What is aeroponics? That’s a fair question that deserves a straight forward answer. The term aeroponics comes from the root word aero for air and ponics which means working. So hydroponics means working water and aeroponics means working air.
Some consider aeroponics a special kind of hydroponic growing system and some consider it a totally different technique.
At its most basic aeroponics requires that roots are suspended in air and are sprayed, misted or fogged at intervals. In essence air is the growing medium whereas hydroponics uses water as a medium.
There are two basic types of aeroponic systems and they are high pressure aeroponics and low pressure aeroponics.
Low Pressure Aeroponics
Low pressure aeroponics uses mag drive pumps and ez clone type sprayers. They use a lot of water because these high volume pumps rarely give more than 10 psi at most and often only 2 or 3 psi. You will want at least 400 gph per tote to provide enough flow to run the sprinklers.
This system doesn’t use any grow media but holds seedlings or clones in a net pot with a neoprene insert. Some growers do use hydroton inside the net pots but this is totally unnecessary.
They can not produce a fine mist. I started with low pressure aeroponics and looked high and low for a submersible pump that could put out 25 psi or better so I could run fogging or misting nozzles and they just don’t exist.
The closest I came was a sump pump that got to 25 psi. Unfortunately it used a ton of water, power and had a conventional electric motor. There is no way it could have withstood the constant on off cycles for long and the power bill would be huge.
If you put these units on an interval timer they will work pretty well. You wont usually get those pretty fish bone type roots with this system but you can get some bumper crops with them once you dial them in.
Once I realized I was looking for something that didn’t exist I decided high pressure aeroponics was worth a try. It does cost more for fittings and spray heads but actually if you are going to grow 3 or 4 totes the pump prices are about the same. An added advantage is you can get a 24 volt system instead of running on 115v. Your plants will have pretty fish bone roots to better take up nutrients and you will be mixing a lot less nutrient solution too.
High Pressure Aeroponics
With high pressure aeroponics you use a pump that produces 80 psi or more and nozzles that produce droplets of 50 microns. The result is a very fine mist. Roots get moistened but never soaked and they develop that fish bone pattern.
If you compare my pics you can see the difference in root development between high and low pressure systems. Also I should point out that different strains have different sized root systems. Cinderella for example has a much smaller root system than Sugar Punch and my King Congo had the largest of all.
You don’t use any growing media with these systems. Instead plants are grown in net pots and held in place by a neoprene insert.
These high pressure pumps don’t move a lot of water and so you don’t need a large reservoir. This means you will have to mix a lot less nutes than with a low pressure or hydroponic system. The Aquatec 8800 series booster pumps work great for this. They are often used as pressure boosters for RO systems.
Because of the fine root structure and small droplets nutrient absorption is also greatly enhanced. So you will need to run your ppm about 50% lower than in a conventional system or you will burn your plants.
There are also hybrid systems that some call aeroponic but in reality they are closer to NFT (nutrient film technique). You may have seen various hydro systems that use square vinyl fence posts or PVC pipe. The General Hydroponics Aeroflow system is a good example of this.
Even though these systems may not use media and spray the roots they are not aeroponic systems because there is no room for the roots to hang down. They work quite well actually, but we can do a lot better with a true aeroponic system.
Why Do You Want An Aeroponic System?
One of the major advantages aeroponic systems have over other types of growing methods is the lack of disease problems.
Because there is no soil there are no soil born diseases and also no soil borne pests. Also because the roots hang in the air these systems are free of the root rot problems that can occur with hydroponic growing systems.
These systems do not use air stones because there is no need for additional aeration. The root environment and falling mist or droplets provide all the aeration that is needed.
Growing media is not used in aeroponics. This saves money on operating costs and eliminates storing and disposing of spent media.
Because you don’t need media or noisy air pumps aeroponics is ideal for stealth growing. It is totally silent. Also you need to haul a lot less water and water weight and leaks can be a big issue with a hydroponic system, especially if you are growing in an upstairs apartment or an attic.
Aeroponic plants need 50% less nutes and what you do need to mix is less than any other system. This is another money saver for the grower.
Your plants will mature faster. An aeroponic grow will mature 7 – 10 days ahead of a soil grow. Both aeroponic and hydroponic systems will produce higher yields than a soil or soiless system. It is hard to say if one will out yield the other because systems vary so much, but the aeroponic plants will be superior to those grown any other way.
An aeroponic system grows superior weed simply because healthy plants with healthy root systems produce the best weed. Because you need less fertilizer the need to flush is reduced and the smoke is never harsh. You will also find that smell in the grow room and humidity levels are more controllable too.
So why do you want an aeroponic system? In a nutshell you will grow the best weed possible at lower cost, grow it faster and your plants will be disease free.