Urban Farming: DIY Aeroponics

Here’s a collection of our preliminary research on integrating aeroponics into our balcony aquaponics recirculating system. If you are curious to try aeroponics yourself, use the designs in these videos as DIY inspirations and to help understand the science behind the soil-less system. YOU should build a system suited for your environment and which best incorporates materials you may already have.

Or — if you are more of the plug-and-grow type — check out this perfectly sized home (25 plant site) aeroponic machine on Amazon for less than $100.

Advantages of Aeroponic Grow Methods

Space. Aeroponics, like other soilless grow methods, requires far less space than soil-based agriculture. Like in aquaponics and hydroponics, you can stack plants vertically and roots need less room to grow.

Illustration of compact roots grown aeroponically

Illustration of compact roots grown aeroponically

Weight. Because you don’t need soil or growing material and the attendant weight and volume, you can also grow quite a crop of plants without a tremendous amount of weight. So, like NFT aquaponics and hydroponics, this technology is attractive in spaces like rooftops where heaviness is an issue.

Increase oxygen uptake. Plant roots, which are suspended in deep growth chambers, receive excellent aeration and consistent moisture. This is the main advantage of aeroponics over traditional hydroponics or aquaponics — which uses an aggregate material such as rocks or pebbles. The suspended roots receive 100% of the available oxygen and carbon dioxide in the roots zone, which means you can grow plants longer and faster. This will accelerate biomass growth and reduce rooting times.

Decreased water use. Like hydroponics and aquaponics, aeroponics uses about 90% less than conventional, soil-based farming.

Crop versatility. One distinct advantage of aeroponics over other hydroponic or aquaponic growing systems is that virtually any plant species can be grown. In an aeroponic system the micro environment can be finely controlled. This addresses many of the limitations of other hydroponics growing systems. In other hydroponics growing systems certain species of plants can survive before they become waterlogged.

Limitations

Knowledge. The big disadvantage of aeroponics for the regular person is that it’s not a casual way of gardening. Unlike soil based cultivation, you can’t just dump some seeds in the ground and hope for the best. If you’re not afraid of doing a little homework, though, there are plenty of systems that will allow you to practice aeroponics at home through DIY aeroponics.

Clogging. Since aeroponics relies on the delivery of a very fine mist of nutrient-rich water to plant roots, the micro misting outlets may clog up easier and faster than traditional aquaponics/hydroponics — which generally utilize wider plumbing accessories and water outlets. In both aquaponics and aeroponics, however, you always face at least the possibility of clogged plumbing. We recommend cleaning or otherwise flushing your system from time-to-time to reduce such build-up.

Time. Aquaponics, to a lesser extent than hydroponics and aquaponics, requires a lot of attention and care to ensure proper, disease-free growing environments. Due to the sensitivity of root systems, aeroponics is often combined with conventional aquaponics or hydroponics, which is used as an emergency “crop saver” – backup growbeds – just in case the aeroponic apparatus fails.

DIY Aeroponics

Below are a collection of the best instructional youtube videos that we have come across.

How to Build an Aeroponic Growing Chamber: 9 grow sites using a large pastic storage bin, & heavy duty hydroponic pump and spray bars. Simply add seedlings, nutrient-rich water, and add lights. Great setup for lettuce, basil, and other leafy veggies.

DIY Aeroponic Quick & Easy Setup: Uses one line of sprinklers shooting at 360 degrees angled in different ways to get more coverage, hole saw bits, a drill, a 4mm wood drill (or similar to make the hole). Whole system is black because all light should be blocked out to prevent algae growth.

DIY 39 pepper Aeroponic System (Rails): This video details the rail construction and design of an easy to take apart and clean aeroponic system.

How to build a basic aeroponic system using a 5 gallon bucket: This video details how to build a very simple aeroponic set up using a deep plastic bucket. Probably only good for plants with shallow roots unless you use something deeper than a 5 gallon bucket, as they will eventually grow long and clog the pump.

Commercial Aeroponics

Aeroponic techniques have been proven to be commercially viable for propagation, seed germination, seed potato production, tomato production, leaf crops, and micro-greens. Here are some examples of a few commercial aeroponic systems that we have come across.

source: AgriHouse Aeroponic System

source: AgriHouse Aeroponic System

Chicago Department of Aviation O’Hare Urban Garden: They are feeding +10,000 people per year from over 1,000 crops at one time in their Vertical Tower Aeroponic Garden.

NASA Users Aeroponic Systems to Grow Food: explains the history of how aeroponics was discovered and illustrates how the discovery gives society an amazing opportunity to grow the freshest, most nutritious crops without soil or water.

~~~Happy, Healthy, Safe Farming, Eating, Living~~~

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