Aeroponic vertical farming is one among the successful attempts of bringing in new and advanced methods of agriculture to keep up with the growing and developing world. In today’s world, vertical farming opens opportunities for sustainable farming methods that are going to be used extensively shortly. Indoor farming techniques using Aeroponics, Hydroponics, Aquaponics, etc. is truly revolutionizing the agricultural domain.
These systems used under vertical farming give rise to healthy and organic production of food, higher quantities of crop yields, quicker production, and also keep in mind the environment and carry out processes in an environmentally friendly fashion.
Aeroponics is one very efficient technique of growing crops without using soil as a medium of growth. It is gaining more and more popularity day by day in the advanced agricultural industry.
It is a very efficient system of growing crops as it uses very minimal resources and produces good crop with fewer chances of damage or failure, but despite that, there are various risks involved and a lot of research and skill that is necessary to set up, maintain and profit from an Aeroponic vertical farm. Let’s go through all the important information and details that must be kept in mind.
What is Aeroponic farming?
Aeroponics as the name suggests is a way of growing crops in air. It does not make use of a soil-based medium like in regular traditional farming methods.
It uses very minimal water resources and is grown in an indoor setting with controlled environment agriculture. Aeroponics is generally carried out in greenhouses, indoor structures, and many times even in small-scale home gardens.
In an aeroponic system, the plants are provided with a setup apparatus that keeps them upright and in position, and the roots of the plants are kept suspended in midair.
The surrounding elements like sunlight, temperature, and moisture are regulated and maintained by the various high-tech automated systems used in this type of farming.
This method of growing crops has been around since the 1940s, but it has gained popularity in the present time with its remarkable production results using only minimum resources.
It has proved to be an extremely efficient, advanced and a sustainable system of agriculture that utilizes less space but in turn produces higher yields.
The roots of the crops are kept suspended in the air and are misted and sprayed with water solutions carrying nutrients that are required by the crops for growth.
As the roots are in an open environment, they can absorb nutrients and oxygen very easily. Spraying and misting water to the roots directly lead to a 95 percent less use of water in the farming process, as compared to regular processes of farming.
Concerning Hydroponics, Aeroponic techniques make use of only around 20 percent of water resources. Sunlight which is a key element in plant growth is provided through artificial mediums like using LED lights.
Factors such as temperature and humidity are regulated as per the plant’s needs. This technologically controlled system of plant growth is great for indoor farming in urban regions that have fewer land resources for agriculture.
A great variety of crops like – leafy vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, etc. can be produced using this technique of aeroponic agriculture.
Aeroponics in India
The venture of vertical farming in India is a considerably young and uncommon one. The country mostly depends on the traditional methods of cultivating crops on farms.
This primary sector activity hasn’t gained a very proper advancement or technological influence yet, but Aeroponics is slowly and gradually making its way in the Indian land as well.
A startup in Tamil Nadu’s Palladam, near Coimbatore – Thanyas Organic Pvt Ltd has experimented with growing crops using the aeroponic way and has emerged successful.
This farm has been growing ever since and produces around 80 types of vegetables using a soilless system. The results of crop production are over 10 times the regular ways of farming. It has also recorded benefits that are more efficient than the hydroponic system of farming.
Barton Breeze is yet another such firm that uses aeroponic techniques. This is a firm based in Gurgaon. Along with using vertical farming methods, this startup also provides incentives and assists other growing centers in agriculture in India.
There are several other firms and agencies that carry out this type of agriculture and also extend help to other startups regarding this farming business.
Starting an Aeroponics farm in India:
As we have discussed earlier, setting up an Aeroponic Vertical farm is a challenging task but is rather a very profitable asset. The initial expenses and risks are worthwhile and lead to greater achievements and long-term advantages.
Costs of setting up an aeroponic farm depends on the location chosen, building and setup charges, choice of technology used, crops selected for growing, etc.
Along with these basic investments, other factors also utilize distribution of capital, they include – Greenhouse, Watering systems, drainage systems, sprinklers, supporting apparatus, pH meter, labor, thermometers, light sources, measuring cylinders, etc.
Land charges to set up an Aeroponic farm in India can vary from somewhere between 40 Lakh – 70 Lakh per acre of land. It highly depends on the systems and categories utilized in the firms.
Costs vary from place to place and season to season. With all the major influencing factors in mind, a smart investment plan must be used to carry out a sustainable business. Connection with bigger agencies that assist in such tasks and provide incentives can be of great help. Banks often offer loans and subsidies in favor of such business undertakings.
A major requirement is a knowledgeable base with enough strong research and a skilled set of workmen to bring the project into working. Small-scale trials are recommended to try and test the viability of the process and to check and relate proportionally to the larger-scale needs of agriculture.
With the perfect idea about the types of crops, favorable seasons, technological requirements, sources of capital, a supportive agency at hand and will to take risks, the opportunities of having profitable commercial agriculture open up.
The initial expenses of this undertaking lead to enormous benefits. The future of these techniques is bright and investing in them is an equally good choice.
Advantages of Aeroponic Farming:
This advanced way of agriculture has the following benefits:-
- This air-based setup supplies higher amounts of oxygen to the roots. As soil medium is absent and roots are directly in contact with the air, and they receive higher amounts of oxygen directly. When in soil, the amount of oxygen exposure available to the plants is lesser. This assists in the better growth and maturation of the crops.
- Due to the fewer hindrances in the surrounding roots by physical factors, the nutrients that are provided through the air are easily absorbed. In aeroponics, the droplets of water that carry the nutrition for the plants and the oxygen needed for crop growth reach to the roots quickly and more efficiently than in hydroponics. This abundant and continuous flow of oxygen, nutrient, and water helps in the development of crops.
- The vertical positioning of plants in aeroponics makes better use of space. More crops can be planted in less area as they are stacked in vertical rows and columns. This results in the management of space and per area production are also comparatively higher.
- Researchers observed to prove the efficiency of this technique and they discovered that this system of agriculture causes a rise in the production to approximately 30 percent on average.
- Along with an increase in the number of crops, the time needed for the growth is also lesser in comparison to traditional methods of cultivation. According to researchers in NASA, the period required has claimed to be 3 times faster. As exposure to light can be controlled, the plants are provided with artificial light sources for longer, and this results in faster growth.
- Aeroponic system of farming requires less water in comparison to traditional methods that use soil as well as hydroponic methods. It has been observed that this system makes use of 95 percent less water than when grown in a soil medium.
- The environment in an aeroponic agricultural system is regulated and kept clean. There are fewer chances of pest infestations or microbial damage to the plants. As soil as a growing medium is not used, the diseases transmitted from soils are eliminated. Also, the chances of weeds growing are less. The plants develop in a cleaner environment and are less vulnerable to pests.
- As considerably fewer pests and insects affect crop growth and this system of agriculture provides optimum plant growing conditions, therefore, the need for using pesticides and chemical fertilizers are comparatively less. Lesser chemical inputs in agricultural growth leads to cleaner, organic, and fresher food products.
- The system of Aeroponic agriculture utilizes lesser space, does not affect natural land, and it uses minimum water resources. Such procedures for growing crops are very environment friendly. Vertical farms using aeroponics utilize lesser natural land resources and water is also conserved as irrigation requirements are less. This also results in the conservation of forest areas that are instead cleared for agricultural purposes. Along with forests, the animal and plant resources in the forests also benefit from this practice.
- Inducing these developed urban methods of growing plants also reduce traditional processes included in agriculture. Labor-intensive tasks like tilling the soil, plowing, regular clearing of weeds, etc. aren’t necessary for such developed methods. Therefore, there is a lesser requirement for laborers and it makes the process more cost-efficient and reduces labor expenses.
- With automatic machines and no need for fertile land areas for cultivation, this system can be implied in various locations that naturally do not support crop growth or farming. Greenhouses can be built in these locations as well. In turn, it also indirectly reduces transportation of food from one place to the other and the transport costs involved. Ultimately, it results in the reduction of carbon footprint.
Disadvantages of using the Aeroponic system:
Along with all the advantages of this the system of farming used in vertical farms, there are a few disadvantages as well. They include:
- Aeroponic systems require a lot of energy support to run different types of machines and equipment such as pressure pumps, water sprinklers, etc. If any of this machinery gets damaged or experiences any obstacle in the electric power supply, the crop production can be heavily affected. Crop quality can be affected and may even be damaged.
- Developing this system initially is quite an expense and a risky investment. Setting up and preparing greenhouses or other buildings, loading them with proper equipment, providing uninterrupted energy supply, etc. make this procedure financially challenging.
- This method needs commendable knowledge in the various technical aspects to be run smoothly. The right amounts of nutrient supply, temperature, light settings, fertilizing, etc. require extra knowledge as the crops are directly exposed to their needs. Skills and technical knowledge is must along with undivided attention and care to the growing crops.
- As the roots of the plants are open in the surrounding environment and aren’t enclosed in the soil, hence, they need regular tending and disinfecting so that the roots can be kept out of diseases and microbes which may get in through nutrition channels. Hydrogen peroxide is used as a disinfectant which helps to keep the roots healthy and prevents diseases. This is also used because it has less adverse effects on the crops.
- Another flipside that comes along with this advanced way of agriculture is that – these processes need continuous automated systems and machinery. They need fossil fuels to support the running of the machines. This leads to the over-exploitation of natural energy resources. It also produces wastes that are harmful to the environment.
With all the pros and cons of this advanced agricultural method, the odds are still in favor of its usage. The ever-increasing population and its demand for food can be paced up to with this efficient growing system.
As time passes, newer, better, and cost-efficient ways of Aeroponics are being introduced. The market value of Aeroponics has also been progressively increasing. This industry of advanced agriculture is a solution for the coming future and is expected to grow even more significantly over time.