Frequently Asked Questions

Why is RIOCOCO Unbuffered?

  • Buffering is a common practice for offsetting high levels of salinity in coco coir whose raw components are sourced from coastal areas. RIOCOCO is manufactured using coconuts sourced from inland Sri Lanka and has extremely low salinity levels before processing.
  • Industrial buffering, a process typically used in developing countries,  uses highly concentrated chemicals such as calcium nitrate. 
  • Due to inconsistencies in raw material supply and operating procedures different amounts of buffer are introduced to the raw coir, causing problems for the end user.
  • Buffering is done over a long period of time, generally 48hours – 3 weeks to offset NaCl (salt) and bring EC to within an acceptable range. Anything over 24 hours causes the lignin in the raw coir to breakdown at a microscopic level. This reduces the CEC of the coir by over 50%, which leads to higher fertilizer requirements for the end user.
  • The Calcium Nitrate buffer is often left to leach into indigenous peoples water sources and aquifers, causing birth defects, algae blooms, and a disruption to the ecosystem.
  • Only unbuffered coco coir is eligible for OMRI certification


What Is CEC?

  • CEC is an abbreviation for Cation Exchange Capacity
  • Cation Exchange Capacity is “a measure of the total negative charges within the soil that adsorb plant nutrient cations such as calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+) and potassium (K+). As such, the CEC is a property of a soil that describes its capacity to supply nutrient cations to the soil solution for plant uptake.” (Source: University of Georgia.)
  • Higher CEC = Higher availability of nutrients to roots.
  • Typically when choosing a high CEC substrate, growers have to sacrifice either porosity (compost, living soil) or hygroscopicity (peat moss).
  • RIOCOCO’s unique manufacturing process allows for a high CEC while maintaining an optimized air-filled porosity and wetting ability.


Why Isn’t RIOCOCO Aged?

  • Most commonly used coco coir is aged due to the needs of manufacturers.
  • Husks are a by-product of the coconut industry and often lay aging and breaking down in piles for several months.
  • Manufacturers use these decomposing husks as raw materials for coco coir production in an effort to reduce their input costs and increase margins.
  • This leads to a lower CEC, higher dust content, and less available water to plant roots.
  • Decomposing coco coir adds varying levels of potassium to the roots zone, potentially leading to nutrient imbalance.
  • RIOCOCO owns its network of inland Sri Lankan coconut farms, harvesting the coir just after it reaches maturity.
  • Fresh material used by RIOCOCO has not begun to decompose, allowing for stability and consistency in the rhizosphere.
  • RIOCOCOs biologically and structurally stable substrate allows for consistent, predictable fertigation practices necessary for maximizing yields.


Why use Open Top Bags (OTBs) Instead of Pots?

  • RIOCOCO is just as effective a substrate when used in traditional containers, and is available pre-expanded in 50L bags and 2 yd. Totes.
  • Open tops were developed with our commercial fruit and vegetable growers to save on labor
  • Filling pots, transplanting, emptying, and sterilizing pots is an immense labor cost.
  • This labor also takes time and must be built into a facility operating procedures.
  • Multiply this by cycles, per room, per year…
  • OTBs are easily expanded using drip emitters or flood tables, and (depending on the chosen method) ready to transplant within a couple hours.
  • One person can lay the pots out and set the irrigation system to expand them overnight, the next day they’ll be ready for transplant.
  • Disposal (in whichever way conforms to your areas regulations) is simple and eco-friendly. 


What are Compostable EcoPure Grow Bags?

  • EcoPure is an organic additive used in manufacturing RIOCOCO poly grow bags.
  • It allows for stability in high UV and high-salinity environments necessary for plastic grow bags.
  • Only when introduced to a microbe-rich anaerobic environment (such as in a compost plant or landfill) the plastic decomposes.
  • >90% decomposition is achieved in 3.5 years.
  • 500%+ Faster Decomposition than traditional grow bags, near-infinitely faster than fabric pots.






Nursery Pot





Fabric Pot





Traditional Grow Bag





EcoPure Grow Bag

LDPE + 1% EcoPure




Decomposition Times of Common Grow Containers (Source)

Can RIOCOCO be Used for Multiple Cycles?

  • Theoretically yes, however it may not be economically viable.
  • Established roots from the previous crop will alter the porosity and water availability for the next one.
  • Decomposing roots attract decomposer organisms, such as fungus gnats, potentially introducing other pathogens such as fusarium and pythium.
  • The above issues reduce the predictability of the medium and may result in loss of yield
  • Assuming $1200/lb ($2.64/g), the loss of even a couple grams in yield per plant eliminates any monetary savings from reuse.

What do WHC, VWC, and AFP mean? Why are These Numbers Important?

Healthy roots require Structure, Water, and Air. These abbreviations are for quantified measurements of these requirements. The below descriptions use the specs of a RIOCOCO 1 gallon pot.

WHC: Water Holding Capacity

  • The amount of water a specific volume of substrate can hold.
  • SW = Saturated Weight (1 gallon pot = 2135g)
  • DW = Dry Weight (1 gallon pot = 395g)
  • SW – DW = WHC
  • 2135g – 395g = 1740g
  • WHC = 1740 mL (or 1.74L)
  • This number is used to determine irrigation shot size, batch tank volume, and even HVAC system requirements!

VWC: Volumetric Water Content

  • The metric typically measured by soil moisture sensors.
  • RIOCOCO coco coir provides roots an optimum environment which is, ~50% water (in the standard PCM mix, closed top bags and the blue bags are 63%).
  • This keeps roots in the “sweet spot”, allowing for quicker dry backs, faster root growth, and easily-managed crop steering practices.
  • WHC / SV = VWC
  • WHC = Water Holding Capacity (1740mL, see above)
  • SV = Saturated Volume (1 gallon pot = 3375 cm3)
  • 1 mL =1 cm3 therefore 1740mL = 1740cm3
  • 1740cm3 / 3375cm3 = 0.5155
  • VWC = ~52%

AFP: Air Filled Porosity

  • Like VWC, but with Air
  • With RIOCOCO the least amount of air your roots will ever see is ~28% (at full saturation).
  • This effectively rules out the threat of pythium and other anaerobic pathogens (source: UC IPM) when using a properly-maintained fertigation system.
  • DV = Dry Volume (1 gallon pot = 675 cm3)
  • SV – ( DV + WHC ) / SV  = AFP
  • 3375 – (675 + 1740) / 3375 = 0.2844
  • AFP = 28.44%

How Should RIOCOCO be Watered?

  • After Transplant:
    • Fully saturate the medium 
    • Dry back at least 50% – 70% before irrigating again (ie, from a measurement of 52% down to 26% – 16% VWC).
  • After Roots Establish:
    • Use irrigation cycles of 5 – 10% of WHC (~100ml – 175ml for a 1 Gallon PCM Open-Top Bag).
  • See this blog post for more info!


What Certifications do RIOCOCO Products Carry?

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