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Aeroponics is a type of hydroponics system that’s so different from everything else that it’s often excluded from the group of other hydroponic systems. But what exactly is an aeroponics system and how does it work? Is it a good idea for your indoor plants, or is it too complicated and/or expensive? Here we’ll try to quickly cover all the basics of aeroponics systems you need to know.
What is an aeroponics system?
Aeroponics is a no-soil gardening system that delivers the nutrients and water to your plants’ roots by spraying or misting them. Essentially, while plants normally need to extract the nutrients out of the soil, which takes them both effort and time, with an aeroponics system, said nutrients are delivered instantly and effortlessly to the roots.
Here’s a simple breakdown of aeroponics vs. hydroponics vs. soil gardening:
This is the “natural” way for plants to grow. As such it’s easy and straightforward. However, the plants don’t grow as fast as they can and don’t produce as much fruit as they can because they need to exert effort to get their nutrients from the soil. Plus, when you’re growing several plants in one pot, they are also competing for their nutrients. This makes observing and managing their optimal nutrients intake more difficult.
With hydroponics, soil is bypassed as a “growing medium” and the plants’ roots are instead dipped directly in a water & nutrients solution. This optimizes the growth and yield of the plants. However, they still compete for resources, plus it’s easy to “drown” them if the water pump or air fan malfunction.
With aeroponics, instead of dipping the plants in water and nutrients, the plants’ roots are instead misted with what they need. This also maximizes their growth as they don’t need to “try” and extract nutrients from the soil. However, it also removes any competition between the plants and ensures that every single strand is getting what it needs.
In essence, aeroponics systems offer the gardener absolute control over what and how they are growing, and what conditions they want to maintain.
They can be considered one of the more “high-tech” types of hydroponics and, at the same time, they are one of the simpler ways to go about no-soil gardening. That’s because there are only a few things you need to worry about:
- Balancing the right conditions for your plants, which is a given for any type of hydroponics anyway. You’ll need to look into what conditions your plants require in terms of water, nutrients, light, as well as temperature and air humidity, and you’ll need to balance the system for that.
- Whether you have the right nutrients and water mixture at all times. Again, that’s normal for any type of hydroponics – you need to always have the perfect balance of what your plants need.
- Make sure the misters are not clogged and are operating as intended. That’s the only aeroponics-specific thing you need to keep in mind and it’s pretty easy to ensure by simply taking a look at your system from time to time. In other types of hydroponics systems, there are usually many more mechanical components that can malfunction – such as air pumps and fans, water pumps, and so on. With aeroponics, all you need to keep an eye on are the misters.
What other benefits do aeroponics systems have?
Aside from the amount of control they put in your hands and the ease of operation, aeroponics also have other unique benefits they offer:
- Having more oxygen O2 in the root zone (rhizosphere) of the plants improves the growth of most plants. This “aeration” of the roots as you’re misting them with their nutrients, minerals, and water, stimulates growth and purifies the plants.
- Pathogen prevention is another benefit of aeration. Plants grown through aeroponics are much safer from developing any of the microbiological pathogens that often plague soil-grown or other hydroponics-grown plants.
- Aeroponics also helps you control the CO2 levels in the growing area. This is great because CO2 affects the rate of photosynthesis within the plants. This can help you further increase the growing time and reliability, especially if you’re growing under artificial lights.
What types of aeroponic systems are there?
As a new type of hydroponics system and gardening method, aeroponics are still undergoing developments and variations. This is great as it means these systems are constantly developing and improving. For example, NASA recently funded more research and development of new advanced materials to improve aeroponic reliability and maintenance reduction. Unsurprisingly, the space agency is very interested in effectively growing vegetation mid-air.
These constant innovations have so far brought three different types of aeroponics systems with others likely on the way:
- High-pressure aeroponics systems. In these systems, the mist is generated by high-pressure pumps. These are more high-cost systems and are typically used for more valuable plants that can offset the extra cost of the equipment. High-pressure systems are usually the way to go for anyone who is serious about growing plants with aeroponics.
- Low-pressure aeroponics systems. A simpler alternative, low-pressure systems are the more basic type of aeroponics you’ll usually see pictured in guides about the whole process. The plants are suspended directly over the water reservoir and are sprayed gently by a low-pressure pump and water jets or ultrasonic transducers. This simple type of aeroponics is great for people who are new to the field and just want to try it out. These systems are more affordable and simpler to use. However, they are also not as effective. The lower pressure often means that some roots systems may suffer from a lack of adequate nutrients mist. It also means that debris and unwanted pathogens are more likely (compared to high-pressure systems not compared to soil-growth) to develop and remain in the root systems.
- Commercial aeroponics systems. These systems are the pinnacle of aeroponics today. They combine high-pressure pumps and hardware with complex biological systems. The latter provide various enhancements for extended plant life and crop production.
Some of the advanced components in many modern commercial aeroponics systems include disease prevention biological subsystems, pathogen resistance features, effluent control systems, precision timing, optimized nutrient solutions, and more.
Commercial systems are much bigger than any residential system and are, understandably – a much bigger investment.
As you can see, aeroponics offers a wholly new method of gardening. Usable both in commercial environments and for residential needs, aeroponics are effective, efficient, and fun to use.