Guide to Hydroponics
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Hydroponics or Botany, is the area where the growing of
poisonous edible plants is carried out on board. Not to be confused with the more exotic Xenobotany, regular hydroponics is primarily concerned with growing plants for practical uses such as food or medicine. The botanist is the individual primarily responsible for working in here, but if no Botanist is available then the cook is responsible for growing their own produce.
The hydroponics bay is located within the mess hall, towards the back. Connected to the main hydroponics bay is a small room that leads to the kitchen, this is the hydroponics storage room, and serves as a prep area for the botanist. This room contains some botany lockers, which contain botanist satchels, work gloves, and a few tools that can also be found in the hydroponics bay. The lockers also contain the important plant analyzer, its uses will be discussed later. This room also has a drying rack, a fridge, seed extractor, and biomass generator. Here are some of your most basic tools of the trade in hydroponics:
Growing plants can be a lengthy, but rewarding process. First, locate the hydroponics trays, they are the basins filled with water that can be seen in the photo above; this is where you will be planting the seeds. Take a seed in your hand, and click the tray. You will then get a message saying "you plant the (plant's name) seed". Note, you can only have one seed per tray until that plant is finished growing, so choose wisely while filling up your trays! If you examine the tray, it will give you a small analysis which includes the water and nutrient levels, whether it's dead, as well as the tray's temperature and 'lumens' (we'll get to this later!) - this is what it should look like:
That's a tray (Apple).
Apples are growing here.
The tray's sensor suite is reporting a light level of 4.82439 lumens and a temperature of 292.642K.
This is an easy way to identify the plant, if you are not familiar with what they look like - and gives you quick access to the information that allows you to gauge how your plant is doing. If you've become comfortable with the process of watering and fertilizing your plants, you can trade in examining them for looking at their sprite - the trays have built in lights that can give you important information at a glance:
- Green Light: Ready for harvest
- Blue Light: Low water
- Yellow Light: Low nutrients
- Red Light: Low health
- Flashing Red Light: Weeds
Plant Care and Maintenance
As mentioned above, plants can have a variety of issues affecting their growth if you're not tentative to their needs. What exactly does a plant need? Well, that depends on the plant! As a general rule fungus-type plants (reishi, chanterelle, plump helmet, fly amanita) only need nutrients, weed-type plants (nettles) only require water and true plants will require a mixture of both depending on their species. Nutrients (also called fertilizer) can be retrieved from the Hydroponics Vending Machine - there are multiple types that each have their own effects, these will be covered later - and will vend in the form of a bottle, just pour some of this into the tray and examine your plant, once it's at a level the plant will be happy with, you're good! To water your plants, just take a bucket and fill it by clicking on a water tank or sink until you get a message that the bucket is full, then pour it into the tray until it's at a comfortable water level.
Along with nutrient and water, plants also have a requirement for light and temperature preferences too. All of the plants you'll be growing in hydroponics will thrive at a temperature of 293 kelvin, which is room temperature - don't worry about this! Light is still relevant to you however, and is measured in 'lumens', which demonstrate how much visible light is being emitted. While being at the wrong lumen level won't kill plants, correctly lighting their trays will make them grow faster and stay healthier overall. So how do you know how many lumens your plants need? With your trusty plant analyzer!
The plant analyzer is an important tool because it allows you to know what temperature, lumens, nutrient and water your plants need, as well as gives you general information on the plant's reagents (if any), and stats. The only stats that are relevant to you are a plants requirements and maturation time - these tell you what your plant needs to be healthy and how long it'll take to grow! To the side you can see an example of a scan from the analyzer for an apple tree. An apple tree should be kept at room temperature, given four lumens, have roughly the same level of water for the duration of it's growth, and 10/10 nutrients at all times to be the healthiest it can be.
To set a plant's lumen level, all you have to do is CTRL-Click on the tray which will lower the tray's lid which has built in hydroponics lights. Right-clicking a tray with a closed lid will give you the option to 'set lights', at which point you can select how many lumens you would like the tray to recieve. Make sure you raise the lid when you go to harvest the plant, as you can't harvest from a closed tray!
Now, what if your plant becomes infested with weeds - or worse, unhealthy! Don't fear, you're given (almost) all the tools you need to keep your plants in peak condition. If a tray becomes infested with weeds all you have to do is click on it with your gardening hoe, but what about if they become unhealthy? You have a couple options for improving their health all of which are liquid/chemical in nature, the most basic treatment however is nutriment (not to be confused with nutrients), which is found in all food stuffs, so start grinding up those pizzas or tomatoes and pouring the juice into your tray!
If your plants die they'll go an off-grey colour and have to be removed from the tray with a single click. Before re-planting, make sure you top up the tray's nutrients and water (lack of these probably killed the plant). If you want or need to kill your plants - you can use your hatchet to hack it down after a few swings or you can spray Plant-B-Gone into the tray. Plant-B-Gone can be found in the botany lockers, but kills more slowly unless you spray a lot onto the plant.
If you didn't kill of your plants by now, you probably have a lot of produce on your hands! Go ahead and use your plant bag on any trays with green lights, and load the bag into the kitchen fridge!
Bedsides simply planting seeds and growing them, there are several other things you can do within hydroponics that will supplement your farming work. This includes becoming an apiarist, generating various items from plant-matter, and further propagating your plants.
Seed Extractor The seed storage only has a finite amount of seeds, thirty per plant type to be exact, as such the seed extractor is used to gain more seeds. To use the seed extractor you must take a fully grown plant and with it in your hand click on the seed extractor. Once placed in the seed extractor, the plant will be replaced with multiple packets of seeds of the same plant type. Using the seed extractor means you can have a virtually infinite supply of seeds, as long as you always have at least one of said fully grown plant. Make sure you don't let the chef use your last potato!
Biogenerator The biogenerator is a machine which takes fully grown plants and raw meats, and turns them into biomass. Biomass can then be converted into food, plant nutrients, or various leather products. To use the biogenerator just place a slab of meat or a grown plant into the machine and then open up the interface. The interface will tell you how many biomass points are currently in the generator, and how much biomass various items will require to produce.
CondiMaster Neo The CondiMaster Neo is the latest and greatest condiment technology. Or, it's just a relabeling of chemistry's chemical sorting machine. Regardless, you use this to separate chemicals that have been ground up in the kitchen's grinder. This means you can make things like ketchup, without the added nutriment - and put it into a snazzy bottles at the same time. This might not see use too often, but a good chef will be happy if you make them some condiments to serve with their food.
Not exactly a machine, but the drying rack is simple and useful nonetheless. It works by exposing plants to the air and over a short period of time, they dry out. Using this, you can make plants smoke-able in pipes. If you dry tobacco, you can roll the dried leaves into cigarettes with rolling papers. Just click on it with any grown plant in hand, and in a few minutes, you can open the interface back up and take out the dried product.
Apiculture, or 'beekeeping' is a fun additional activity you can carry out while working in hydroponics. Bees provide a double benefit, they generate wax and honey in their combs and they increase the health of all nearby plants. But how do you start a colony?
At the entrance to the hydroponics bay on the right is a crate of beekeeping supplies. In here, you'll find a hive assembly, a single queen bee packet, five beehive frames, a crowbar, and a smoking device. To start, crowbar open the hive and place the five frames into one of the pre-built beehives (there are three of these), then place in the queen by clicking the hive with the queen bee packet. Congratulations, you've started your beehive! As your bees develop honey and wax, the colour of the viewing ports will change! Once they've all changed over, crowbar the top of the beehive and use the smoking device on it. Now you can reach inside and remove the frames, this will take about a minute.
Once you have the frames, you can take them over to the honey extractor. Only one frame can fit into the extractor at a time but the machine works fast, so in a minute you should have some wax bars and honey! To get the honey, use a beaker (or any reagent container) on the extractor.
If you're not interested in using the pre-built hives, you can also take the beehive assembly and place it into one of the empty trays. There's no frames for these hives, so you'll harvest honeycombs directly from them! This is a little more dangerous and these hives tend to be a little more active. There also is no way to know when the honey is done, as there's no visual indicator.
Chemicals: The Good and the Bad
A variety of chemicals will have different effects on your plants if you inject them or pour them into a tray. Some of them will have beneficial effects such as healing them, increasing their nutrient count or making them more potent, but others will mutate, damage or kill your plants! The two primary chemicals a botanist should be concerned with however are ammonia, and diethylamine.
Ammonia and diethylamine are both effective fertilizers, better than the three standard nutrients you have available to you in the Hydroponics Vending Machine. To get these chemicals however, you'll need to ask chemistry - as none is available to you at round start. If you're going to be growing a lot, these chemicals can be helpful. But if there's no chemists, a few other chemicals can also keep your plants healthy on top of using nutrients. Below is a chart of both beneficial, and harmful chemicals that interact with plants in various ways - some of them are blatantly obvious, while others may not be.