The Autopot

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If Tomatoes could talk, what do you think they'd have to say about Jim Fah's incredible Autopot? Picture taken @Elmac Hydroponics in Queensland, Australia - courtesy Jim Fah.
Autopot System
The secret to the Autopot system is the patented Smart Valve MkII which automatically subirrigates the tray containing the pots ONLY when needed without any waste whatsoever. Best of all, the Autopot is completely powered by gravity, so it does not need any electrical pumps or power!

Invented by Jim Fah, the Autopot is a gravity-fed hydroponic system that delivers just the right amount of nutrient and water to each plant, automatically. To do this, the Autopot relies on a patented device called the Smart-valveā„¢. While there are several configurations of planters and gardens that employ the Smart-valve, my favorite is a double tray planter that uses two 10" round pots nestled in a recessed tray that houses the Smart-valve. This method of hydroponics is called sub-irrigation and it has many important benefits over other technologies. What I have found to be the foremost benefit of the Autopot is that nutrient management is a thing of the past! Since nutrient solution is never recycled in the system, adjusting pH and refreshing "old" nutrient solution is no longer necessary. In fact, since the Autopots use a medium like coir, perlite or rockwool grow cubes (or combination thereof), plants are afforded and additional buffer against nutrient and pH fluctuations. Research has even shown a 25% reduction in nutrient requirements for this type system. My own experience with Autopot has been excellent, and despite the fact that the Autopot is a manufactured item, its flexibility allows for creating a totally customized system you can design and build on your own.

The Smart-valve actually operates similar to a float valve in a toilet bowl! It opens to flood the tray to a one inch depth, and then it seals off the supply to stop the flow. The growing medium then wicks the nutrient solution to provide for the plant. Unlike a float valve that would reopen once the water level drops, the Smart-valve employs a mechanism to prevent it from opening until the tray is completely dry. Since the growing medium stores moisture, it will slowly begin to dry as the plants draw upon it. But the Smart-valve is already in action, once again supplying fresh nutrient solution to your plants to keep them happy and healthy. I have found the magic of this system is not so much the functioning of the Smart-valve, but the action it creates in the growing medium. During the wet cycle, stale oxygen is displaced from the medium as it wicks up fresh nutrient solution. As the medium dries, fresh oxygen is drawn in to revitalize the root zone. The Smart-valve mimics the wet/dry cycle of natural rainfall.

A simple, bare bones Autopot system will consist of: (a) reservoir of suitable size (use 1 to 4 gallons of capacity per tray depending on size of plant, rate of growth and environmental conditions); (b) 1/4" tubing; (c) a 1/4" valve to close off unused Autopots from the reservoir; (d) 1/4" 'T's to connect two or three Autopots to each 1/4" line; (e) a 1/4" compression grommet to connect the 1/4" lines to the reservoir; (f) the Autopot "pots" (two per tray); (g) a valve cover; (h) the Smart-Valve; and (i) the Autopot tray. For expanded systems where raising the reservoir becomes difficult, you may choose to use a small submersible pump to supply pressure rather than rely upon gravity. I've illustrated several configurations below that should help you plan and build an Autopot system that best suits your needs.

Autopot Automatic Easy

A system with one or two trays can be fed by 1/ 4" tubing and a small reservoir raised a foot or two above the top of the pots. When expanding beyond 4 modules, it is wise to use 1/2" supply line to reduce friction and increase the capacity of the tubing to feed the trays. Rigid PVC or flexible poly may be used, the different pipes require unique connectors to attach the Autopots.

  1. Rigid PVC pipe use 10/ 32" threaded joiners with teflon tape
  2. Soft Poly tubing use .16" double barb joiners w/ silicone sealant

A system with one or two trays can be fed by 1/ 4" tubing and a small reservoir raised a foot or two above the top of the pots. When expanding beyond 4 modules, it is wise to use 1/2" supply line to reduce friction and increase the capacity of the tubing to feed the trays. Rigid PVC or flexible poly may be used, the different pipes require unique connectors to attach the Autopots.

1/2" blue tubing (level indicator)

1/2" 'T' fitting w/ threaded stem

1/2" filter

1/2" poly tubing or rigid PVC

1/2" blue tubing (level indicator)

1/2" 'T' fitting w/ threaded stem

1/2" filter

1/2" poly tubing or rigid PVC

Vertical Garden Planters Pvc Pipe

100-400W H.I.D. lamp

Hydroponics Pvc Pipe Garden

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Responses

  • David
    Which is best autopot medium?
    8 years ago
  • Gerald
    How to make your own autopots?
    8 years ago
  • fernando
    How to make your own autopot?
    8 years ago
  • Habte
    What type of system is an autopot?
    8 years ago
  • leonora
    Can autopot valve be used on a tray?
    8 years ago
  • Eliisa
    How to connect autopot mk2 to trays?
    8 years ago
  • sanelma
    How to use float valve to make autopot?
    7 years ago
  • katharina
    What type of system is autopots?
    6 years ago
  • jasmine
    Can you make your own smart valve for autopot?
    5 years ago
  • uffo bolger
    How to make autopot system?
    3 years ago

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