Imagine if we could produce vegetables out of thin air. We don’t need any hocus pocus magic spells, and it isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. In fact, it is one of the most eco-friendly ways of producing produce and is called Aeroponic Farming.
The word aeroponics means working air. According to defenitions.net, it is derived from two Greek words, Aero, meaning air, and ponos, meaning labor. This system is called such because it relies on air to deliver the nutrients to the plant roots.
So, what is aeroponic farming? Read on to find out.
Farming in the Modern World
All across the globe, farmlands are shrinking. Other environmental issues, such as natural disasters and climate change, also significantly affect efficiency. As the population grows at rates never seen before, pollution has drained farmlands of essential nutrients, rendering them useless for farming. Instead, they are being converted to concrete jungles to make a place for people to work or live in.
With the modernization of the world, traditional farming is no longer seen as a practical occupation by young generations. They are also looking for more efficient means of earning, which requires less time and effort to help them earn a similar amount. The older generations are getting too old to work, and many farmers are selling off their lands to make ends meet.
However, all is not lost because technology has stepped in. New methods, such as aeroponic farming and hydroponic farming, have emerged and are helping farmers produce better results with considerably less effort. These technologies have rejuvenated the spirit of cultivation among the newer generations and are developing to produce better results every day.
The Basics of Aeroponic Farming
Aeroponics is another method of farming that eliminates the need for soil. With the soil gone, we are left with three essential farming elements, nutrients, water, and air. In aeroponics, the medium of growth is air rather than soil.
The roots are usually held in place using a soilless medium and are suspended in the air in a dark container. They are then sprayed with a solution that comprises nutrients dissolved in water. With the right environment and the correct balance of oxygen, water, and nutrients, the roots begin to grow into plants.
The method is considered eco-friendly because it uses less water, only the essential nutrients for the plant being grown, and produces faster results. The seeds that are “planted” in an aeroponic system need to sprout in another medium before being transferred to an aeroponic system.
Fun Fact: Aeroponic farming technology has been around for more than a century. In fact, NASA has used this technology to grow food in space in the late 90s.
You can check out this video for a brief explanation of aeroponic farming.
Benefits of Aeroponic Farming
There are multiple benefits of aeroponic farming, and they are why this technology has gained immense popularity over the years.
Roots can Breathe
In aeroponic farming, the plant roots are suspended in the air. This is in contrast to being in the soil for conventional systems and water for hydroponic systems. You must be aware that if you water your plant too much, you can cause it to drown by depriving the roots of oxygen. According to Bright View, overwatering plants can adversely affect the plant’s health. Hydroponic systems require bubblers to maintain the correct oxygen level in the water.
However, you do not have to worry about the plant drowning with aeroponic systems, as it has access to all the air it needs. With balanced amounts of water, nutrients, and oxygen, the plants grow to be healthy and even grow faster, which results in more crop cycles in less time.
The farmers can easily control the amount of nutrients delivered to the plants. Aeroponic farming systems allow the farmers to select the essential nutrients for specific plants and deliver them in near-perfect quantities directly to the roots of the plants.
Depending on the plant’s growth pattern, farmers can increase one nutrient and decrease the other without having to make too much of an effort. With the correct balance of nutrients, farmers can control the plant to meet their objectives of better produce, faster growth, or both.
No Need to Worry About Pests
Drastic measures need to be taken on conventional farms to keep the plants free from molds, pests, and other infections. This is because the soil is home to several creatures and pathogens. However, in an aeroponic system, farmers seldom worry about pests harming their plants.
With aeroponic farming, the roots mostly remain dry, reducing the chances of mold or infections forming. The water is repeatedly filtered, and UV treated to keep it free from bacteria and other microbes. Overall the environment remains clean and healthy for the plant.
Access to Roots
Aeroponic farming systems allow the farmers and even botanists to easily access and see the roots, allowing them to diagnose and rectify any issues without hindering the plant growth or risking killing the plant due to uprooting. These systems allow scientists and botanists to conduct research, observation and testing conveniently.
As mentioned above, aeroponic systems are great at saving water. All the water used is filtered and recycled. No large irrigation systems are required, and you cannot overwater your plants. The fertilizer is dissolved in the water, so there are no chances of fertilizer runoff, which is a common issue in traditional farms. In contrast, the water runs into nearby rivers and streams takes the fertilizer with it. This causes losses for the farmer and affects aquatic life considerably as well.
Aeroponic systems do not require harmful pesticides or chemicals to ward off pests, making the produce free of harmful chemicals and growing only in essential nutrients.
Better Use of Space
Since aeroponic farming systems can be stacked, they allow for maximum space utilization. The crops that traditionally require a complete farm can be grown in a small warehouse space by stacking the aeroponic containers.
Whether it is freezing cold or scorching hot, aeroponic farming allows the farmers to produce their crops all year round. Aeroponic farms can be installed in controlled environments, which allow the regulation of light, temperatures, and humidity. The farmers can provide the plants with ideal conditions indoors, even if a storm runs outside.
Similarly, through aeroponics, countries that do not have access to fertile lands, and comprise mainly of cold or hot deserts, can grow their own produce without importing it every time. This technology makes the countries self-reliant, and they can produce their own food at much lower costs.
Types of Aeroponic Systems
There are three types of aeroponic farming systems: low pressure, high pressure, and commercial. Let us look at each one in detail.
Low-Pressure Aeroponics System
A low-pressure aeroponic system comprises roots hanging above the water-based nutrient solution. A pump supplies the roots with this solution through misters, which often comprise tiny jets and ultrasonic foggers.
According to Tech-FAQ, an ultrasonic fogger is a piece of equipment that employs ultrasonic sound waves to break down a drop of nutrient solution into hundreds of thousands of minuscule droplets and then spray it into the air in the form of fog. The fog engulfs the roots, allowing them to absorb whatever they require, and the unused solution simply drips back to the reservoir.
As the plants grow towards maturity, their roots start to dry up, preventing them from absorbing nutrients efficiently. Low-pressure systems often lack filtration or water treatment systems and often require replacing the nutrient solution as it becomes contaminated with pathogens and debris. These systems are best suited for small-scale growing or demonstration of aeroponics.
High-pressure systems use similar techniques to the low-pressure system but swap the low-pressure pump with a stronger one. A typical high-pressure system will use nozzles that can make droplets anywhere between 5 and 80 microns thick. According to Maximum Yield, the system creates a mist of the nutrient solution and sprays it at about 120 psi. With a higher density present in the environment of the roots, they take up essential nutrients more rapidly, leading to faster and better growth.
These systems are more advanced than low-pressure systems and are often linked to water and air purification equipment, including filtration systems, sterilizers, and pressurized delivery systems.
Commercial systems use high-pressure systems and interact with biological systems, which ensure better plant growth and maturation. These systems are used In cultivating crops that have high demand and require frequent crop rotations.
Many technologies can be added to these systems to monitor the growth, yield and collect data to help scientists upgrade these systems.
Final Thoughts on Aeroponic Farming
Aeroponic farming has started to gain popularity over the past few years. They offer many essential benefits such as better utilization of land, improved yields, and high-quality products. This technology is more ecofriendly than traditional methods as it saves water and keeps the crops protected from pests and infections.
Many countries that do not have access to fertile land resort to aeroponics to grow their own food. Even NASA utilizes this technology to feed astronauts who stay in space for long periods. If you are interested in DIY projects, this video can help you build your own aeroponic system.