Table of Contents

Flex Farm Assembly

The Flex Farm is designed to be assembled by the end user. Extra credit is earned with the customer if you are there for unboxing and set up.

 Things you should emphasize to the customer:

  • Assembly is really easy (because it really is!)
  • You are just a phone call away (if you can’t be there).
  • Remind them about the online resources before the Flex Farm arrives. Even ask them directly if they have actually looked at the online resources. You will be surprised (or maybe not!) that many don’t read the instructions or watch the videos. Continually drive them to the online resources as much as possible prior to delivery. It will make your job much easier.

The biggest issue you may encounter during assembly is a missing part (extremely rare) or a part that doesn’t fit right. The missing part can often be shipped within 24 hours of notifying Fork Farms. The part that “doesn’t fit” is most often due to a failure to follow instructions. A quick video chat, if possible, often clears up the problem once you see that they are trying to insert something the wrong way. Front loading the process by emphasizing the online resources makes this a rare issue. 

If it’s truly a manufacturing issue, please contact Fork Farms immediately, and we will start the process to get replacement parts shipped within 24 hours.

Planting Seeds & Transplanting

Most common problems/issues

Nothing Sprouted

Common reasons seeds do not sprout include:

  • Dry Rockwool. Rockwool not deeply saturated to start with, failure to spray at least once a day and keep covered, rockwool dried out over a weekend or a horticultural heating pad (not recommended for most crops) was used, causing the rockwool to dry out.
  • Old or bad seed. This is almost never an issue until seed stock is at least 4-5 months old. If possible, seeds should be refrigerated to extend germination window.
Plant Die-off

Common causes of plant die-off within a day or two of sprouting or before they could be transplanted include:

  • Dry Rockwool. See details above under ‘nothing sprouted’.
  • Old or bad seed. See details above under ‘nothing sprouted’. 
  • Incorrect watering technique. Never pour nutrient and pH balanced water on top of rockwool. Always pour water directly into the nursery tray.
‘Leggy’ Plants

Strategies if ‘leggy’ plants are encountered include:

  • If using a grow light, the light was either not on enough (at least 18 hours a day is recommended) or was too high above the plants (should be no more than 5-7 inches above the plants).
  • If not using a grow light (common for most single Flex Farm users), transplant plants directly into the Flex Farm within a day of sprouting. Oftentimes, plants will recover if you transplant them into the Flex Farm and increase the light cycle to as much as 24 hours for the first week.

Video Resources 

Grow Video
Planting
Germination 
Seed Troubleshooting

Flex Farm Growing

Most common problems/issues

Poor Water Flow

Common solutions to correct poor water flow include:

  • Check vertical irrigation line. Make sure vertical irrigation line valve is in the open (vertical) position.
  • Check drip line. Remove top caps and use the bristle brush in your Grower Toolkit to clean any debris out of the holes in the drip lines. Also, purge the drip lines to remove any excess debris. See Cleaning – Steps 5 – 6 in Section 3 of the Grow Guide or Water Line Maintenance video for instructions.
Pump is Loud

Common causes of loud “buzzing” (some hum is normal) or making a lot of noise include:

  • Water level too low. Check your water level. The water level should always be above the top of the pump. It is important to be aware that the water level in the tank where the pump is located will always be about 25% lower when the pump is operating.
  • Defective pump. If water levels are good, the pump may be defective. Contact Fork Farms to file a warranty claim or request a replacement pump.
TDS Meter Reading Still Too Low

If your TDS meter reading is still too low after adding nutrients, see additional information below:

  • The supplied TDS meter only displays three digits. If you see the small ‘x10 multiplier’ in the upper right corner of the display, your TDS reading is actually 1000 PPM higher than what appears on the display. For example, if your TDS reading is 150 PPM and you also see the x10 multiplier, your actual PPM reading is 1500 PPM. This is an easy mistake to make when your target TDS reading is over 900 PPM. Once the farmer gets familiar with this additional display feature, it’s rarely an issue.
Plants Start to Die-off Once Planted

Common causes of plant die-off after planting include: 

  • Obstructed water flow. Remove top caps and use the bristle brush in your Grower Toolkit to clean any debris out of the holes in the drip lines. Also, purge the drip lines to remove any excess debris. See Cleaning – Steps 5 – 6 in Section 3 of the Grow Guide or Water Line Maintenance video for instructions.  
  • Water level too low. At a minimum, the water level in your Flex Farm tanks must always cover your pump. Fork Farms recommends keeping your tanks half full at all times.
  • Significant temperature change (too cold or too hot). The ideal room temperature for growing in your Flex Farm is 68 – 75 F. Plant may start to die off if the temperature of the room where your Flex Farm is located falls below 55 F or increases to above 90 F for 12 hours or more.
Plants Start to Turn Yellow 

Common reasons plants begin yellowing include: 

  • Poor water maintenance. Failure to keep nutrient and pH levels within recommended ranges for extended periods (4 – 5 days).
    • Ensure equal amounts (by volume, not weight) of Nutrient A & B are added when adjusting nutrient levels.
    • Ensure pH is within recommended range.
  • Poor or obstructed water flow. Check vertical irrigation line and drip line. See details above under ‘poor water flow’. Poor water flow coupled with poor water maintenance can also cause plants to yellow, spot or otherwise appear unhealthy.
Tip Burn

Common reasons why plants start to get brown on the outer edges include:

  • Insufficient nutrient access. Poor water flow or low water levels can prevent plants from getting enough nutrients.
  • Too much light. Check your light tower timer to make sure your light tower is only on for the recommended 14 – 16 hours.
  • Poor air circulation. Air circulation allows plants to more efficiently take up nutrients. Try placing a small fan near the Flex Farm.
Poor Growth/Small Plant Size

Common reasons for stunted plant growth include:

  • Poor water maintenance. Failure to keep nutrient and pH levels within recommended ranges for extended periods (4 – 5 days).
    • Ensure equal amounts of Nutrient A & B are added when adjusting nutrient levels.
    • Ensure pH is within recommended range.
  • Not enough light. Check your light tower timer to make sure your light tower is on for the recommended 14 – 16 hours.  
Decreased Plant Size/Total Harvest Yield

If plant size or harvest yield significantly decreases after several successful harvests, refer to the details above under ‘poor growth/small plant size. If neither apply, see below alternative solutions. 

  • Completely drain your Flex Farm. Then, replenish water until both tanks are about half full and proceed to Flex Farm Setup – Steps 5 – 7 in Section 2 to finish getting your Flex Farm ready for your next crop.
  • Deep clean your Flex Farm. Over time, older nutrients in your Flex Farm will bind to other nutrients, creating molecules that cannot be absorbed by plants. To prevent this from occurring, it is best practice to deep clean your Flex Farm at least twice a year or after every 4 – 5 crop cycles. See Deep Cleaning in Section 3 of Grow Guide for instructions.
  • Consider installing a filter or RO system. If the initial TDS Base Number was above 300-400 PPM, installing a filter or RO system (~ $250 – $300) at the water source might be your best option to prevent nutrient binding. This also eliminates the labor burden of frequent water exchanges and cost of additional nutrients and pH solutions.

Harvesting

FAQs

When are my plants ready?

  • General rule of thumb – when you can no longer see the panel surfaces because of plant growth, it is time to harvest.

How do I store my leafy greens after harvesting?

  • In clean bins or plastic, zip lock bags. Place a piece of unbleached paper towel in the container to help prevent moisture. Do NOT wash your produce prior to storing. Wash right before eating/serving. Under proper storage conditions, leafy greens will stay fresh for at least 2-3 weeks.

What do I do after harvesting?

  • Follow the instructions under Cleaning in Section 3 of the Grow Guide after every harvest to prepare your Flex Farm for the next crop. Then, replenish water until both tanks are about half full and proceed to Flex Farm Setup – Steps 5 – 7 in Section 2 to finish getting your Flex Farm ready for your next crop.
  • Fork Farms recommends deep cleaning your Flex Farm at least twice a year or after every 4 – 5 crop cycles. Deep Cleaning instructions can be found under Deep Cleaning in Section 3 of the Grow Guide.

Video Resources

Harvesting

Cleaning and Shut Down

You may keep a Flex Farm running over an extended period of time even when no plants are present. Just be aware that water will evaporate more quickly when a Flex Farm does not contain plants. You will need to maintain water levels in order to prevent the pump from burning out. Letting water fall below the top of the pump will void the pump’s warranty.

  • If your Flex Farm contains no plants and pump is turned off for more than 48 hours, complete one of the following options below to restart your Flex Farm:
    • Completely drain your Flex Farm. Then, replenish water until both tanks are about half full and proceed to Flex Farm Setup – Steps 5 – 7 in Section 2 to finish getting your Flex Farm ready for your next crop.
    • Conduct a deep cleaning (if desired). Fork Farms recommends deep cleaning your Flex Farm at least twice per year or after every 4 – 5 crop cycles. See Deep Cleaning in Section 3 of the Grow Guide for instructions.

FAQs

What else can I plant?

  • The Flex Farm is optimized to grow leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and arugula. It also excels at growing herbs like basil, cilantro and tarragon. Our partners have seen success growing strawberries, peppers, tomatoes and even pumpkins. Imagination and experimentation are the keys to unlocking the full potential!

Where can I find other seed varieties?

  • Fork Farms currently provides green leaf lettuce seeds in Supply Kits. If you are interested in purchasing additional seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds is a reliable source for a wide variety of high-quality seeds. We highly recommend using pelleted seed whenever possible. Pelleted seeds are easier to handle and the clay coating provides extra moisture to the seed so it doesn’t dry out. They are definitely worth the additional expense.

I am seeing algae growth on the rockwool, panel surfaces or in the water. Is this normal?

  • Don’t worry, a little algae growth is normal with hydroponics. Once the plants get bigger, the algae on the rockwool will dissipate. Over time, it may build up in the water and on the interior sides of tank and panels.
  • Tips for keeping algae growth to a minimum:
    • Follow recommended H2O2 protocols. See Weekly Water Maintenance – Step 4 in Section 3 of the Grow Guide for instructions.
    • Follow recommended cleaning protocols:
      • After each harvest, follow the instructions located under Cleaning in Section 3 of the Grow Guide to prepare your Flex Farm for the next crop.
      • Deep clean your Flex Farm at least twice per year or after every 4 – 5 crop cycles. See Deep Cleaning in Section 3 of the Grow Guide for instructions. Deep cleaning is also recommended prior to long-term storage (several weeks or more).

What do I do if I am seeing water on the floor or excessive water amounts in the tank lids?

  • Check to make sure the hose connecting the drainage valve to both tanks is secure.
  • Check to make sure lids are firmly in place.
  • Insert panel plugs into open plant spaces.
  • Make sure rockwool is sitting flush with the top of each plant space during transplanting. Rockwool that is not inserted far enough into a plant space  can become oversaturated, and water may begin dripping down the panel and collecting on the lid.