The second year (2006)
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The second year was mostly wasted on Brazilian administrative bureaucracy.
An enormous amount of time, energy and money was wasted on it.
Radical simplification of these processes was required, because a small company simply cannot afford that much overhead.
The plastic containers were extremely successful.
But apart from the limited number of Brazilian containers, all of them had to be brought in as normal travel/passenger luggage.
Which takes months.
About 40-70 kg (and a maximum of 500 US$) per person each time someone travels.
Our container usage procedure is now fairly straight forward. Mainly depending on seed size (and/or cotyledon size) we choose an initial container size. If we know that a larger container will be required then we sometimes use a larger pot right from the start. That way, we don't have to transplant to a larger container size later. In general we put some seeds (or transplant very young seedling) in larger pots too. This means that we have the same seedlings in two sizes of pots. As soon as we see a difference of the seedlings in size or other qualities, we transplant all the seedlings to larger pots.
In the choice between subsoil and organic substrates, we prefer organic substrates.
At the moment we prefer substrate with lots of air.
It prevents drowning the seedlings too easily, but it may result in heavier leaching.
When initial substrate nutrients are used or leached, we start applying liquid fertilizer.
We sometimes measure electric conductivity of the water that percolates through the pot.
It gives a very rough indication of soluable nutrient availability in the substrate.
It is extremely inaccurate, it doesn't differentiate between the nutrients, doesn't take chelated nutrients into account etc. etc.
But it is much better than no measurements at all or the usual speculation.
(And as always, once you have rediscovered the wheel, you see lots of wheels around you.)
Main irrigation is now done with a valve and battery powered timer. Different zones of the greenhouse receive different amounts of water and seedlings are positioned accordingly. Every (other) day the seedlings have to be checked. The manual inspection always indicates spots that are receiving the wrong amount of water (usually not enough).
The automatic irrigation and electric conductivity check solved 90% of our irrigation and fertilization problems of the year before. The automatic irrigation and fertilization check were clearly techniques we should have introduced earlier. But they require staff that can read, calculate, change timers etc.
The auger experiments were the only serious experiments during this year.
Through the help and guidance by Jeffrey Machine (and many others), we managed to extend the life time of knives.
We extended it twice by a factor of 4 (a total of 16 times as long, from half an hour to two days, or more).
The first factor of 4 was won by using better steel for the knives and other parts that are abraded.
And a second factor of four was gained by using special Tungsten Carbide knife/teeth tips.
We don't have problems with side wall compaction of the planting holes as others have reported.
But the regular Stihl auger doesn't enter the soil with dried (hardened) clay.
The most important improvement is still under test. We will probably be able to prepare planting holes in the dry season. That is a huge advantage, because there will be less soil compaction caused by machinery and easier access in the dry season. We will use special auger heads. Full and detailed test results and descriptions will be published later.
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