of the plants and at best only satisfying the needs of the average plant. The AutoPot™ System caters exactly for the plant’s ever changing needs throughout the year, come winter or summer. 

How an AutoPot™ system can benefit you. 

For hobby growers :-
 
* Control of over watering and under watering. Look at the various house plants that you have. If you are an average hobbyist many of them will be in poor condition. Usually because of over or under watering through over eagerness to prevent drying out or because you were busy and forgot to water.
 
* Control of over or under feeding. A common problem. And one that is hard to handle. Too little feeding and the plant will not perform. Too much is likely to kill the plant. AutoPot™ Systems provides an exact dose every time the plant gets water.
 
* A solution to the time problem. Especially in summer when many plants need water two or more times a day to give the best results.
 
* The ability to take a vacation. Every AutoPot™ System is designed to give a long period of watering and even the systems with relatively small storage tanks can be switched over to larger tanks for the period that you are away.
 
* Avoidance of the drip problem. Particularly with hanging baskets used indoors, excess watering can be a problem. With AutoPot™ Systems, there is no run off, hence you are able to put one pot plant below another.
 
 
For commercial growers :-
 
* Water conservation. The cost of purification or supply of good quality water is one that continually increases, AutoPot™ Systems are extremely water efficient as the plants only take what they need.
 
* Avoidance of recycling costs. Particularly where legal or financial constraints dictate the elimination of pollution by run off or the cost of water supply is high, the AutoPot™ Systems excel. No capital cost for pumps, ponds, disposal and treatment. No running costs in fuel or power for pumping.
 
* Avoiding overhead watering problems. Plants that need sub-irrigating to avoid damage to flower or foliage love the AutoPot™ System.
Inventor of AutoPot™ SYSTEMS
- Jim Fah-
Jim always believed that there must be a simpler way of growing plants in pots. It was with this belief that he invented the AutoPot™ technology and evolved the various aspects of growing with AutoPot™ Systems over the last 3 decades. Now, it is one of the most efficient watering and feeding systems available.

AutoPot™ Systems first started in 1986, and was awarded the Australian Royal Agriculture Gold Medal in 1988 and 1992, it also holds many other honours from various countries, and multiple patents across the world.

Jim’s idea started when he was growing Gloxinias in pots whilst having to make frequent travels for work. Each time he returned, he found several of his plants were not doing well despite having taught someone to look after them during his absence. Thus led to the key point of Jim's approach to the invention – which is to have each plant determining its own water and feed requirements. If there are 100 pot plants, the watering and feeding system should be designed so that each gets watered according to the individual plant's needs - the "Plant Driven" concept. If each plant is treated in such a way, the frequency of watering will be more uniquely tailored to that plant giving them a better chance to grow well.

Initially, Jim trialled with electronics to automatically water the plants using moisture sensors within the growing medium. The prototype worked, but was not really practical due to both the frequency of battery replacement and high cost. Another problem was that all the plants were receiving the same amount of water. Some plants did really well, most were pretty average and some just would not grow properly. This has a lot to do with delivering the average requirements of plants like conventional irrigation technology rather than their individual needs. Following on from these trials, to scale it up, if every pot plant had to be wired with a sensor, imagine having to cater for a couple of hundred pot plants!...not so practical, therefore the idea took a different direction to implement.

Today, AutoPot™ Systems revolves around the mechanical solution of the Smart-valve which has been refined over the last 3 decades to incorporate advancements in reliability and features to offer the Plant Driven concept to growing plants!

Photo: Propagation using AutoPot™ CapPlus Table.

How To Get Started With AutoPot™ Systems

The enjoyment of growing with hydroponics is within your reach. AutoPot™ Systems allow everyone to experience professional results from hydroponics. Forget about the complications, complexity and problems of conventional hydroponics systems. Simply plant seedlings or seeds, fill the tank with water, add a measure of nutrient and watch the spectacular results. The results could be on your table before you need to top up the tank again.
 
AutoPot™ Systems are a patented technique of hydroponics that differs from conventional methods in a number of respects that make it versatile, effective, inexpensive to run, capable of operating in a wide range of locations where conventional hydroponics may not be effective and capable of being used by everyone from school age upward. It's the ideal way for busy people to experience the benefits of gardening and provides a huge return in pleasure and produce without a heavy commitment in time or the problems of requiring a specific program of attention.
 
There is an AutoPot™ growing solution to suit everyone from the novice through to large commercial users. Most first time users start off with a gravity fed system due to the simplicity of only having to position a supply tank higher than the growing module. Once the collection of AutoPot™ growing modules have expanded beyond 20 or so units, consideration for the pump fed methods becomes more practical to reduce the frequency of having to top up a gravity tank. Having said that, it does not mean feeding large number of plants by gravity is no longer a viable option - click here to view a commericial AutoPot™ farm feeding 20,000 plants by gravity. The choice is yours!
AutoPot™ Hydropak Starter Kit

The Hydropak starter kit is a great starter solution with all the components packed within the 35 litre tank for efficient packaging and shipping!.

This kit includes the Hydrotray Double 10" module, perlite/vermiculite mix (50/50), nutrient, filter, tubing, fittings and instruction booklet.
 
The Hydropak is ideal for tomato, capsicums, eggplants, cucumbers, and a wider variety of plants. It's amazing the variety and size of plants that can be grown from a 10” pot. Commercial AutoPot™ users grew thousands of tomato plants with outstanding results using the same growing units as the starter kits. 

The tank, tray and pots are plastic which allows their use in or outdoor, and with a 35 litre supply of nutrient you would have 4 to 5 weeks supply for young plants and at least 3 weeks supply for strongly growing plants nearing maturity.

The Hydropak starter kit can be extended to add more growing points. You can add whichever AutoPot growing module you choose by simply connecting the additional unit to the same supply tank via tubing and joiners.
 
No need to check for conductivity & pH daily. Accurate watering with no run-off. Saves water and nutrients. Can be left unattended for weeks!
AutoPot™ Window Box Kit

For beginners who prefers growing herbs, ornamentals and smaller varieties, the Window Box Kit is for you...
Simple to use:-
 
* Plant the seedlings in to the 6" pots with normal potting mix, perlite/vermiculite mix or combination of both.
* Position the pots in to the slots of the Window Box unit.
* Fill up the reservoir tank with water and nutrients.
* Thereafter, the Smart-valve will know exactly how to water and feed your plants correctly.
* You can grow practically any shallow rooting plants successfully including Cyclamens, Violas, Pansies, Labellias, Bridal veil, Petunia etc.
 
The AutoPot™ Window Box kit contains the following items:-
* 1 x Window box trough (Size: 800mm x 180mmx 120mm) 
* 1 x Hydrotank with 4mm grommet - 35L
* 1 x Smart-valve
* 4 x 6" pots with Marix root control mats 
* 1 x roll of 4mm tubing (2m)
* 1 x 4mm filter 
* 2 x 4mm taps
* 1 x pair of 1L A/B Nutrients
* 1 x 5L bag of perlite/vermiculite mix
* 1 x Instruction booklet
AutoPot™ 8 Pot Kit

If you want to start with a bigger system, the AutoPot™ 8 Pot Kit gives you some more options for growing more plants or different varieties using our most popular growing unit - the Hydrotray Double 10" module.
 
The 8 pot kit contains the following items:-
 
* 4 x Hydrotray Double 10" trays with lids
* 1 x Hydrotank - 35L
* 4 x Smart-valves
* 8 x 10" pots
* 8 x Marix root control mats 
* 1 x roll of 4mm tubing (10m)
* 4 x 4mm T-joints
* 1 x 4mm filter 
* 5 x 4mm taps
* 1 x Instruction booklet
Below: diagram of the 8 Pot Kit set up.
EXTENDING YOUR SYSTEM

AutoPot™ Systems are modular so you are not restricted in any way when expanding as large as you like. To add more AutoPot™ modules, simple T and straight joiners are available from your AutoPot™ supplier which allow you to join in one, two or dozens more modules. Provided you have nutrient supply, you can run remote modules anywhere you can lay your tubing.
 
When using gravity, the higher you position the supply tank, the further you can go - the factor to be mindful of is tank size relative to the quantity of connected modules.
AutoPot™ Intermediate Kit

The Intermediate Kit allows you to grow from 20 growing points using the versatile Hydrotray Double 10" modules. Tubing and fittings are included for connecting up to your preferred water source (200L gravity tank or AutoPot™ Smart Pump Set recommended);
 
The AutoPot™ Intermediate Kit contains the following items;
 
10 x Hydrotray Double 10" modules
1 x 13mm tubing (25m) 
1 x 13mm tank outlet 
1 x 13mm filter 
10 x 13mm-4mm reducers
2 x 13mm taps 
2 x 13mm elbows 
4 x 13mm joiners 
30 x 13mm ratchet clips
1 x 4mm tubing 10m 
6 x 4mm T-joints
1 x instruction booklet
The Next Step Beyond Gravity Is A Pump Assisted System

As you continue to add more growing modules you may find the frequency of filling up a gravity tank becomes impractical. This can become more apparent when you first encounter a very hot and windy day when the plants are all in a growth cycle. Water that you have grown accustomed to lasting for several weeks can be gone in a few days. The added demands for water in these conditions is surprising. Fortunately, provided there is water available, the AutoPot™ System copes wonderfully well because when conditions become demanding, the deficiencies of hand watering or even programmed watering really become apparent.

Beyond the gravity tank solution, we introduce you to The AutoPot™ Smart Pump Set.

The Smart Pump Set pressurises the main feed line giving you the following benefits;
 
- ability to place an AutoPot™ growing module anywhere you can lay tubing.
- allows you to have a vitually limitless suppy of water (when connected to the mains) from a small footprint (compared to a large gravity tank).
- 12V pressure pump works on demand.
Larger AutoPot™ Systems
There is no limit how large the AutoPot™ Systems can be extended to. For example, the picture below shows a commercial hydroponic tomato farmwith a 2,500 pot system (or 1,250 modules) fed by a single unit of
the AutoPot™ pressurised system.

Let's Work Together

For commercial enquiries, please email with as much information about yourself and your requirements. Provide as much information as possible regarding the crop you intended the grow, the climatic condition of the
proposed site, your background and experience etc.
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