Vertical Farming 102 – Aeroponic Farming

Vertical Farm 102 2 (1)

Welcome back friends! I trust you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and spent some time with friends and family! As promised, today we’ll discuss our final technique for Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture “CEA.” Just in case you missed our third installment about Aquaponics, you may want to give serious consideration to rewinding your life for a few minutes. Read Vertical Farming—Aquaponic Farming Now! Now that we’ve gotten that taken care of, imagine it’s a hot sunny day in July, sitting on the patio drinking lemonade, what’s the one thing you’re missing? You, in the back—did you say mist? Yup! Not only do people enjoy a good mist from time to time, that gives us the basic premise of the Vertical Farming technique we’ll be discussing today, Aeroponics!

What is Aeroponic Farming?

Would you be surprised if I told you Aeroponic farming is a soilless technique, similar to both Hydroponics and Aquaponics? Didn’t think so. The difference between them lies in how the crops’ water and required nutrients get delivered. Whereas with Hydroponic and Aquaponic techniques, the crops’ roots are physically in basins filled with water and nutrients, with Aeroponic farming, crops rely on preprogrammed misters, foggers, or sprayers to deliver the nutrient rich water to their roots, while they’re suspended in midair. When we break the term Aeroponic down to its roots (no pun intended), this makes perfect sense. Aero is of Greek origin and means “air (sky),” while we define the origin, Ponos, as “work.” Sounds like some of that newfangled technology, doesn’t it?

Where Did this Method Come From?

Aeroponic farming was developed back in the 1920’s not for growing crops, but education. Due to the nature of this technique, students were physically able to observe and examine how roots grew over time. Dutch scientist Frits Warmolt Went began growing crops such as coffee and tomatoes Aeroponically in 1957—the first few decades didn’t see much growth, did it? Imagine if TikTok was a thing back then? Fast forward almost three decades once again and let’s introduce you to Richard J. Stoner. Stoner was the first American to use this system of farming in his greenhouse with such success that he applied for a patent for his own Aeroponic growing system in 1983 and was awarded the patent in 1985. Stoner was the first person to commercialize Aeroponic farming and has since become known as the Godfather of Aeroponics. Like Stoner’s crops, this method grew and NASA formed a partnership with Stoner, which implemented Aeroponics as the preferred method of providing food for astronauts in space by the late 1990’s. if astronauts can use this method while in space, don’t you feel you can add this technique to your farm? Implement the correct system for your needs and you’re on your way!

Aeroponic System Types

Low-Pressure Aeroponics: A low-cost, low-maintenance, technologically subdued Aeroponics system, you can find these sold at most stores. While these can work well, once root hairs grow large and bulky, this system will fail in most instances. This type of Aeroponic system is primarily marketed to the home gardener looking to supplement the weekly grocery bill with fresh produce.

High-Pressure Aeroponics: A mid-range choice, a water pump creates small water droplets with can permeate and coat even the bulkiest roots completely. This system allows for increased production, allowing additional profits to small farmers. Compared to the low-pressure Aeroponic system, this type uses more advanced technology. The high-pressure system is geared toward higher-end home gardeners and smaller commercial Aeroponic operations.

Ultrasonic Fogger Aeroponics: Think of this system as the Ferrari of the three. While the other two systems are for home growers and small commercial activities, this one is most suitable for larger commercial operations. Ultrasonic Fogger Aeroponics systems expand upon a High-Pressure system with the most advanced technology. These systems feature cooling detectors, thermal solution management with precision timing, error-monitoring censors, lowest labor requirements, and enhanced reliability, allowing for longer crop life and harvest periods.

What is Required for Setup?

Nutrient Solution Reservoir and Separate Cultivation Container

Water Pump with Timer

PVC Tubes for Adequate Water Distribution

Mister Heads for Spraying

Artificial Light System

What Crops Should I Use this For?

While technically anything can be grown Aeroponically, assuming you have the space and budget for the required setup, this technique really shines for several different crops. Lettuce, leafy herbs, strawberries, and tomatoes present the best and most lucrative opportunities to you if planning to begin your farm based on the Aeroponic technique. These choices are oft-used due to their ultra-quick growing cycles using this method as well as consistently elevated demand.

Leafy herbs and lettuces are easier for the farmer as they are undemanding, just harvest the leaves as needed. However, you must control the environment, and light properly where these crops are growing. Controlled Environment Agriculture anyone? If plants get too much light or too hot, they will go to seed, leaving your crops overly bitter.

Farmers still need to pay attention to additional details when using Aeroponic techniques for fruits and vegetables. Not only do strawberries and certain types of tomatoes require additional monitoring of nutrient requirements, but depending on where they are in the growth cycle, they tend to put out runners, with the goal of sprouting new plants. If your initial goal is to increase the number of plants in your Vertical Farm, settling for lower output temporarily allows you to do so quickly. The sky’s the limit as any crops can be grown using Aeroponic farming methods, some are simply easier than others so feel free to hop in and take some chances!

What Does the Future Hold?

The available land per person on the planet decreases more and more each day, as the population continues to grow. Did you read Vertical Farming 101? If not, I’ll reiterate; the world’s population is expected to grow by 3 billion people by 2050—that’s almost 50%! Aeroponics offers the quickest growth potential of all types of Vertical Farming and CEA, relies on the least amount of water, and administers nutrients to the roots of the plant the most efficiently. Due to this, Aeroponics is by far the most cost-effective method of Vertical Farming and CEA in terms of quality, quantity, and farming ease. Is it any wonder that this method is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25.6%? The market for Aeroponic farming was $578.7 million in 2018, with expected growth to $3.53 billion by 2026—nearly half of that revenue attributed to the Asia-Pacific region. There is more than enough room for you to get in on the ground floor and begin reaping the benefits for yourself!

Widely used in commercial farming operations, Aeroponic farming requires heightened upfront costs, but offers enhanced efficiency, scalability, and elevated revenues to the farmer. Combined with raised selling prices for the superior-quality, healthier products consumers demand, farmers reap the benefits from the quickest growth cycle available in Vertical farming and CEA. Boasting harvest yields of 6 times that of a typical greenhouse, you easily recoup your investment more quickly. This method has been around for a century, and not only is it not going away anytime soon, it’s consistently being improved upon and implemented into new endeavors, due to its incredible effectiveness. At this point, the only one standing in your way of implementing this method into your own farming regime is you! What do you think—is this something you find interesting? Ready to try your hand at Aeroponic farming and see what happens? Let me know below!

Join us again on Wednesday for the final installment of Vertical Farming 102, where we’ll discuss some environmental risks to this type of farming.

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