Capillary Hydroponics System Makes a Splash

Orlando, United States: Capillary Concrete’s revolutionary new Capillary Hydroponics system is delivering outstanding results a year into its first major customer installation, at Florida’s Hawk’s Landing Golf Club.

Last September/October, Capillary Concrete built a new tee box at Hawk’s Landing, incorporating the Capillary Hydroponics system, along with superintendent Josh Kelley’s team and contractor Double Eagle Golf Works.

The system divides the tee box into two areas, with a layer of Capillary Concrete under the rootzone. Two air lift pumps, powered by a 55-watt solar panel, move water inside the closed system. All irrigation is applied sub-surface. Because of this, water is mainly lost through transpiration, with evaporation minimal. 

The system creates a moving water table, using capillary action to move water out of one zone and into another. The water pushes the heavier carbon dioxide molecules out of the rootzone and sucks in oxygen to replace them. It is a far more successful method of gas exchange in the rootzone than conventional methods of aeration.

Kelley said: “We have been working with Capillary Concrete on our bunkers since 2016, and they first mentioned the Hydroponic System to us in summer 2018. We said we were keen to try it, and so we began building the test tee in late September. It was completed and grassed in early October.

“Now, a typical tee box is obviously just a pile of dirt that you shape up. As you get to the higher end, you might put drainage under it, or even use a special rootzone. The process here was that we laid out the rectangular box, cored down 12 inches, and then installed two inches of Capillary Concrete before filling up with sand, levelling and sodding. It was not a difficult project.

“It is a trial site. We aren’t doing anything special to it. We have run no overhead irrigation at all, except to water in two applications of herbicide. The tee itself has performed superbly; zero hotspots, no disease issues, no wet areas.”

Martin Sternberg, Capillary Concrete inventor and Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are grateful to Josh and Hawk’s Landing for the ability to test Capillary Hydroponics close to our Orlando base. When we installed the tee, we put a flow meter on the irrigation so we could measure exactly how much water was being used.

“After almost a year, we can say that it has used 65 per cent less water than a similar sized, conventionally irrigated tee box, and we think that we can tweak the system to get that figure to 85 per cent.

“I started experimenting with tees five years ago in Sweden, primarily as a sub-surface irrigation project. But the addition of a hydroponic moving water table – which we can do because of the strength and capillary properties of our product – is what makes this a game-changer.

“We know we are getting up to 6,000 per cent more gas exchange in the rootzone in comparison to conventional methods of aeration, and it is obvious that will have a massive impact on turf health. This is akin to what happens naturally in a seaside links environment, where you typically have a very low water table – but critically, it moves with the tide.

“That promotes a gas exchange. The best way to promote gas exchange is to push it with a water front – which is what we can do using Capillary Concrete. The hydroponic industry is 25-30 years ahead of us in the turfgrass industry in terms of understanding how to optimise plant root oxygen exchange, but it hasn’t been physically possible to build large outdoor structures for hydroponics without a product that performs as Capillary Concrete does.

“If you compare the cost of building, to use Capillary Hydronponics is slightly more expensive than building a push-up or California tee, but comparable to USGA specification construction.”

Kelley said: “I really think in markets where water is scarce or expensive, this will change the way we do things in the golf business, and I’m delighted that we at Hawk’s Landing were one of the first to get to try it out.”

Capillary Concrete is an Associate Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.

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