Aeroponics is one of the major techniques in indoor farming which is becoming popular these days due to greater yields and the ability to control the growing environment. Greenhouse and vertical farming are the two main types of indoor farming.
Vertical farming is becoming a more cost-effective method in horticulture, allowing for more resource utilization and land efficiency. Plant cultivation in vertically stacked irrigation systems using artificial or natural light is known as vertical farming. This method frequently employs soilless growing settings as well as hydroponic or aeroponic irrigation systems.
Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. Sounds unbelievable right? Well, you would be shocked to know that mother nature has employed aeroponic growing in plants such as epiphytic orchids and bromeliads which absorb naturally occurring aerosols like mist through their leaves and aerial roots.
Read on to find more about aeroponics, its types, equipment, benefits etc. as I take you on a short trip through an aeroponic farm. Let’s begin by understanding the process of aeroponic farming.
- Aeroponic farming involves growing plants hung in a closed or semi-closed environment by spraying a nutrient-rich water solution onto the plant’s dangling roots and lower stem.
- We insert the plants into the holes on top of a reservoir and placed into a sealed container.
- We need to provide a support collar to keep stems in place because there’s no root zone medium for them to anchor in. These collars must be hard enough to hold plants upright and keep roots in place while yet being flexible enough to allow roots to grow.
- The pump and sprinkler system produces vapour from the nutrient-rich solution. This vapour is a hydro-atomized spray mixture of water, nutrients, and growth hormones.
- The dangling plant roots absorb the nutrients while spraying this mist in the reservoir. The spray delivers just the right amount of moisture to encourage the plant’s growth and development.
- The timer provides the plants with pre-programmed spray intervals and durations.
Because of the sensitivity of root systems, sometimes we pair aeroponics with traditional hydroponics. It acts as a backup “crop saver” if the aeroponic equipment fails. Let’s have a look at the common types of aeroponics.
Different Types of Aeroponic Systems
Depending on the intensity of pressure to atomize the water droplets there are two types of aeroponic systems. They are:
Low-Pressure Aeroponics (LPA)
- Plant roots are held above a nutritional solution reservoir or inside a channel connected to a reservoir in low-pressure aeroponic gardens.
- A low-pressure pump delivers nutritional solution via jets or ultrasonic transducers into the reservoir, where it drips or drains.
- Plants in these units tend to develop dry parts of their root systems as they mature, preventing appropriate nutrient uptake.
- Due to its ease of setup, availability at any hydroponic shop, and low cost, this is the most common aeroponic farming technique.
Also read: Methods of Irrigation- 3 Methods Full Guide
High-Pressure Aeroponics (HPA)
- The HPA system operates at extremely high-pressure to atomize water into small water droplets of 50 microns or less.
- A high-pressure (80 pounds per square inch (550 kPa)) diaphragm pump feeds nutrients to the roots via 20–50 micrometre mist heads.
- Since this system produces such small droplets it provides more oxygen to the root zone than the LPA. Thus it is the most efficient aeroponic system available.
- High-Pressure Aeroponics is more complicated and more expensive to put up due to the specialised equipment required. As a result, they find frequent use in commercial production rather than home growers.
Hydroponics vs Aeroponics
Aeroponics is distinct from hydroponics, aquaponics, and in-vitro (plant tissue culture) cultivation. While hydroponics relies on nutrient-rich water to provide nutrition to plants, aeroponics relies on nutrient-rich mist to provide nutrition to plants. Unlike hydroponics, which uses a liquid nutrient solution as a growing media and critical minerals to support plant growth, and aquaponics, which uses water and fish waste to support plant growth, aeroponics does not use a growing medium.
Having understood the basics of aeroponics, let me introduce you to the tools used in it.
Tools used in Aeroponics
If you are planning to set up an aeroponic farm, you will need:
- A reservoir/container to hold the nutrient solution
- Nutrient pump
- Mist nozzles
- Tubing to distribute water from the nutrient pump to the mister heads in the growing chamber
- Baskets to suspend plants
- Enclosed growing chamber for the root zone
- Watertight containers for the growing chamber
- Timer to turn on and off the pump
Next, we are moving to the advantages of aeroponics.
The following are some of the advantages of aeroponics:
- Due to the lack of a growing substrate, plant roots can absorb the maximum amount of nutrients. This leads to greater plant yields. Studies report that aeroponically grown plants like basil, parsley, cherry tomato, squash, bell pepper and red kale increased their yield by 19%, 21%, 35%, 50%, 53% and 65% compared to soil culture, respectively
- Plant roots get oxygen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, resulting in massive plant growth. This encourages plants to develop quickly.
- Because of the higher nutrient absorption rate, relatively fewer nutrients and water are consumed on average compared to conventional plants.
- Aeroponic systems offer greater mobility. You can simply transfer plants or even entire nurseries around because all you have to do is move the plant from one collar to the next.
- Only a small amount of room is necessary. This system does not require a lot of areas to set up. Plants are stacked on top of one another. You can make the most of limited space with this type of modular system.
Drawbacks of Aeroponics
Aside from its numerous benefits, aeroponics has several drawbacks that can’t be overlooked, including:
- Since aeroponic systems are highly sensitive to external conditions, it necessitates continual monitoring of pH and nutrient density ratio.
- Understanding and applying the proper ratio for nutrients, water supply can be challenging for beginners, and should only be tried by people who are more experienced with such systems.
- Initial setup can be expensive, costing hundreds of dollars per person.
- Demands constant monitoring of the growing conditions.
Shall we wrap up?
As compared to other systems, the most significant advantages of aeroponics are the huge plant growth and higher yields. These benefits, however, come at a price. The cost of installing the system is high, and it also necessitates technical know-how as well as sophisticated knowledge of pH and nutrient density ratio. If you are new to hydroponics, it is better to carefully assess the pros and cons and then choose the method that you believe will work best for you at this time.