Aero-hydroponic systems

by Wilben, Last Updated: 2020-03-01

This article describes aero-hydroponic systems. If you are not familiar with hydroponics, we recommend starting with the post ?What is hydroponics?? And also ?Types of hydroponic systems?.

Aero hydroponic systems

Fast passage

This is a more modern method. The method of aero-hydroponics is often called ?aeroponics,? but these are different methods. Aeroponics is a common name for all systems in which forced air oxygenation of water takes place. Developed quite a few ways. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, parallel studies of this method were carried out at the University of California Davis and in Israel?s laboratories. In countries where commercial-scale hydroponics is only beginning to develop, it is rapidly gaining popularity, replacing traditional methods.

These closed circulation systems do not harm the environment. In large enterprises, they are rapidly replacing environmentally harmful technologies that pollute the environment with their waste. The dynamic circulation of water helps to remove unwanted gases from the nutrient solution. Toxic waste will not accumulate in the root zone even with long-term plant maintenance. Air, water, or whirlpool systems are used in aero-hydroponic systems.

Air pumps

Air pumps are sold in hardware stores. With their help, the work of compact hydroponic systems is ensured. There are many ways to supply water with air. In the 1980s, Larry Brooke invented a device that could be used with any type of container. The original V-shaped accessory provides air at the lower portion of the pipe. When the lower part of the pipe is immersed in water, the air entering the water forms bubbles, which displace the liquid up the pipe. For a better distribution of the nutrient solution, you still need a ring with holes at the bottom. The layout of this device is very simple: a container with holes in the bottom is filled with expanded clay, on which the plants rest, and placed in a container ? a larger tank. A low power air pump or aquarium compressor oxygenates the liquid through the pressure tower described above. A side-mounted transparent tube helps to see the level of the nutrient solution in the system. It is connected to the bottom of the system through a gasket and a closed square. With the help of the pressure column, the nutrient solution rises up and through the ring irrigates the container. Next, the solution flows by gravity into the lower tank.

Oxygenation? Yes, to the maximum. Climbing up the pressure column, water is mixed with air bubbles. Part of the oxygen in the bubbles dissolves in water and dissolves, even more, when the solution falls from the ring onto the substrate. And yet this is not enough compared to what will happen next; when the nutrient solution is returned by gravity to the reservoir, it circulates in the form of a film. This film moves, enveloping the surface of expanded clay pellets, and does not directly sink to the bottom! It must bypass many pellets before it reaches the bottom. This forms a huge area of ​​contact between air and water, incomparable to anything else. As a result, the solution is oxygenated ? saturated with oxygen as it is immersed. Thus, the water in the lower pot is always well oxygenated. When the plant grows and the root felt passes through the hole in the bottom of the inner pot in the lower pot, it is in an ideal environment.

These pots are excellent for detached large plants. In such a system, you can grow them for years. They can grow to a very impressive size. Being single pots, they are ideal for sick or elderly people who care for their favorite plants. They are easy to look after and can be lifted a couple of blocks to facilitate access. This system is preferred for use by the disabled and elderly. These are very good installations, but if they are not connected to the secondary reservoir, then they need an eye and an eye. In hot weather, a large plant consumes water in 2-3 days. It is encouraging that the pots can be easily connected to each other, and then to the central tank. You can even force the nutrient solution to circulate between the pots and back into the main tank. This ensures uniformity of the nutrient solution in all pots in terms of pH and electrical conductivity. Then you can serve all the pots from the main tank. No extra energy is consumed. In this embodiment, a small air compressor is used, which provides oxygenation for each pot, as well as circulation between the pots, thanks to another clever invention by Larry Brooke.

This system is often criticized for not having access to the nutrient solution. Actually, this is not a problem. You can measure pH and conductivity in the gauge. It is enough to slightly tilt the top and fill the glass. (It is better to pour the first glass back into the system in order to test not the water in the pressure column, but the water in the tank.) Empty another glass and test its contents. If you can carefully lift the system, at least by one brick, you can completely empty the entire system by tilting the gauge. The system can be refilled from above, irrigating the substrate as soil.

There is practically no flaw in these systems. In fact, they are so popular that the volume of monthly sales only in Western Europe exceeds 1000 units. Since General Hydroponics ? California introduced this system in 1980, it was copied so many times that it could rightfully take its place in the Guinness Book of Records! And today, a slightly modified original model is still in demand. Everywhere you can find a lot of copies of it or simply assemble it yourself.

Water pump

For larger systems, aero-hydroponics use water pumps that circulate water in the system. These systems have a modular structure and can be from 1m2 to industrial size ? 25?8 m. This is the largest size to create an easy-to-maintain installation. Their device is quite simple. Square pipes are taken from white plastic because white color better reflects heat radiation. The pipes are drilled and set up ?seedling cups? or net pots that look like ordinary pots with only wide slots. Through these slits, the roots germinate freely outside, and water freely circulates through them.

In these pots, a handful of expanded clay pellets or similar well draining substrate provides physical support for the plants. The white tube or a rassadnaya chamber (box) is equipped with a lid on each end. This is a sealed chamber in which you can maintain a certain level of water. There is a hole in the bottom at one end of the chamber. A conventional PVC pipe, passing through the gasket, allows you to adjust the level of the solution in the chamber. Usually, camera dimensions 12x12cm; length from 1 to 4 m. depending on the system.

Between the chambers or sometimes inside them a plastic hose delivers the nutrient solution. If the trunk pipe is outside the chamber, then the secondary tubes feed the solution into the root zone by the same construction as in drip irrigation. However, this is where the similarities end. These two methods are absolutely incomparable. In aero-hydroponics, the pump-supercharger at the end of the secondary pipeline delivers not a drop, but a powerful stream of spray. Another fundamental difference is that each plant does not have its own sprayer. Sprays are located along with the entire chamber, one for every 3-4 plants to provide a fresh nutrient solution throughout the chute. The role of these nebulizers is rather in oxygenation and transfer of nutrient solution than in irrigation. The solution becomes over-oxygenated when it passes through the air in a spray form. This process gave the name to the method ? aero-hydroponics. The chambers are connected to the return line (another PVC pipe), which carries the solution back to the tank. The pump is immersed in the tank, where it drives the solution through the filter. In the greenhouse, the chambers are placed on blocks, and the tank is buried in the ground. Indoors ? the cameras are raised on supports, and the tank is placed under them to save space. Pumps work all day but can be turned off for a while at night to save electricity. If you start work when plants have small roots or cuttings do not have roots, you raise the gauge until you cover 2 cm. At the bottom of the cup. As the root felt grows, lower the water level until it drops completely, or clean it altogether if the weather is hot.

It describes a typical aero-hydroponic system. There are others. Aero-hydroponics can be carried out in separate pots, which are all connected to the same tank by common supply and return lines. While water is sprayed from the supercharger and passes through the air for the purpose of oxygenation, this is aero-hydroponics. Indoors, this method is often used for rooting cuttings. In this case, a plastic box with holes in the lid accommodates mesh cups. Inside the box, a pump and thin tubes with a lot of nozzles-blowers create a spray that fills the space between the water and the lid of the box. Of course, cuttings take root in such conditions with pleasure!

Whirlpool (Vortex)

Hillel Soffer invented the original device, which is a rotating cone with special grooves inside and outside it. They are designed for spraying water with a fan. Unfortunately, initially, the installation was more successful and was supplied with a motor with a rheostat, with which it was possible to adjust the speed of rotation. For commercial applications, the whirlpool installation was completed with an economical 12 volt motor. This development of Hillel Soffer was created as laboratory equipment but was widely used as an ideal method for crop laboratories. This device provides better oxygenation. The only limitation is its size. Since the whirlpool system has a diameter restriction of up to 75 cm, it is mainly used for growing cuttings. Although these systems can also be used for the full cycle of plant cultivation. In this case, you will have to make a protective casing around the pinwheel so that the growing roots of the plants do not wind on the motor.

Aero-hydroponics is a great technology; it is superb, especially in hot weather. This is probably the only hydroponic method that works when the temperature of the nutrient solution exceeds 30? C! The volume between the nutrient and the upper space of the chamber fills the moist air saturated with water vapor. When the air is heated, evaporation of the nutrient solution enhances the action of the sprayer, turning this closed space into a better environment for the survival of the roots in the heat wave. Therefore, this technology is in growing demand in Asia, where many greenhouses are located in hot climates. Aero-hydroponics has been used for more than a dozen years and, of course, is a favorite for many. These systems provide the level of oxygen saturation in the root zone and, accordingly, an almost magical growth rate. Very impressed with the fact that the cameras can always maintain a certain level of water ? this is a good precaution in case of pump failure. If the pump fails, then depending on the size of the plantings and the temperature in the room, the plants will survive from 24 hours to 2-3 days. This time is enough for taking action and troubleshooting. After commissioning, these systems do not form or almost do not form waste. Cups and pellets can be reused indefinitely: no need to get rid of the bulky substrate. The system is relatively easy to clean or disinfect between harvests. Truly, this system is a godsend for lazy people, although due to the rapid growth of plants one has to be vigilant, like driving a racing car!

The disadvantage of the system ? its high cost in the purchase and operation. It requires a more powerful pump than other hydroponic technologies of the same size. In the greenhouse industry, they are mainly used for growing high value-added crops or fast-growing crops, such as salads and medicinal plants, whose crops can be harvested several times a year. The system is also used by plant traders who specialize in collection plants for distribution; either to sustain life or to make a stubborn plant to bloom. With small dimensions up to 10 m2. energy consumption is not a problem, but problems start at an industrial scale. Small road systems are still due to the laborious assembly.

If you need to grow plants on just 1 square meter, the market can offer you many options. For such dimensions, you can find NFT or a periodic flooding system at a very attractive price. Only the good old air aero-hydroponic pot can compete in price among installations with such a useful area. With large dimensions, the choice is limited. Do not worry about buying aero-hydroponic system. Additional harvest will quickly pay back your expenses. You can also build your installation from parts purchased in gardening stores at a reasonable price, and you can find detailed system drawings on manufacturers? websites that are very accurate so that you can reproduce them. The lion?s share of the cost is labor. Obviously, if you do everything yourself, you will save a lot, but it will take a lot of your time, and more than what you were going to spend. Ultimately, the choice between homebrew or a purchase system depends on how much you estimate your time.

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