Introduction to Aeroponics
To study the root nodules on peas, Cabot Foundation Laboratories developed Aeroponics system in the years 1973 to 74. As the name suggests, Aeroponics optimizes the use of air around the root zone for plants to absorb nutrients through water mist for plant growth. In this system, the roots are suspended in the air and fed with a fine mist of nutrient solution for a very short period of time with more frequency intervals. Although, this system is considered one type of hydroponics but yet differs from the conventional hydro and aquaponics growing systems.
The standards of Aeroponics are based on cultivating vegetables whose roots find the best condition with respect to oxygenation and dampness. These conditions take into consideration better plant nutrition absorption in a more balanced manner, with speedy development of plants. Optimal growing condition by controlling the temperature and humidity assures a farmer with high yields. Even the consumption of plant nutrition that is supplied to a closed circuit of the plant container is very limited allowing nutrients and water savings. For example, to produce a kilogram of eggplants in a traditional farm consumes about 250 to 350 liters of water, growing hydroponically consumes about 65 liters of water, while only 15 to 25 liters is consumed in aeroponics.
Aeroponics offers the possibility to enhance crop production and diminish costs compared to traditional farming methods or to any alternate soilless method of farming. Aeroponics successfully utilizes every vertical space for farming or production of the greenhouse. Every space available in the greenhouse is it horizontal or vertical can be used for the maximum production of food per area.
Difference Between Aeroponics and Hydroponics: Aeroponics is the system of growing plants or crops with root system exposed to air. Hydroponics system is the method of cultivation of crops or plants in nutrient solutions under soil-less conditions.
Why Aeroponics System
The aeroponics growing of plants is becoming a household name for growing plants for their daily food at their kitchen table in urban regions. When the prices of vegetables are growing high and the quality is not fresh farm, above all they all are not chemical free. As this is a soil-less technique of growing plants, the manual work is cut down much while leaving no traces of soil stains. Once it is designed and placed, it starts to operate mechanically with minimum garden work is done to be taken care of. Aeroponics farming can be done to grow few plants to a large number of plants and types growing together by utilizing the maximum space of a given unused space at any part of the home.
Increased Air Exposure in Aeroponics: Air in the rhizosphere or root zone is important for the plant to grow healthy. Aeroponics system provides the best environment for the supply of clean air and nutrient solution delivering oxygen and nutrition to plant roots which stimulates plant growth. More aeration around root zone helps to prevent pathogen formation. Plants require 450 to 780 ppm concentrations of Carbon dioxide which is available in the aeroponics environment for photosynthesis.
Water and Nutrient Supply in Aeroponics: In this system, delivery of nutrients and water to plant roots is done by sprayers, foggers, misters, or any other devices that can create a fine mist. Water droplet size is the key to root development. The 20 to 100-micron droplet size produces excessive root hair system for sustained plant growth and large droplets over 100 microns lead to less oxygenation.
Diseaseless Environment: Greenhouse when well-maintained, chances of plant disease and pest infestation are very less. The transmission of disease from plant to plant can be reduced. An infected particular plant can be isolated and destroyed without infecting or damaging the other plants. As the greenhouse environment is disease free, more aerated, and nutrient rich; plants can be grown at higher density giving maximum production.
Design and Materials for Aeroponics
The major design factor in the aeroponics system is creating the smallest possible water droplet size. A fine mist will encourage bushier, bulkier root hair system which will have more surface area thereby nutrient and oxygen absorption will be high. The root growing chamber must fulfill the following criteria, it must be light proof, must have good air ventilation, and must hold humidity. Usually, much of the growing chamber immature designs are airtight not allowing plenty of oxygen because the water might spill out. A design that can balance humidity, oxygen, light, and continuous nutrient supply all four at a time is the best design.
Materials to Build a Basic Aeroponics:
- Container or reservoir to hold the nutrient solution.
- Container – A chamber for root growth.
- Submersible water pump.
- PVC Pipes and tubes, PVC tee union, PVC elbow union, for water distribution.
- Timer – for the water pump.
- Mister or sprinkler heads.
Types of Aeroponics
Low-Pressure Systems (soakaponics): This is the most common type of aeroponics system. This type of systems is sold at most stores for its low maintenance, low price, and runs on simple technology. The droplet size in this system is a bit bigger. Sprinkler heads must be arranged that they completely wet the entire root zone. When the root hairs grow big and bulky, covering the whole thick root system becomes hard in this type of system. The plant roots are suspended in the reservoir having a nutrient solution. The low-pressure water pump supplies the nutrient solution through PVC pipes via sprinkler heads to the roots. The excess water trickles down the roots and gets back into the reservoir.This is a basic and simple design with no features. Though it has its own limitations but works well for home gardening and hence is popular among home growers.
High-Pressure System: In this type of system, the mist is generated by high-pressure water pump creating very small size water droplets. The mist can reach uniformly even in the bulky root mass covering complete root mass area letting plants absorb more nutrients. Plants of high value are usually cultivated for more production and for more profits. This system has more features including good aeration, water purification, nutrient sterilization, and smallest size water droplets. The prices for high pressure are becoming affordable that even home growers started using them in their home gardens.
Ultrasonic Fogger Systems: This type of systems is used for commercial cultivation. They consist of the high-pressure water pump and enhancements for extended plant life and crop maturation. Some of the features in this system include cooling sensors, thermal control of solutions, precision timing along with the pressurized nutrient solution, fail-safe censors, low labor, ergonomics, and durable reliability features.
Types of Plants to Grow in Aeroponics System or Crops are grown in Aeroponics
In the aeroponics type of farming, plant seeds, cuttings, or saplings are placed in a netted cup suspended in a growing chamber, nutrient-laden water is supplied in mist form supplying nutrients for germination and plants to grow. Though there is a limitation for some types of plants to grow, a grower has every opportunity to explore in growing more types of plants. Some of the types of plants (some need trellises) that are cultivated successfully are mentioned as below:
Vegetable Plants: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Gourds, Seed Potatoes, Beets, Carrots, Eggplants, pepper, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Broccoli, Beans, Corn Salad, much more
Fruit Plants: Strawberries, Melons,
Leafy Greens: Lettuce, Basil, Amaranth, Chives, Wheat Grass, Spinach, and much more
Herbs: Ginger, Mint, Skullcap, Stinging Nettles, Yerba Mansa
Flower Plants: Marigold, Pansies, Nasturtiums, Violas, Dianthus, Hyacinth Bean, Calendula, much more
Advantages and Disadvantages in Aeroponics
Advantages of Aeroponics:
Water Consumption: There is absolutely no water wastage in the aeroponics system. Every drop of water is recycled within the closed circuit. Almost 98% water is saved and the remaining 2% is the water that’s used up by plants for its growth.
Fertilization: Minimum fertilizers are used in this system giving 60% savings. The required nutrients are contained in water supply system in the closed circuit with a composition that can be controlled depending upon the cultivation of crop and size. Plant roots absorb required nutrients and the nutrients are recycled, consequently highest quality with minimum fertilizer consumption takes place in this system.
Labor: Minimum workers are required to take care of farming in the aeroponics system. For an acre of the cultivated crop in this system requires about two skilled and six unskilled workers. The equivalent area of crop cultivation in greenhouse farming might require about 30 workers.
Yield: The annual crop yield per square foot in the aeroponics system is six times that of a greenhouse. Therefore, a 1,000 square feet farming in aeroponics is equivalent to an area of 6,000 square feet in greenhouse farming.
Harvest: The environment is controlled manually thereby creating a natural habitat for the respective crop. Under this controlled environments, production and harvesting happen through-out the year. Harvested crop quality and quantity is far superior to conventional farming.
- Agricultural farming and production success is no way related to region, land, and soil fertility.
- Agricultural farming and production success is attained with limited water supply. Commercial success is attained in desert regions such as Israel.
- Farming is undertaken in a 3-dimensional growing system way with an intensive food production on a limited surface area. Hence, the highest output per square foot of land is achieved in this system.
- Aeroponics farming can be constructed at close proximity to customers in urban regions, markets delivering fresh cropped products with less transport cost.
Disadvantages of Aeroponics:
Power Dependency in Aeroponics: Water pump, timer, misters play an important role in plant survival in the aeroponics system as they supply nutrient to plant root system.Plants die and loss of crop may happen at power outages.
System Maintenance in Aeroponics: Regular disinfection of root chamber must be done as it must not be contaminated leading to diseases at the root zone.
Setup Cost for Aeroponics: Initial set up cost of the aeroponics system is expensive. But it’s worth the investment as this is a onetime investment for years of continuous fresh vegetable and fruit production.
Technical Knowledge: Technical knowledge about the aeroponics system is required for running. Technical knowledge such as a number of nutrients per gallon of water, pruning, gadget replacements.
Conclusion of Aeroponics
Cultivation and growing of crops in a greenhouse based on Aeroponics is developed to produce optimal, economical labor and irrigation control. This system gives a simple administration and high accessibility set up by utilizing both the local and worldwide systems. It is found out while cultivating crops under soilless growing; there is a reduction of usage of water by 98%, fertilizer usage by 60%, and no usage of herbicides and pesticides. Based on these statistics, we can move to a new type of farming to meet the needs of food demand and supply under current depletion of land and its fertility. The simulations can confirm the effectiveness of capacities introduced in the system.Then again, provision of ideal environmental condition for various crops has not been resolved yet till date. Much research is going on worldwide to create an optimal condition for other crops for greenhouse farming; soilless farming will help evaluate the quality of crops and its products in various environmental conditions by conducting feasibility test.This system works out perfect for home gardeners who live in apartments.