Bioreactors and “smart vessels” for large-scale propagation

J. Adelberg
Producing plant material that is true-to-type and free of pests is a difficult task in clonally propagated crops. The biotechnology tools based on “agar-gels” work well in the laboratory, but does not serve the scale or allow physiological transitioning of plants to outdoor field conditions. Micropropagation in liquid medium often has better growth than semi-solid “gels” (e.g. agar) due to the increased availability of water and solutes when shoots are properly aerated. Bioreactors are mechanical vessels that facilitate gas exchange and media supplementation. Ergonomic complexity and cost of mechanical systems are balanced against anticipated improvements in growth. Mechanical rockers and pumped intermittent immersion systems increase the interfacial transfer surface that benefit growth. Larger vessels maximize growth area serviced by the mechanized devices. A wide variety of horticultural crops and mechanical devices illustrate these points. Simple systems, such as stationary thin films and support matrices often yield similar superior quality growth without the complexities and costs of mechanized agitated liquids. “Smart vessels” enable varied levels of air exchange, transitions from heterotrophic to photo-autotrophic environments, and materials handling in a less laborious, or more mechanized format. Manufactured matrices replace agar, have large macro-pores for oxygenated root zones, and allow two-dimensional arrays to be mechanically handled. Our laboratory has designed, and prototyped bioreactors and vessel systems to bridge the gap between biotechnology and field production.
Adelberg, J. (2017). Bioreactors and “smart vessels” for large-scale propagation. Acta Hortic. 1187, 123-138
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1187.15
acclimatization, bioreactor, hydraulic conductivity, hyperhydricity, pre-hardening

Acta Horticulturae