Aeroponics has become a buzz word lately for various methods of growing in a moist, nutrient rich environment. However, there is little consensus on the types of machinery available that best create these conditions. The word Aero-Ponics comes from the Greek words for: Air and Work, just as hydroponics literally means: water-working. This loosely described term leaves plenty of room open for interpretation of exactly what it is in relation to what it does.
Most published source knowledge for Aeroponics comes from the 1960’s, 80’s and late 90’s. The term seems to have originated circa 1942. A commonly held belief regarding the use of Aeroponics dictate that it should provide moisture and nutrients to the rootstock of a plant, allowing said plant adequate resources to grow. It is believed this should be taken a step further in that when the correct conditions are re-created for a plant, that plant will not just grow it will thrive. This takes more than just a delivery method for water. Without proper PH, Nutrients, Lighting, Temperature, etc, a plant will not survive, much less thrive. Too much focus on one system rather than the combining of systems is far too evident when it comes to global food production as a whole. One of three components may be the best at what it does, but the other two hold back the first by way of inefficiency, non user-friendliness, and unreliability.
There are multiple types of Aeroponics on the market and many manufacturers are making the same systems with the same drawbacks. Some of those being:
- Submersible Pumps that require a certain depth to operate.
- The pumps heat the water and require fans or chillers to keep the reservoir temperature healthy for plants.
- The propeller on the magnetic driven pumps put the nutrients through a veritable blender, chopping them as they are forced through.
- The spray from the emitter heads clog easily and do not allow larger nutrient particles to pass.
The hydroponic industry mostly attributes the word aero to air, but another translation of aero comes from the word aerosol. A true aerosol is a very small micron particulate which in many cases is lighter than air. Sonic wave emitters with vibrating discs are one way to get a fog effect, but these types of systems don’t last long and have clogging issues and are difficult to clean.
All trials of the Venturiponic and Versaponic lines have been conducted using X-Nutrients compared alongside multiple other companies’ products. Although the Venturiponic allows large particles of organic nutrients to pass through its apertures, the systems using X-Nutrients ran most efficiently and had the best water solubility by comparison. X-Nutrients cause little or no staining, doesn’t coat everything with slime and causes plants to grow like nobody’s business. Oftentimes, the simplest and most effective things are the best when it comes to agriculture, food production and life in general.
Water Pumps -vs- Air Pumps: As mentioned above, water pumps require depth which in turn requires more nutrients in the water to bring the level up to the desired PPM range. The process of having enough water to cover the water pump in the reservoir has to be done even when cloning and taking micro-cuttings that don’t have root development yet. The heat created while in operation has to be addressed in the form of fans and chillers. Air pumps on the other hand move air, requiring less energy and force. Many water pumps have an umbilical that gathers air mixing it into the water causing more mist. An alternative method has been developed recently that employs an air pump rather than a water pump. The air is at low-pressure, so standard pumps, poly tubing and barbed connectors power the emitters which reverse the water pump process above by pumping air that gathers water instead of water gathering air. This evaporation process becomes like the venturi effect, cooling the water that goes out of the emitter in place of heating and blending it with blades. The bombarded agitation taking place in the Venturi-Mister mixing head is much friendlier to the nutrients in the water compared to the chopping action of the impeller blades of a water pump. Friction also plays an important factor in the free movement of liquid and air. Water is heavier and requires more energy to move whereas air movement with water mixed in is lighter and flows more easily competing against less friction.
Venturi-Mister: This device is the culmination of research and development that demonstrates how form should follow function, but not just for the sake of being different. This device works in any depth chamber/reservoir due to the fact it floats. They each cover an interior space of apx. 18” in diameter x 24” deep, meaning they can float beneath the root masses at a distance or up close, depending upon the water depth. The pump is outside the reservoir, so heat from it is not an issue to deal with. Furthermore, since the pump is outside, when in operation it continuously pumps fresh-filtered air into the reservoir chamber helping prevent stagnation. As air is pumped into each floating emitter, water is suctioned through the intake aperture flooding it into the Mixing Chamber. This eliminates the need for a turbine driven water pump. Once the nutrient rich water reaches the mixing chamber, a specially design interior bounces and shakes the water propelling it from the output aperture into the rooting Chamber. Particles come out at varying sizes including Micronic-Fog. These conditions allow roots to develop evenly and without material other than moist air. Since the nutrients are so evenly distributed to the roots, the shape of the roots become spherical in appearance and don’t have to grow long. This is a result of their not having to go looking for what they need to develop.
This type of nutrient delivery system also speeds up the growth of the actual plant itself rather than focusing so much on root development. The overall conclusion is: Faster Growth + Higher Yields = Better Bottom Line. This formula joined with cooler conditions, economical electrical consumption and the need for less water/nutrients is conducive to a common sense approach to gardening in the most primitive or modern of worlds.
Conversations have been taking place at research facilities and universities the world over concerning the ever increasing need for conservation, reclamation and economic viability when it comes to global food production. It is becoming more and more challenging to feed billions of people. We see this in the form of starvation, mass shortages in food and higher prices at the market. This trickle down effect bruises an increasingly fragile economy in the form of higher fuel prices for homes/vehicles along with high unemployment. Most people used to have their own gardens, now most do not.
The worldwide ability to grow food was recently described by a research scientist at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO as this: “Suppose the world is an apple and we pealed a single strip of skin from the apple 1mm thick x 1mm wide from the top to the bottom… That is the scaled equivalent of usable farm land currently available on the face of our planet”. This reality hits home to farmers and consumers alike. The one thing we all have in common is that we all have to eat and we are all affected by agricultural practices or the lack thereof throughout the world.
For some time NASA has been researching the aspect of taking plants into space for the sustainability of life on long missions and for means of colonization. Gravity has been a challenging factor in the development of space borne greenhouses. Traditional watering methods don’t get along well with weightlessness. A floating Micronic-Fog that is lighter than air on earth may very well serve as a means to distribute life sustaining nutrients to roots so that plants may grow and be cultivated outside earths’ gravitational force or even within anothers. The Venturi-Misters can easily be adapted to a sealed reservoir chamber while still delivering water in the form of fog to the plant’s roots in the rooting chamber above. Theoretically, the disbursed liquid would be utilized by the plant roots systemically and a plant would develop into the area provided by the growth chamber.
Trials began with Dr. Sven Svenson at Southeast Missouri State University in 2011. Since then, multiple products have been created and adapted to the Venturi-Mister technology. Current systems need little or no retrofitting due to the passive nature of the product. A bucket can even be made into a complete system or it may be easier to go through an International Distributor to purchase manufactured commercial systems.
Many growth chambers using this technology also utilize Apache Tech LED lighting for their main source of sun-replacement. The high efficiency of these super bright LED’s coupled with superior research and development are some of the reasons Dr. Gregory Schlick, Senior NASA Researcher, has such high praise for this American made product. In fact, NASA has been using APACHE TECH LED lighting systems for plant growth and development since 1991. As a consumer, the odds of needing equipment that works in outer space is not a necessity, but if it’s available for an affordable price why wouldn’t you use it?