The Aeroponics system involves growing plants suspended in the air. But if you are like most growers you are only accustomed to the conventional methods of growing crops. The most common example is growing plants in the soil as the nutrient-holding medium.
Traditional hydroponics is where plant roots are immersed in nutrient-rich media, usually water.
But what if you can grow plants without any of the above media? Now, you can. That is what aeroponics is and more.
Aeroponics comes from the two Greek words. “Aer” and “ponos”. That is Greek words for “air” and “labor” for you. In other words, you are putting effort to produce food suspended in the air. So much from the Greek.
The point is you have your plants whose roots are not covered in soil or water. Rather, they are suspended in an enclosed container with medium or phenolic foam. The roots are then gently steamed with nutrient-rich mist that sustains plant life.
Aeroponics key components and systems
At its most basic the aeroponic system is a container that has root holding medium or phenolic foam. On one end it has a hole through which the plant’s vegetative part emerges out for exposure to light. On the other end is the root side.
This is the end from which the plant is nourished by the nutrient-rich mist from misters. In turn, these devices draw this steam from a separate tank. The system itself can be horizontal or in the vertical tower form.
The vertical form is the aeroponic tower. It is more popular for its ability to utilize space and also take advantage of the gravitational free flow of steam. Plus, the vertical system allows for roots to spread out well. Also, an aeroponics system can be classified based on the pressure levels of the pumps.
The system is aptly named for delivering high mist pressure through their pressure pumps. Pressures here range from 80psi to 100psi. These types of systems are then connected to top-level misters. It is through these misters that high levels of humidity are maintained in the plant roots. The efficiency of this aeroponics system was demonstrated by NASA in a successful experiment in space.
This consists of a simple fountain pump to spray water through the mister. Its components are not as complex as the high-pressure types. For this reason, they are not considered true mist but rather mere sprays. Their construction is simple which explains why they are a favorite of the DIYers.
Other key components for DIY aeroponics
Aeroponic Advantages and Disadvantages
Efficient use of space
One of the clearest cases for aeroponic is the use of space. Research shows the land available for the traditional forms of agricultural farming is dwindling by the day. That leaves the vertical direction as the only readily available space for use in farming. And with the vertical tower, the aeroponic system does a fantastic job on this.
One of the downsides of traditional farming is the inability to control growth elements. Not so with aeroponic gardening. Like most Soilless Controlled Agriculture(SCA) it is possible to control light, nutrients, water, and air.
That means as a farmer you are able to control all aspects of crop growing that most times are dictated by seasons. The whole growing process is under your terms. That is why it is possible to produce food throughout the year.
The traditional methods create higher environmental dangers. Examples include the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides. These biohazards will then find their way into the rivers leading to environmental degradation. The closed aspect of aeroponic gardening reduces these environmental wastes.
Safe food production
Again the traditional methods of farming involve using copious amounts of inorganic chemicals. These could be in fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Eventually, the chemicals will be found in the foods we consume. And research has traced certain forms of cancer to agro pesticides. Aeroponic gardening cuts the need for all these health hazards by eliminating the use of these chemicals.
Minimal water usage
We are on a water-scarce planet. In fact, only 0.3% of the water on the earth is available for human use. So scarce is this commodity in the world that some predict the next world war will be about water. So water conservation cannot be overemphasized. So it is refreshing to learn that aeroponics use can cut the usage of water down by as much as 95%.
For this system to work optimally you will need delicate operations and monitoring. For example, you must have the nutrients, water, and oxygen balanced in the right proportions. That is not something that can be done by anyone. You will need skills and training to operate and make successful gardening.
Sadly aeroponic is an expensive method of gardening. Most professionally installed aero systems may set you back by as much as $1000. However, if you are a DIY enthusiast it is not impossible to set up your own cheaper units. All you need is to buy and improvise components which you can then assemble at a lower cost.
You will require electricity for this system to work. This is required in the pumps that operate the misting devices. The pumps utilize a substantial amount of electricity that may contribute to environmental pollution.
What grows best in aeroponics?
Aeroponics is a versatile method of gardening. As such what can be grown in other media can also be produced here as well. But cucumbers, strawberries, and tomatoes are the most popular in this gardening setup.
In general, most vegetables, small medicinal herbs, and spices can be grown in this system. Obvious exclusions are the large herbs, fruit trees, and vining plants. These will need large space for their extensive vegetation and roots.
What if You want to convert your soil plants to aeroponics?
A plant that can do well in soil media can also grow in aeroponics. Therefore it is possible for plants in aeroponics to be converted to the soil media and vice versa. However, the stage at which this happens is critical.
You should transfer from one set up to the other when the seeds are 3 inches tall. At this stage, the plant is unlikely to undergo relocation stress that may result in stunted growth. You just need to remove the soil if you are and transfer it to the aeroponics system.
Which are the true aeroponics systems?
Everything that is emerging in the market attracts imitation. The aeroponic market is no different. The market is awash with look-alike aeroponics. We are not saying those systems can or cannot successfully grow crops. It’s just that they are not what they are touted to be.
Of course, you don’t want to buy hydroponics when what you want is an aeroponics system. True aeroponic systems use high-pressure pumps to create a mist. This nutrient-rich mist is what feeds the plants. If the plant’s roots are dipped in, or dripping with water that is not aeroponics.
Aeroponics maintenance and cleaning
Like any system the aeroponic needs to be maintained and cleaned. It is a delicate set of equipment that can lead to losses if poorly maintained. The misters’ nozzles especially need to be regularly cleaned to avoid blockage. You should also keep the aeroponic electronic and electric systems in order. Water delivery systems should therefore be monitored and fixed if need be to avoid short-circuiting the timers.
The aeroponic system is an efficient and productive system for growing crops. Growing crops in the nutrient-rich mist have far more benefits than drawbacks. The traditional methods of growing crops have many challenges. These include water wastage, environmental pollution, and the lack of control over the growing process.
We cannot claim the aeroponic system can solve all these problems. But it is a more efficient and productive growing method of now and the future.