Aeroponics is becoming increasingly popular when it comes to growing organic plants and crops. Although it might not be particularly cost-effective at home, commercial aeroponics is one way to justify the high startup costs.
In this article, we’ll look at what commercial aeroponics means and the different methods used.
What is Aeroponics?
Aeroponics systems were built on the concept of hydroponic systems, where roots of the plants are held in nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Hydroponics is very popular, since the nutrient-rich water is able to provide nutrients that plants need in the correct balance, unlike soil, which often has deficiencies. Sometimes, hydroponics will also have a growing medium (that is not soil) where the nutrient-rich water is pumped.
With commercial aeroponics, the concept is very similar, but the growing medium is bypassed and the roots are left to hang in the air. These have nutrient mists sprayed or puffed on them periodically, with the help of misting devices.
Aeroponics has seeds planted into foam pieces which are held in tiny pots. These are exposed to lights (often artificial) on one end, with the nutrient mist on the other end, towards the roots. The foam helps keep the stem and root held in place while the plant grows.
Aeroponics for commercial growing is becoming more and more common nowadays, especially with so many consumers putting emphasis on getting healthy and organic plants and crops in their diet.
Why Commercial Aeroponics?
But what really is the benefit of aeroponics for commercial use? There are plenty of reasons it’s becoming the go-to for farmers and growers who can afford it. While aeroponics systems are undoubtedly costlier than traditional soil-based agriculture, they have a fair number of benefits that make them a much better option for commercial growth.
You can check out this video for information on how commercial aeroponic farming works.
Lack of Growing Medium
For one thing, because there is no growing medium (that is, soil) used in aeroponics, it is much more environmentally friendly. The lack of soil involved means that less money goes into making sure the soil remains fertile enough for the plants, and also cuts down on the cost of the soil itself. It also reduces a lot of the manual labor involved in making the soil fit for gardening.
While aeroponics are costlier in general, they do reduce the cost of land for commercial growth. Traditional, soil-based agriculture requires acres and acres of land to dedicate to a single crop to get a decent sized yield. With aeroponics, this is not the case.
Since these plants don’t need a growing medium, the roots don’t have to spread out into the soil to get the nutrients they need. This means that the plants can be held close together, and can even be stacked one over the other vertically.
This way, aeroponic systems allow for maximum and efficient use of limited space to maximize plant production. On top of that, aeroponics has more room for mobility than soil-based growth, since you can move the plants around and you can switch out plants when and as needed.
Less Water Used
Because aeroponic systems do not require a growing medium, they end up using at least 95% less water than traditional agricultural methods. In fact, aeroponics also requires less water than hydroponics systems, making them much more efficient and eco-friendlier when it comes to water.
Thriving on Less Resources
Just like how aeroponic systems need less water, they also need less nutrients. Because soil-based systems usually result in a portion of the nutrients getting absorbed into the soil, the total amount of nutrients that the plants get becomes smaller. With aeroponic systems relying on nutrient mists, the nutrients are used only by the plants they are sprayed on, and thus do not go to waste.
Reduced Diseases & Rapid Growth
The roots of plants in commercial aeroponic systems also get oxygen from the environment itself, rather than from air bubbles in the soil. Because of the constant exposure to oxygen, the roots are able to grow quickly and well.
The enclosed environment of aeroponic systems also means that plants are much less likely to contract diseases and suffer from problems like pests. Because of this, growers do not need to resort to insecticides and pesticides, which makes the plants healthier, and does not result in absorbed toxins. If these plants are being grown for consumption, the end-user is also safe from such toxins.
With so many benefits, it is clear that aeroponic systems are suitable for commercial growth. The only downside is that aeroponics is significantly more costly than traditional methods, and requires complex machinery that is operating 24/7 to make sure the plants get the nutrients they need at the exact moment they need them. If for some reason, the machinery fails, the plants will die.
However, these problems are easily combated with backups and experts who can keep an eye on the equipment to make sure it is functioning properly. If done properly, however, there is a huge advantage! Not only do the plants grow healthier and larger, they are able to do so within a shorter period of time, which makes commercial growers able to add extra harvests and therefore make more money.
Types of Commercial Aeroponics Systems
There are different types of aeroponic systems used in commercial growth. These would depend on the type of plant being grown, the number of plants being grown, as well as the grower’s own capacity regarding space, equipment, etc.
Aeroponic cloning systems use cloning racks, which allow new cuttings to get more space for propagation until they are eventually moved to a larger space. Aeroponic cloners are usually just for those cuttings, as a ‘waiting space’ so to speak, until they begin their root growth.
For commercial aeroponic growers, this is great, since it helps increase the volume and speed at which cloning happens.
Two-Layered Aeroponic Rack Systems for Flowers
After having propagated the cloned plants, you can move them into the final apparatus, where they will grow to adulthood. In aeroponics, plants are kept in multiple racks where they are able to grow healthy and strong.
Having multiple racks allows growers to have space to grow the plants vertically, which is where the benefit of limited space comes in. With these racks, you can maximize your production without increasing the total space needed.
Automation and Management Software
Aeroponics can take up a lot of time because of how consistent you need to be with providing your plants with the nutrients they need to thrive. You have to be very detail oriented and constant with the level of attention you need to pay.
Aeroponics Control Systems can also be used with software that allows you to automate much of the process, from management of the environment to scheduling misting and feeding. With remote controls and presets, you can make sure that the system is given nutrients and water at the right time without you having to manually get involved.
These systems also allow you to set parameters which track the environment and make sure that temperature, humidity etc. are within the right levels. They also help track progress on the plants themselves, and set up alerts that let you know if any equipment fails so that you can get replacements and fixes done on time.
How Do You Know If Commercial Aeroponics Is Right For You?
While commercial aeroponics comes with some excellent benefits, it is a fair question to ask if the system is really right for you. Because aeroponic systems can be rather expensive to set up and run, there is a very high possibility that the option is not within the budget of many farmers and growers.
In addition, the level of care and upkeep required for aeroponic farming is much higher than for conventional farming. Accordingly, it is highly likely that the crop will fail and you will lose a sizeable amount of money if you are unable to invest the required time.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. The systems required are admittedly complicated, but they are not so difficult that they become unmanageable. In fact, even a beginner is able to manage these systems with no prior experience with them. If managed properly, aeroponic systems are also able to bring about a huge payoff.
Because the plants that grow from aeroponic systems are healthier and larger, and grown in a much shorter time, growers are able to reap the rewards of their efforts earlier and at much higher rates.
Being able to consistently produce healthy crops at a fast rate for commercial growth means that there is a greater opportunity to make a profit off these crops. Of course, you have to be able to afford the equipment before you start, and the planning involved in aeroponic farming can be quite rigorous.
However, if growers invest in the right equipment and put in some time and effort, they will likely be able to offset any startup costs within the year. From here on, commercial aeroponic growers are able to make ample profit.
Final Words on Commercial Aeroponics
The benefits and opportunities that lie with commercial aeroponics farming in comparison to traditional, and even hydroponics farming are huge, which makes it an excellent option to adopt into commercial agriculture.