Preamble & Mission Statement
For the last few months I have been experimenting with growing plants in an an Aeroponics system. I have been fascinated by the concept of Aeroponics for a decade now, but this is my first hard attempt at seeing if it’s something I can do and develop; apply my skills to and make some contribution to the science of it.
An Aeroponic system is different from hydroponics, aquaponics and traditional soil-based plant growing methods. The internet will tell you that Aeroponics is a system developed by NASA. Instead of growing in any soil medium, the roots of a plant are suspended in a closed chamber and misted, sprayed or fogged with a nutrient rich water solution. Plants grown this way are expectedly hyper sensitive to the conditions of the water they’re being fed.
But if you get it right, the claim is, that under ideal conditions an Aeroponics system will grow plants not only twice to three times as large, but also in half the time. It seems from my on and off research of years that this is a real thing and a lot of people have achieved it. However, it is not at all well documented on the internet. Especially when you compare it to the unbelievable amount of resources available for learning about Hydroponics! There is a recurring frustration when doing my research where, for example, you will see some incredible photos of healthy plants with open air roots but with no background or context (like the beauty to the left). Conversely, there are places like /aeroponicsdiy.com which seems to be one of the greatest aggregators of Aeroponics data out there, but their information inevitably comes without picture proof of their claims.
I believe in Open Source. Obviously, we don’t survive without plants. Without vegetables, fruits, herbs and all those flora goodies. As technology advances, so should the technology and science around propagating the flora we depend on. Aeroponics seems to be an area with a knowledge void that needs to be explored.
The Three Aeroponics Systems
The consensus is that ideal water droplet size is 5 microns. This sized water droplet landing on a plants’ roots will promote the best conduction of food and moisture in to the plant. There are three types of Aeroponics systems: Fog, Low Pressure and High Pressure. A 5 micron water droplet, and thus an ideal system, can only be achieved in a High Pressure Aeroponics system.
Fogger Based System
The fogger should run all the time (though I don’t know any experiments putting them on timers) and they will keep the roots immersed in a constant cloud of mist. The water droplets here are much less than 5 microns, so allegedly not ideal. But, these systems do work and are an easy proof for the efficacy of growing a plant with no growing medium whatsoever.
One great fogger success is here. And hey, I just noticed he uses the same brand of buckets I do. So, good taste guy!
Low Pressure Aeroponics
A low pressure Aeroponics system will use mister nozzles which spray water droplets anywhere from about 30 to 300 microns. These systems are called low pressure because the pump which forces that nutrient rich water through the nozzles will operate between 20 and 65 psi. Below 20 psi there will not be enough pressure to generate a consistent mist from any mist nozzle.
I strongly recommend off the bat that you not try using any of the cheapo submersible aquarium pumps available on amazon and other places. You will notice that in their descriptions they will never list a psi rating, but instead a lift rating. This is because their purpose is simply to move water relatively slow, usually through a filter, and thusly operate at very low psi. I have experimented with several of these submersible aquarium pumps, using different types of nozzles. What you get is a shitty, half limp spray. Even with the larger pumps, as you add nozzles in sequence to the system you will get nozzles in the middle which don’t mist, but bubble.
The mist sprayed on the roots cannot be constant or the roots will be suffocated by an excess of water. Your mister nozzles must be on a timer. The timing is open for debate and research. I operate around a control timing of 7 seconds of spray every 7 minutes.
High Pressure Aeroponics
A high pressure Aeroponics system operates at better than 85psi. At 85psi a 5 micron water droplet mist can be generated. This is a true Aeroponics system and is the system which allegedly will grow plants 2-3 times normal size in half the time. Finding nozzles which claim to produce 5 microns has been trouble to come by for me. Nozzle suppliers tend not to list the micron rating on their products, and when they do how does one verify that this is the micron size actually produced?
Not Just Aeroponics
Aeroponics is fascinating and seems like some kind of silver bullet for harvesting food. But as my mind swirls with ideas there is much more that I think needs attention. Building a better way to make good nutritious food, to propagate in abundance vital herbs filled with medicine, is an inherent human need. There is a void, and making a better way makes a better life for us as individuals and for the future. Deep knowledge about individual flora is not distributed and not applied.
Do yourself a search for how to grow basil. How to raise sage. How to grow dill. You’ll find lots of pages, all relatively similar, all containing most of the same information and rarely going deeper than the soil PH allegedly desired by the plant. These tutorials often come without sufficient documentation (photographs) of their methods being applied to the plants discussed. Search deeper, for time lapses or journals of someone’s grow. You will get a lot of information out of these, but naturally it will be without MOST of the scientific data that you would need to truly replicate their grow. Barometric Pressure, nutrient content of medium, lux of the lights used and countless other datums.
On the other hand, when it comes to Marijuana there is endless information, endless documentation and everything you’ll ever need to know is probably available. This helps us in our pursuit of better flora production, but every herb, flower and veggie is a different soul. They have less in common than one may assume. Each have separate properties and the best method of rearing will be unique to each individual plant.
In launching this blog I hope to meet other people who see a similar need. I am going to document my flora related experiments here so that other people can both learn from and critique what I am doing. My focus is on applying tech to my gardens to make them more autonomous and to feed a data set of sensory input affecting the plants. And hopefully I can develop some products along the way to fund bigger and better experiments.
Planting the Seeds…
My experiments over the last few months have seen a lot of failure,sometimes known as opportunities or learning experiences. I started by planting in custom wooden planters I made, which I will post about
later. These wooden planters leeched chemicals in to my water ultimately proving to be a consistent plant killer.
Not wanting to dedicate the time to making fitted plastic inserts for these wooden planters I moved to bucket foggers and sprayers. These worked better, but I struggled with insufficient lighting and lack of climate control among other things.
I have decided to build some shelves, get some real grow lights and start building a legitimate laboratory for my plants. I have come to believe that to have a successful Aeroponics system one needs to “plug in” cuttings from strong mother plants. As opposed to plugging seedlings or seeds in to the system.
So today, December 18th 2019 I have begun germinating seeds for Dill, Basil, Oregano and Sage. Normally I germinate seeds by putting them between two wet paper towels, between two plates in a warm room for 3-5 days.
This time I germinated the seeds by putting them in small containers in Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Soil from the home depot. I moistened this with Distilled Water and covered the tops with plastic wrap. Let’s see what happens!