We've gotten a lot of hands-on experience with Agr-Rok the past few years as we answer questions from interested potential customers regarding whether the super-dense cement overlay will work for their particular application.
We've had some fascinating requests, including some really tricky ones like seeing if we can use a combination of Agri-Rok and biological sealers to cover an ocean sea wall and repel barnacles (this one's still in progress). Brainstorming sessions have sometimes gotten pretty interesting as we try things like mixing a colloidal silica troweling aid into the dry mix instead of water to see if it will become even denser. Our experiments have sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed - we haven't yet been able to find the right product that will reliably color the overlay without weird marbling or floating issues, for instance.
In the process we've learned some great tips.
1.) Agri-Rok gets stronger the less water you put in it, so don't add more. When first mixing, it doesn't seem like the correct amount of water is enough since the product initially looks very dry, but when mixing continues the dry mix suddenly melts into the perfect chocolate-milkshake consistency. The instinct to add more water at the beginning always causes problems, so the key to the right blend is to measure the water properly and resist the urge to add more.
2.) Temperature, temperature, temperature! The correct temperature of water and base floor is important to a good fast set. We once laid Agri-Rok over a newly-installed cement slab during a very cold February. There was a heater in the room, but everything was still icy to the touch and the Agri-Rok stubbornly refused to set for several hours. Considering it normally hardens to the touch in about half an hour, this was unexpected and set back our finishing process by a whole day. Using very cold water in the mix can have a similar effect, slowing the set time. Hot water will make it set too fast, before it's properly mixed. So keeping the temp at 60 degrees or more for the water and the floor definitely improves the results.
3.) Don't overmix: you'll whip bubbles into the overlay and it takes a lot more raking/troweling to get them to all rise to the surface and settle. Once the dry mix and water melt together and turn into milkshake consistency, pour it down and start raking. Otherwise there will be a quantity of small bubbles that need to be hand-troweled out, which is a pain in the neck for what is otherwise a ridiculously easy install process.
One of the biggest assets of an Agri-Rok overlay is undoubtedly it's high chemical resistance. CIP procedures are usually so harsh and abrasive that regular concrete disintegrates fast, especially since the material being cleaned off them eats away at surface in between cleanings.
We've focused initially on making a product available that would halt such disintegration, lengthening the life of the floor and reducing the downtime associated with repairing or replacing it. Since the problem with disintegrating concrete is mainly acid attack, we've presented a cement overlay that successfully resists acid.
But there's another facet to the whole issue: the character of the cleaners typically applied to industrial and agricultural concrete floors.
For years, the focus of health inspectors, janitors, vets and sanitation experts has been to destroy microbes populating dirty floors. Even visibly clean floors undergo frequent and rigorous testing because of pathogens lurking invisibly on the surface, which explains why a lot of time and effort goes into reducing crevices and dirt and other imperfections that allow killers like listeria or PEDv to flourish. So everyone scrubs and sprays and disinfects and does their very best to make sure nothing lives on their floors, whether they be in barns, poultry houses, milk parlors, packing plants or loading docks.
It's proved to be a losing battle.
No matter how much we kill, it's almost impossible to keep everything as clean as it needs to be as much as it needs to be to stop all bacteria or disease outbreaks.
Enter the probiotic cleaner.
Probiotic cleaners have a huge advantage over traditional CIP brews for a couple of reasons: they are non-toxic, PH-neutral, work without extensive scrubbing and have an afterlife that continues keeping a surface clean for several days after application.
We've been following the development of probiotic cleaners for some years now and are pretty excited by the results in a broad array of case studies. It's not easy for any farmer or healthy professional to step out and try something as unusual as an anti-disinfecting disinfectant, given the penalty of failure; but pioneers around the country are testing this new concept with surprising and encouraging results. Probiotic cleaners have been hugely effective at reducing disease and failed inspections in poultry houses, cattle barns, hog barns (where there was even success at stopping the spread of PEDv in a farrowing barn), equine barns, hospitals, schools, food service industries and more. If there's a potential bacteria problem, these powerful little bugs have been hitting it out of the park.
Probiotic cleaners work in multi-pronged ways: they use a basic cleaner to remove dirt, an infusion of live "good" bacteria to devour the shields bad bacteria build to protect themselves from harmful elements, and the same good bacteria to populate the surface and crowd out bad bacteria.
The issue with bacteria is a substance called "biofilm", a substance closely related to plastic that bacterial colonies exude to protect the colony from anything that might kill it. Biofilm is incredibly hardy, shrugging off even highly concentrated chemicals and high-heat water jets. The only thing that really damages it normally is friction, which is especially nasty because it means the bacteria or viruses sheltering beneath the biofilm are available to rub off onto people or animals and cause disease outbreaks even after the affected surface has been thoroughly disinfected.
Probiotics dismantle biofilm, allowing the bacteria to either be easily washed away or die from exposure to elements. This means the surface is deep-cleaned without dangerous fumes, corrosive effects or extensive scrubbing. After cleaning, probiotics can be reapplied to the surface to essentially crowd out and starve bad bacteria, leaving it no place to rest and grow.
Different industries have different specific solutions, but the essential goal is the same: dismantle biofilm and make surfaces no longer receptive to housing bad bacteria. In animal husbandry applications, there's a formulation injected into water lines to keep them clean (it's actually good for the guts of the animals drinking it), a surface cleaner that does wonders with even the toughest cleaning tasks, and a mist formula that's used in barns to keep all surfaces and animals covered with good bacteria to keep the bad bugs at bay.
The combination of probiotic cleaners with Agri-Rok acid resistant overlays promises to be a huge leap in the ability of both industrial and agricultural professionals to maintain sanitary, productive facilities. The applications are so exciting and varied that one of our biggest difficulties is holding ourselves on course and not trying to branch out in too many different directions.
Hey, if you had a floor which would resist the normal wear and tear and a really good cleaner which wouldn't break down even normal concrete...wouldn't that change your maintenance outlook for the better?