|500Foods shared this story from LettUs Grow - LettUs Grow Blog.|
Aeroponics is a method of growing that doesn’t use soil. Instead, plant roots are irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist. This allows for access to greater oxygen levels and prevents water logging - resulting in higher yields and faster growth rates.
There are many different types of crop you can grow in an aeroponic system and many of these make a good business case, as well as boasting impressive environmental benefits. Here are some of the crops you can grow in an aeroponic system:
These are greens that are popular in high-end restaurants as garnishes or in salad mixes. It is possible to grow large amounts of microgreens very quickly in an aeroponic system. In our systems, varieties such as micro radish and micro broccoli needed only 3-5 days in grow beds after germination.
The nutritional value of a crop will vary depending on what stage in its development it is at. Microgreens are in the stage when they are at their most nutritious, other than when they are a seed. However, the nutrients aren’t as easily digested by us in this form, so a plant is most nourishing when it’s a microgreen. This means you don’t need to eat a lot of them to receive a high dose of nutrition.
Leafy greens, herbs & salads
Perhaps the most common crops you’ll find growing in an aeroponic system are leafy greens and salads, which benefit from year-round growing. They are often used in pre-made salad boxes, sandwiches or in restaurants. Salads have a short shelf life, so growing them as close to the consumer as possible prevents food waste. It also allows you to grow for maximum taste, rather than to ensure crops survive a long journey to the supermarket. Popular crops include basil, lettuce and pea shoots.
Offering fruiting crops in the winter months not only benefits consumers, but allows fruit farmers a more consistent annual turnover and workload. Strawberries are a great choice of crop to grow in an aeroponic system because they can have a very limited growing season.
Tomatoes can also be grown aeroponically. They see the same benefits of year round growth and not requiring soil. This makes the growing process simpler, as there is no need to repot young crops. However, tomato plants require more space than leafy greens and microgreens, which impacts the ability to grow vertically. Therefore, aeroponic tomatoes may be better suited to greenhouse systems. This does not mean vertically farmed tomatoes are ruled out, as there are some dwarf tomato varieties that are smaller but still yield fruits.
Nurseries offer a stable, optimised environment for trees to be propagated and grown to a desired size, and it is possible for growth at this stage to be completed in an aeroponic system. Successfully propagating depends greatly on the quality of the seedling stock. It’s also important to establish a healthy root system, as survival after planting depends heavily on the plant’s ability to uptake water.
Aeroponics produces large and healthy root bodies, which may aid establishment and increase the success of forestry projects. One challenge of growing tree whips, whether in soil, water or mist, includes the possibility of transplant shock - strong root stock is key to mitigating this. We are planning to undertake further research to understand how aeroponics may interact with other factors surrounding tree propagation.
Aeroponics can be used to grow various rooting crops, for example there has been much research into growing potatoes aeroponically, showing several advantages of the systems. At LettUs Grow we have grown both baby carrots and radishes. As the growth of this type of crop is very different to leafy greens, systems are required to focus more on the growth within the root chamber. Greater space, support and access to the roots is needed, therefore system redesigns would likely be required to consistently grow commercially viable rooting crops.
Want to know what you can grow?
What do you want to see growing in your aeroponic container farm? Get in touch with our business development team; they can provide you with a proof of concept and feasibility study for your chosen crop: www.lettusgrow.com/container-farm