Aeroponics -simply defined
Aeroponic systems are set up to nourish plants with nothing more than nutrient-laden mist. The concept builds on the premise of hydroponic systems, in which the roots are held in a soilless growing medium, such as coconut coir, over which nutrient-laden water is periodically pumped. See what Gartner Callaway is doing in Nigeria Aeroponics simply dispenses with the growing medium, leaving the roots to dangle in the air, where they are periodically puffed by specially-designed misting devices. This completely eliminates the use of soil, reduces the chances of soil borne nematode diseases such as root knot diseases.
In aeroponics systems, seeds are “planted” in pieces of foam stuffed into tiny pots, which are exposed to light on one end and nutrient mist from the other. The foam also holds the growing stem and root mass in place as the plants grow.
The Advantages of Aeroponics
Who knew naked roots could survive, and even thrive? It turns out that eliminating the growing medium is very freeing for a plants’ roots: the extra oxygen they are exposed to results in faster growth especially the roots as they do not have soil particles inhibiting their growth. Aeroponic systems are also extremely water-efficient. These closed-loop systems use 95 per cent less irrigation water than plants grown in soil,since all they require is mist. And since the nutrients are held in the water, they get recycled, too!
In addition to these efficiencies, aeroponics’ eco-friendly reputation is bolstered by the ability to grow large quantities of food in small spaces. The approach is mainly employed in indoor vertical farms, which are increasingly common in cities which are already crowded enough – cutting down on the environmental costs of getting food from field to plate. This also ensures that people in the cities do not necessarily have to wait for the farmers in the rural areas before they can meet their won nutrient need. And because aeroponics systems are fully enclosed, there is no nutrient runoff due to erosion or leaching,to foul nearby waterways. Rather than treating pest and disease with harsh chemicals, the growing equipment can simply be sterilized as needed. Aeroponics saves a lot.
Drawbacks of Aeroponics
Aeroponics systems require a bit of finesse and a a level of professionalism to operate effectively. The nutrient concentration of the water must be maintained within the precise and required parameters and even a slight malfunction of your equipment can cause the loss of a crop. If the misters don’t spray every few minutes – maybe because the power goes out, for example – those dangling roots will quickly desiccate. And the misters need regular cleaning to keep them from becoming clogged by mineral deposits in the water.
There is also one major drawback, environmentally-speaking: aeroponic systems rely on constant electrical power to pump water through the tiny misting devices. And while they can be employed in the natural light of a greenhouse, they are more often used with energy-intensive grow lights. Solar power or other alternative energy sources can be harnessed to eliminate this drawback.
How Much Does an Aeroponics System Cost?
If you are going for a DIY model it costs nothing more than $100, but good quality professional systems which comprises automated nutrient monitoring and a backup power supply start in the four-figure range. See Alibaba’s prices here
All aeroponics systems require an enclosure to hold in the humidity and prevent light from reaching the roots (for a commercial scale you might need something like a net covering or a green house), plus a separate tank to hold the nutrient solution. Beyond these basic components, there are a few other things to consider in devising an aeroponic system to suit your needs.
Some aeroponics systems are designed to be used horizontally, like a traditional planting bed. But towers and other vertical approaches are increasingly popular – since the roots need to spread out, this is a clever way to save space. Vertical systems are also popular because the misting devices may be placed at the top, allowing gravity to do the rest by distributing the moisture.
Another division in aeroponic equipment: high-pressure versus low-pressure systems.
Low-pressure systems, rely on a simple fountain pump to spray water through the misters, which are inexpensive and suitable for DIY construction. This approach is sometimes called “soakaponics,” as low-pressure misters are capable of producing only a light spray, kind of like a tiny sprinkler, not true mist. For a true mist – meaning moisture floats in the air and more effectively delivering nutrients to the roots – you need higher water pressure than an ordinary pump could deliver. Therefore, professional aeroponics systems rely on a pressurized water tank capable of holding 60 to 90 psi, along with top-quality misters capable of delivering the finest possible puff of moisture.
Hydroponics suppliers increasingly stock a full-line of aeroponics equipment, from the nutrients, pots, pumps, timers, and tubing you need for a DIY system to fully-automated turnkey aero-farms.
What Can You Grow with Aeroponics?
Anything, in theory. But in practice, aeroponics systems are primarily used for the same applications as hydroponics systems, including leafy greens, culinary herbs, marijuana, strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The latest is the root crop yam which has been practiced with hydroponics which is great news