Sunday, September 25, 2022

Aeroponic plant growing method that works properly


Many years ago, I started this blog as one that focused on indoor soilless aeroponic growing from where the name of this blog was derived. Isocult is a word play on Indoor Soilless Cultivation. The prefix Iso also means equal or equally in the English language, that I intended to function as a hint to the fact that growing plants, that have their roots suspended in air, is equally natural (most well known are orchids) as traditional growing of vegetation in soil. It just is less common and therefore scarcely known. It does however have many advantages over traditional cultivation and more importantly, when done correctly, it has a number of advantages, like a shorter growing period, bigger yield, better plant health and taste of the produce. But the key word here is correctly, since most growers have not built their aeroponic system in the proper way. My isocult company, that still was in the research phase, by the way, was wrecked by the criminal tax collectors, that vehemently leech small companies, while extending large corporations generous tax exemptions.

In by far most natural cases of plant growth, the root system is embedded in soil, since this is practical to do for nature in most circumstances. Soil is a good foundation for plants. When plants die, their parts gradually fall to the ground (by the earth's gravitation) and become humus or mold (by the influence of sun light, oxygen and water), that serves as nutrient for the next generations of plants. Because in aeroponic growing the plants' root systems are not bedded in soil, the roots are less vulnerable to pests and detrimental microbes that thrive in soil, can be fed nutrients more effectively and can be aeriated much better than roots in soil. These aspects cause plants to grow faster without the risk of acquiring diseases, while producing a bigger yield per plant, which produce tastes better. In aeroponic growing no pesticides are necessary. But in order to reap the benefits that this type of cultivation offers, a specifically set up and tuned system has to be built, that requires knowledge and some funding.

Why pseudo aeroponic systems fail
Yet many attempts to grow plants in an aeroponic set up have failed. The main cause of failure is the transfer of nutrients to the root system. The only way in which nutrients are fed correctly to the roots is by creating a fog of very fine particles of a nutrient containing solution that is supplied to the roots. The crux is in the droplet size of the nutrient solution particles. Dry fogs will have a mean droplet size of between 5 and 20 microns. Wet fogs will have a mean droplet size of between 20 and 30 microns. Mists have a mean droplet size of between 30 and 60 microns. The dry fog application is the only proper method to supply nutrients to the roots in a high yield aeroponic growing system. Dry fog hovers in the air for a longer period of time than other types of spray, so that the roots are given the time to take them in. Dry fog also does not create a film of nutrient solution around the roots (it doesn't condense on the root surface), which prevents the formation of mold and allows the roots to continue to breathe air. Mist particles are too big, drop down faster than fog due to the earth's gravity, because the particles are too big and weigh too much, while they form a film around the roots. Lastly there is Spray that contains droplets between 60 and 200 microns, that simply is totally unfit for aeroponic growing, yet many would be aeroponic systems are fitted with nozzles that produce such a coarse type of mist or a spray instead of dry fog, that do not transfer nutriens in an optimal way, risk causing mold around the roots and are prone to clogging. This is a recipe for failure, after which growers claim aeroponic growing doesn't work, ignoring the fact that their inefficient set up was the cause of their problems.

Droplet size and clogged nozzles
Besides too lage droplets, the clogging of the spray nozzles are among the main problems that growers, that think they have built an aeroponic set up, encounter. These are the two main reasons pseudo aeroponic systems fail. The solution to these impediments is to use nozzles that produce a dry fog and do not clog. Dry fog nozzles that deserve to be described in that way have no construction analog to that of venturi principle based airbrush-like nozzles, that will at some point inevitably clog. The channel through which the nutrient solution of true dry fog nozzles is supplied, is much larger than those of 'traditional' nozzles. The dry fog is produced outside the supply channel by blasting the pressured air propelled nutrient solution against a small stub that is placed outside and in front of the supply channel. This construction makes clogging virtually impossible and actually is a self cleaning construction.

Dry fog nozzles vs venturi nozzles
Dry fog nozzles cost between 25 and 80 USD in Ebay and since they produce a dry fog that remains suspended in air longer than mists and sprays, there are fewer nozzles needed to supply nutrients to the plants' roots. A good explanation of how dry fog nozzles work and for which purpose they can be used is found here. The presentation is given by the inventor and owner of the AeroScience manufacturer. Unfortunately when visiting their website, all products are listed out of stock (...), but there is a way to distinguish nozzles that are bound to clog from non-clogging dry fog nozzles visually. What remains to be tested, is that of course the construction's performance depends on minute differences in shape of the various parts and the level of supply of the nutrient solution and air pressure, but in any event these dry fog nozzles (top notch quality or not) perform way better than the venturi based ones. Below you see images of the principle of a dry fog nozzles, compared to a venturi based nozzle. In the red circle is where fog creation takes place. Click the images to view larger versions of them in Google's Lightbox.

Supply channel is larger than venturi
nozzle and fog creation takes place outside of
supply channel of the nutrient solution and pressured air

Ultrasonic dry fog nozzle that also creates fog outside of the supply channel

Venturi nozzle - mist creation takes
place inside the nozzle chamber.
Spray nozzles are even worse.

When mist creation takes place inside the nutrient solution supply channel, the nozzle sooner or later will clog - this is inevitable and can't be prevented when using venturi type nozzles. In dry fog nozzles the fog is created outside the channel, which results in smaller droplets - 5 - 10 microns - while clogging does not occur. The latter type of nozzle most definitely is the preferred choice for aeroponic growing set ups. Rule of thumb is, that when observing the fog and there are visible droplets falling down from it, the nozzle is not top quality. The best dry fog nozzles produce a fog from which no visible droplets fall down. If you are physically testing a nozzle, dry fog - as the name indicates - should feel dry to the touch and not form a liquid film on your fingers.

Ultrasonic dry fog nozzles
And then there is the ultrasonic dry fog nozzle, which produces even smaller droplets of 1 - 5 microns. Of course these more advanced type of nozzles come at a price (think €200+). The ultrasonic waves ensure that there is no clogging whatsoever, while they produce the finest droplets of all nozzles. Ultrasonic devices are used to remove stubborn marine life and grime from ship hulls, so keeping channels open to allow nutrient solutions to pass uninhibited, is no problem for the high pitch waves. Some growers may prefer these, but the majority will be just fine with the less complicated dry fog nozzles.

Most efficient aeroponic growing set up
So, however an aeroponic growing set up is going to be built, never use misting or spraying nozzles, but go for the dry fog nozzles. Roots take up oxygen, which they can do in a larger volume in a properly built aeroponic system than when they are embedded in soil. So, roots will flourish when they are properly aerated and when they do the entire plant will be in a better condition. In the schematic image below, besides the dry fog nozzle, a low yield fan is placed near the bottom of the container just above the strainer, which will improve the suspension of the fog, giving the roots more time to take up nutrients (that won't drip away under their own weight) from within the solution and in addition the roots are aerated. Such a construction should boost produce yield and guarantee uninterrupted operation, regular maintenance excluded.

Principle efficient aeroponic growing set up.

Adjustable speed computer casing fans
serve perfectly as root aeration fans

Aeroponic details and set up
The strainer has to be checked with regular intervals, which probably increases as the plant grows larger, also depending on the type of plant. This container is rather tall, since I designed it for plants that hold their produce attached to their long root system, like potatoes, cassava and carrots. Obviously smaller crop, like micro greens and crops that bear produce among their leafs, like tomatoes, require less tall containers. I chose to draw a set up for potatoes, cassava and carrots, because they have high nutritional value and can be prepared in many tasty ways. The pump has to have adjustable yield, while on the type of air compressor in the drawing the yield can also be adjusted. The root aeration fan has to be set so (low) that the flow of the fog will not be disturbed, while still delivering air (oxygen) to the root system. Computer casing fans that have adjustable speed are perfectly suited for the job. It is best to let the fan and dry fog nozzle work in alternating sequence, each running for 5 or 10 minutes, for example. So the two components must be turned on and off at regular intervals, so that they don't interfere with each other. Integrating timers in the system will make sure the various supply systems of pressured air, solution mixture and oxygen work together in concert. Aside dry fog nutrients supply, root aeration also speeds up the growing pace and results in a larger amount of produce, that tastes better. Another reason why oxygen around the root mass is so important is that beneficial microorganisms rely on oxygen-rich environments to live and reproduce. On the other hand, pathogenic organisms do not survive well in oxygen-rich environments. In fact, most pathogenetic microorganisms only thrive in oxygen-depleted environments, which is why they are considered anaerobic organisms. Oxygen around a plant’s rhizosphere (region subject to the influence of plant roots and their associated micro organisms) directly affects the population of beneficial microorganisms that provide multiple benefits to a plant, including increasing nutrient uptake and protection from pathogens. It concurs with the approach of alchemists, who say: don't go against nature, but it is OK to help nature without violating its laws ( the 1:41 - 1:42 part of the video). It also makes sense to include in the construction a hoist to elevate the light fixture and container lid with attached parts to the desired height. The energy consumption of such a system is modest and even alternative energy, like solar panels, can be used to provide most if not all of the energy requirements.

Of course the supply of air and nutrient solution can be automated to ensure that the root system receives the proper amount of nutrients with the optimal intervals. I have seen this done in Youtube videos with a well programmed Raspberry Pi that can be configured in a local network, so that production can be controlled from a central point. I hope this article contributes to solving some of the questions that aeroponic growers may have. I wrote this blog entry with the intentionally induced, unprecedented recession / inflation on its way and iniquitous WEF-compliant government regulations impending, that are meant to force people to live in a dystopian world, in which food shortage will be a major problem, which hints at the concealed goal that corrupt authorities pursue. Aeroponic growing set ups can be used indoors, so that production of food is shielded from the detection of government hunting hound agencies and starved people are looking for produce to steal. An other great feature of indoor aeroponic growing, is that growing is not dependent on seasons, while crop is protected against rough weather conditions - you can grow plants at any time you think is necessary, all year long, every year. The energy, water and nutrient consumption is very modest, a lot less lower than that of growing crops in soil. But growers must bear in mind that they have to mimic aspects of nature that evolved over billions of year, many of which have to be understood thoroughly to get good results. Some of these aspects can be improved upon, because nature delivers energy and nutrients in a different way, but it also means that many mistakes can be made in growing in very different conditions. The crux of the matter is: study the various ways of indoor growing meticulously before beginning to take a shot at it. Don't try to find out things the hard way, there are many who have learned from their mistakes or have performed intensive research on how to successfully grow crops indoors. The challenge is to distinguish those that talk out of their rear end from the really savvy ones.

Other sources that offer necessary information for indoor growing
There are of course many ways to grow plants; what I described here is just one way to build an aeroponic system that actually works. I don't pretend to know all about aeroponic growing, but merely want to warn potential growers to not make costly mistakes that lead to disappointing results. There is this site, the SuperFlux Blog, in which a number of experiments with indoor growing are explained in a nicely comprehensible manner. Understanding in which way plants prefer to absorb nutrients, air and light is the heart of successful growing.

Correct lighting is an aspect of indoor growing that deserves proper study, since many lighting set ups are just accidents that are waiting to happen. If plants are put in an incorrect environment, they will die in a matter of hours. Growers will be discouraged by this and after having spent money on equipment, will not have funds left in search of a correct way to cultivate crops. The Spruce is good site to minimize the risk of spending money on lighting that does not work. The information provided in this site is based on test that employees have performed, because there are many factors - spectrum ranges, light colour, heat radiation - that lead to successful growing or disasters.

Supplying the correct nutrients is a necessity to grow happy plants. Different types of plants require different nutrient mixes, in different quantities, while the correct pH level has to monitored carefully. An incorrect pH value will kill plants faster than growers can earn money to live and spend on their growing system. Plants are even more finicky than humans about what type of food they consume. But when fed well, the reward is generous. Gardeningtips is a good site to start to get familiar with the proper supply of plant nutrient solutions.

pH sensor that can be integrated in an automated control system

General Aeroponic pH-regulation kit

Grow, Micro and Bloom plant nutrients

Plant root system aeration is an often overlooked aspect of aeroponic growing, that could boost the pace of growth and volume of produce significantly. In the 1800's the atmosphere's oxygen level was twice as high as it is now. Vegetation needs more time to adjust to changed conditions; evoltion works at a lower pace. The New Phytologist Foundation offers an in depth article on the importance of plant root system aeration, that will help indoor farmers to grow plants faster, bigger and better tasting. The site is an independent research organization, that focuses on plant science and offers a wealth of information that is useful for indoor growers. If you want to gain an adequate insight on plant growth, it is a good idea to start here. Root aeration probably is the least costly part of an indoor aeroponic system, but it will help to boost growth significantly.

Air compressors are an integral part of an aeroponic system that works with dry fog nozzle(s). Airbrush compressors can be used for the purpose of creating dry fog. There basically are two types of compressors - membrane compressors and piston compressors. The first are smaller and less costly (€ 100 - 200) and the latter types cost a little more (€300 - 600), produce a greater airflow and are more durable. Airbrush Services Almere are a company that offers such machines. The company staff is very knowledgeable and provide a world famous service.

Quiet airbrush compressors

Programmable aquarium pumps are necessary to feed the dry fog nozzle(s) with the nutrient solution. The pump featured here, the Aqua-Computer Aquastream XT USB 12V - Ultra (€90), I have placed outside of the container, because it has a USB connector that allows it to be hooked up to a computer, so that it can be integrated into a central timing system. The company that offers a wide range of aquarium pumps is High Flow.

8 channel dosing pump, allowing to grow 8 different types of plants at the same time

Timers are a necessary tool to automate aeroponic systems. Hydroponics EU offers a wide range of timers that can be used to centralize automated aeroponic systems. They have been around in the indoor growing scene for a long time and know their business. On the ResearchGate website you can even download complete computer program to control your entire aeroponic system.

NASA is conducting profound research into aeroponic growing to provide nutritious fresh food for astronauts on lengthy inter planetary voyages. Download the 2006 spin off pdf-document here.

isocult wallpaper (rightclick to see and download)

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