Like hydroponics, aeroponics is a form of soilless agriculture in which the plants are fed through a nutrient-rich water solution running through the system. Unlike hydroponics though, which pumps running water with nutrients through the system, aeroponic systems aerosolize the nutrient-rich water and introduce it to the suspended plant roots in the form of a mist or fog.
Suspended roots in an aeroponic system (photo source: farmxchange.com)
Beyond being a super sweet way of watering your garden, aeroponics has distinct advantages over hydroponic agriculture. While hydroponically grown plants still require a medium for the roots to grow through and the water to be absorbed by, aeroponic systems can skip this step entirely, saving the futuristic farmer time and money. This also allows for aeroponically grown plants to be moved and transplanted very easily, and without subjecting it to transplant shock and compromising growth. Additionally, because hydroponics require liquid water to run through the roots, the systems are flat or sloped by necessity. Converting the water into a mist and delivering it through the air allows for space-saving and sci-fi looking vertical farming.
CDL Treehouse in Singapore (Photo source: Inhabit.com)
While aeroponics is a natural progression from hydroponics, the method is orders of magnitude more efficient than traditional, in-soil agriculture. According to NASA's own website,
"Aeroponics systems can reduce water usage by 98 percent, fertilizer usage by 60 percent, and pesticide usage by 100 percent, all while maximizing crop yields. Plants grown in the aeroponic systems have also been shown to uptake more minerals and vitamins, making the plants healthier and potentially more nutritious." (Source: NASA.gov)
NASA Researcher harvesting leafy greens from an aeroponic system (Photo source: nasa.gov)
Though it may seem like something out of Star Trek, this technology is real and in use today. Progressive, green tech companies like Aerofarm are developing large-scale aeroponic systems for agricultural use, systems that will become ever more relevant in a world with increasing populations and decreasing resources. But despite its proven advantages, aeroponic systems remain a futuristic ideal to many. Bulky equipment, difficult to acquire fertilizer-solution, and prohibitive set-up cost deter most smaller farmers and home gardeners. But with ecological technology pushing forward at record rates, we here at ADI look forward to seeing aeroponics in every home someday very soon.