Aeroponics – What You Need to Know

Aeroponics is a system of growing plants without using any soil and using hardly any water. While it may sound strange, aeroponics is a highly efficient and effective method used to grow various types of plants.

In this article, we’ve got everything you need to know about aeroponics systems, their history, and their pros and cons. Let’s take a look.

What is Aeroponics?

boxed aeroponics systems

An aeroponic system is a gardening system that doesn’t involve any soil. Instead, the plants are suspended in the air and the roots are sprayed or misted with a solution containing nutrients and minerals.

Aeroponics is usually described as a sub-technique of hydroponics (soil-less gardening). However, unlike hydroponic systems, aeroponics does not use any kind of growing medium at all.

The basic principle of aeroponics is to deliver oxygen, water, and other nutrients directly to the roots through a well-controlled and precise water vapor system. The idea is to stimulate the plants to grow more efficiently reducing water usage by up to 98% and maximizing crop yield.

History of Aeroponics

aeroponics system with large metal frame

The history of aeroponics runs back to 1957 when a Dutch biologist named Frits Warmolt first invented the term. However, it took 29 years for the first aeroponically grown food to be sold by a scientist named Richard Stoner. He’s known as “the father of the modern and commercial aeroponics”.

The system was then marketed under a company called ‘Genisis Technology’. They began distributing aeroponic systems throughout the world.

As of today, the original technique of aeroponics has been improved, re-developed, and redesigned by various companies, making it one of the most popular soil-free methods for convenient and efficient gardening.

How Does an Aeroponic System Work?

Aeroponic systems are often preferred over other soil-less gardening systems by many gardeners due to their water-saving and higher-yielding qualities. However, aeroponics is also considered the most high-tech hydroponic method of all. This means the whole system and the process of it can be quite complex to build and execute.

Before starting your own aeroponic garden at home, it’s very important to have a proper understanding of aeroponic systems and how they work. Here’s a closer look:

In an aeroponic system, the plants are lodged through the holes of a tray or another kind of platform. This platform is placed on the top of a water reservoir in a sealed container so that the roots of the plants are dangling in the air. The seeds or stems are planted in a type of foam.  There should be also a sturdy yet flexible support collar to hold them in one place and to provide enough space for the roots as they grow.

plants growing in aeroponics system

The reservoir is filled with a nutritious solution which is pumped upward with the use of a water pump. This pump is connected to a sprinkler system that sprays the plant roots by end nozzles with the nutrient solution. The pump is attached to the timer, which turns it on and when this happens, the nutrient solution is pumped to the grow tray. When the timer turns the pump off, the solution slowly flows back to the reservoir.

A growing medium is not necessary since the plant roots are dangling instead of submerged. Therefore, the roots of the plants get a ceaseless supply of oxygen. This causes the plants to grow faster and healthier, resulting in a bountiful harvest.

Most of the time aeroponic systems are used in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse where it’s easy to monitor environmental factors such as humidity and temperature. They’re also often used in indoor and vertical gardening projects as a modern and sustainable way of horticulture and agriculture.

Just like any other gardening method, sunlight is the primary source of lighting in aeroponics. However, additional lighting may also be required, especially when it comes to indoor aeroponics gardening. In this case, a growing light source is required.

Types of Aeroponic Systems

Based on the technicality, installations, and water pressure, there are three main categories of aeroponic systems:

1. Low Pressure Aeroponic Systems (LPA)

This is considered the most simple and popular type of aeroponic system of the three. As its name suggests, this type of aeroponic system uses a low-pressure yet, a high-capacity water pump that has the ability to pump water up to the sprinklers and spray the plant roots through sprinkler heads.

A low-pressure aeroponic system can be easily built with just a water tank, a tray or platform to insert plants, a high-flow water pump, a timer, and spray nozzles which makes it ideal for household uses.

2. High Pressure Aeroponic Systems (HPA)

High-pressure aeroponic systems are much more costly and advanced to build and operate since they require high-tech equipment. These include:

  • High-pressure, low-flow water pump
  • Enclosed growing chamber
  • Pre-pressurized hydraulic accumulator tank
  • Pressure relief valve
  • Pressure switch
  • Timer
  • Mister nozzles
  • Excessive nutrient solution reservoir
  • Electrical solenoid
  • Tubing

When properly built, HPA systems produce a smaller mist of water droplets with precise control and timing, supplying more oxygen to the roots than LPA systems. Professionals and experts always describe HPA as the best and most efficient aeroponics system in the world. However, due to their high technicality and cost, these types of aeroponics systems are considered more suitable for commercial purposes.

3. Fogponic Systems

Also known as “ultrasonic fogger aeroponic systems”, the Fogponic system produces micron-sized water droplets using an ultrasonic fogger. These water droplets are so small that they look like mist or fog, hence the name.

While the tiny size of water drops makes it easier for the plant roots to absorb the nutrient solution, retaining the moisture for a longer period of time can be hard with this kind of system. Over time, these systems create minerals and salts which will clog the foggers causing the system to fail sometimes.

What to Grow in Aeroponic Systems?

plants in tiered aeroponics systems

Various types of plants can be grown successfully in a well-designed and maintained aeroponics system. These include vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, herbs, legumes, and even aesthetic plants. This is why aeroponics systems are considered ideal for nearly all types of gardening purposes and can be used in households or large-scale commercial projects.

Here is a list of different kinds of plants that can be grown in aeroponics systems.

Vegetables, Legumes, and Leafy Greens:                                       

  • Cucumbers                                 
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bulb fennel
  • Okra
  • Pumpkin
  • Gourds
  • Radish
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cauliflowers
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Peas

Fruits and Flowers:

  • Strawberry
  • Melon
  • Blueberry
  • Orchid
  • Anthurium

Herbs and Spices:

  • Pepper
  • Mustard
  • Lemongrass
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Ginger

Advantages and Disadvantages of Aeroponics

Just like every other gardening method, aeroponics systems have their pros and cons. Knowing these can help you decide whether an aeroponics system is a right choice for you. Let’s first take a look at the advantages of these systems:

Pros of Aeroponics Systems:

  • Plants grow healthier and faster due to the continuous oxygen supply.
  • Minimize the exposure to foliage disease or pest infestations.
  • No soil contamination.
  • No growing medium used. So, the plant roots have the ability to absorb the nutrient solution directly.
  • Higher and faster yield.
  • Saves space.
  • Very little water required.
  • Easy maintenance with no weeding.
  • Educational and research value.
  • Easy to move around and relocate the whole system.
  • No extra fertilizing or watering needed.
  • Nature-friendly gardening with no chemicals.
  • No gardening tools or labor work.

Cons of Aeroponics Systems:

  • Can be tough to operate – This requires some level of technical knowledge, so it can be difficult for beginners to understand how to operate it.  
  • The initial cost can be higher than the traditional gardening methods.
  • Need to supervise the system often for default parts and the pH and nutrient levels of the water.
  • In case of a power outage the plants can be damaged and you might have to water them manually.
  • The root container will need to be disinfected regularly.  
  • Constant exposure to water can cause root diseases.
  • Misters need to be cleaned often.

Should I Use an Aeroponics System?

In today’s world, roughly over 97% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. Soil deterioration has also become another major problem due to all the chemicals and other toxic waste that is disposed to the environment daily.

With the increased need for fresh water and the limited space due to over-population, traditional agricultural and gardening techniques are becoming somewhat outdated day by day. Aeroponics systems provide long-term and effective solutions to each and every one of these problems.

Wrapping Up

Aeroponics systems are becoming increasingly popular around the world, used by gardeners for growing nutritious, chemical-free produce. These systems offer an entirely new method of gardening and they’re highly versatile since they can be used in both residential and commercial environments.