The Quality Assurance and Research Centre at Gro-Bark (QuARC)

August 19, 2021

Gro-Bark is a leading supplier of custom soilless media to the greenhouse and nursery industry in Ontario. For over 35 years, Gro-Bark has been producing high quality potting mixes, bulk mulches, engineered soils and compost blends. For professional growers, Gro-Bark’s team of horticultural specialists use a client-focused approached in order to design custom blends which meet the unique preferences of our growers, or the requirements of a specific crop. Our experts work closely with our growers throughout the growing season or crop cycle to find innovative solutions for your production challenges.

To support the production of our high quality mixes, Gro-Bark relies on its Quality Assurance and Research Centre (QuARC). Consisting of a multidisciplinary team of environmental, sales and technical professionals, the QuARC oversees all quality assurance testing of Gro-Bark’s raw material ingredients and finished mixes, and is responsible for the delivery of all of our grower support and technical services. More specifically, the QuARC is responsible for the following services at Gro-Bark:  

Ingredient Selection and Quality Assurance

Gro-Bark produces mulch and soil products almost entirely from feed stocks that would otherwise be considered waste. Bark mulch, aged bark and composted bark are produced using by-products from sawmills and forestry operations and compost is produced from municipal collections of leaf and yard waste. We pride ourselves in the responsible selection of raw materials which are then processed with meticulous production methods to ensure high-quality ingredients for our growing mixes. This enables each mix ingredient to offer specific characteristics that can then be integrated into your custom blends to optimize growing results.  

In order to guarantee the each mix ingredient continues to meet our strict specifications, it is the responsibly of the QuARC to conduct scheduled weekly and bi-weekly raw material quality assurance testing. These test include chemical and physical properties such as pH, electrical conductivity (EC), particle size distribution (PSD), and bulk density. Bi-annually, the QuARC also submits samples of all mix feedstocks to a third party laboratory for a full suite analysis, including available nutrients.

As always, results of all testing is available upon request. Please contact your sales representative for complete details.

Mix Traceability

At Gro-Bark, we define traceability as the ability to follow all processes from procurement of raw materials to production and consumption. With a proven identification process developed by the QuARC, we are able to trace all individual ingredients that we use to produce each mix and match those ingredients to our quality assurance results.

To further support this traceability, every grower mix that is manufactured is tested for EC and pH. This information is then recorded on the grower mix sheet which accompanies each outbound load. In addition, a sample of every grower mix made is collected and stored for two full years after production to allow for additional testing, as required.

Research and Technical Services Support

The primary focus of Gro-Bark’s QuARC is to support our professional growers through optimizing production practices and enhancing operations. Therefore every year, the QuARC undertakes several literature reviews and research trials; the objectives of these range from understanding a new product, to testing new and innovative mix ingredients, to working with our growers to help elucidate nursery production issues or challenges. Please refer to our other blog post for more information on our ongoing research such as our biostimulants or phytotoxicity study.

As always, our sales specialists are well versed in our ongoing research, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you are interested in seeing any of our project reports or have a research question, idea for a project or a challenging production issue that requires further study – we’d be happy to investigate it for you!

Specialized Field Testing

Many nursery growers are familiar with the onsite monitoring and testing services provided by the QuARC. AlthoughCOVID-19 put a damper on our usual field services this year, we look forward to bringing these back for the 2021 growing season. Whether you have a specific crop concern or wish to monitor substrate pH/EC and plant growth throughout the season, a QuARC representative can visit your facility and provide a personalized approach for achieving your objectives. Through monitoring and testing, we can better understand your production challenges in order to recommend appropriate solutions. Our team of QuARC professionals can provide you with a variety of field testing services, including:

·       In-situ pour-through testing to monitor substrate pH and EC;

·       Collection of tissue and/or substrate samples for nutrient analysis;

·       Monitoring of irrigation water pH, EC and alkalinity; and,

·       Scouting for insect or disease pressure.

Our technical sale representatives and/or QuARC technicians will also provide you with an applied interpretation of your results to ensure you get the full benefit of these analyses. Don’t hesitate to speak to your sale representative for complete details.