Whether you are planning to start a new soilless garden or you just want to modernize and improve the way you grow plants, you will have to choose the right growing system. And in many cases, this means choosing between hydroponics and aeroponics.
Aeroponics and hydroponics are two techniques that many innovative gardeners and farmers are always talking about as they are the modern and efficient way to grow plants without soil. Although they may have similarities, they are different soilless cultivation methods based on different operating principles. When it comes to their application or if you have to choose between them, things can get a little confusing. For those who have no experience on how the two work and what sets them apart.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Aeroponics versus Hydroponics
Aeroponics and hydroponics, the two well-known methods of growing plants without the use of soil, are based on the fact that soil is just a medium that holds together the nutrients necessary for plant growth, and not a requirement. However, when it comes to the actual application, it can sometimes be a mystery, especially if you don’t have a good idea about how the two work, or which one has an advantage over the other.
While neither cultivation method uses soil, there are many differences between hydroponics and aeroponics. The main difference between hydroponics and aeroponics is that in hydroponics plants grow in a nutrient-rich water solution. In aeroponics, the roots are exposed and sprayed with the solution.
Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an aerial environment without using a growing medium. Instead, the roots hang bare. The aeroponics system is designed to spray the roots with nutrient-filled water. All of this is done in a controlled environment without external variables such as fluctuations in the weather. While both tasks require the use of water, they are quite different from each other and provide different benefits.
Hydroponics is mainly based on providing a nutrient-rich solution to plant roots by submerging them. In aeroponics, the roots are suspended in the air and then gently fogged with nozzles or misted to deliver nutrients.
It is also much more important for you to manage the growing environment with aeroponics. You need to keep a close eye on the humidity and temperature and keep timers for your atomizers. Without regular misting, plants in an aeroponic system are susceptible to drying out and death. It is also easy to see how the installation configuration differs significantly for both systems.
Hydroponic systems often use an inert medium to hold plants in place while water flows over their roots.
While aeroponics secures the plants with exclusive clips, which allows the roots to move freely if necessary. If hobby gardeners or farmers don’t want to invest in loose clips, they usually reuse old materials such as planks or foam boards.
A great way to understand the crucial differences between them is to consider what each can and cannot offer. Garden enthusiasts often find that one type of growing system is preferable to the other.
What can be grown with aeroponics?
There are a number of different things you can grow with aeroponics, but there are three main categories that fall in general.
Leafy green vegetables
One of the biggest problems with growing leafy vegetables in the soil is their prevalence of attracting bacteria and pathogens, including E. coli. With aeroponics, you can hang the roots and avoid using them for healthy growth.
If you’ve ever considered planting tomatoes, you know that the typical way to plant them is to start in pots and then transplant them into the ground. Aeroponics helps make tomato maintenance a lot easier as you can grow them in the aeroponics room.
You will find that with aeroponics you can grow up to six more tomato crops per year compared to traditional soil crops. There are many other vines that you can grow successfully in this system, such as eggplants, strawberries, and watermelons.
Another great option for your aeroponic garden is a variety of herbs. By choosing this method of growing herbs, you will use significantly less water when growing larger batches.
Compared to traditional greenhouses, the use of aeroponics requires much less labor to apply these plants. Some examples of herbs that thrive in aeroponic environments are nettles, ginger, and peppermint. While there are only three main categories of plants known to work well with aeroponics, there are many types to consider. You can quickly grow some of the most common and delicious ingredients using an aeroponic growing method.
There are different types of aeroponics setups. Deciding what type of aeroponics setup to use is essential as some may suit your needs better. You can choose between Low-Pressure Aeroponics (LPA), High-Pressure Aeroponics (HPA), and Ultrasonic Fogging Aeroponics (Fogponia).
1. Low-pressure aeroponics
If you are starting your first system, LPA is your best option as it requires minimal tools and knowledge. You will need to use a pump, reservoir, nozzles, and a special enclosed root chamber platform.
In most low-pressure systems, water droplets of up to 50 microns can soak the roots with essential nutrients. One of the main advantages of the LPA system is that it is easy to maintain, especially since it does not contain many parts. This system can also work with a variety of plants, allowing you to grow a diverse garden with ease.
- Easy to use and configure
- Great for beginners
- Compatible with many plants
- Not ideal for large gardens
- It does not provide most of the nutrients.
2. High-pressure aeroponics
One of the alternatives to LPA systems is HPA or high-pressure aeroponics systems. With this system, the water sprays below 50 microns, which is much less than half the width of a human hair. These tiny particles give the roots access to more oxygen, which is ideal for increasing plant growth. You may also find that plants with HPA systems will be healthier and more difficult because access to oxygen improves the nutrient supply.
The main difference between LPA and HPA systems is that high-pressure models require unique sprinklers. You will also have to invest in a more powerful pump and spend more time setting everything up correctly. Most commercial aeroponics facilities use high-pressure aeroponics because it is ideal for making plants grow faster.
- Superior root oxygenation
- Effective carrot nutrition
- Accelerates plant growth
- Expensive and challenging to set up
- Requires prior knowledge of aeroponics
- Ideal for large companies
3. Fogged Aeroponics (Fogponics)
Thе thіrd аnd fіnаl tуре оf аеrороnісѕ іѕ knоwn аѕ fogponics. With this method, the water is atomized to less than five microns, creating a mist instead of a visible mist. The water molecules produced by the mist are so small that they are smaller than the size of a red blood vessel. The biggest advantage of fogponics is that they are ideal for young plants due to the small size of the water molecules.
If you are working with particularly sensitive plants, you prefer to use the mist to protect their integrity. You will find that this system is best for dealing with grasses, clones, and seedlings. Fogponics, however, is one of the more challenging systems to set up, especially for beginners. It will also be responsible for a lot of maintenance, such as removing plugs.
- Perfect root coverage
- Easy to use for cloning
- The roots receive a higher concentration of nutrients.
- Ideal for young plants
- Expensive to set up
- Requires constant maintenance
- Knowledge of aeroponics is necessary
Is aeroponics better than hydroponics?
Aeroponics can be better than hydroponics in some ways because of the following benefits:
If you ever want to move them, instead of taking your plants out of a growing medium, aeroponics will make it easy for you. Remember that your plants are suspended in the air with their roots exposed and from clips or other modified components.
Transplanting the plants requires much less effort and is less likely to permanently damage them. In the same vein, observing your plants is much easier with the help of aeroponics. You can inspect all your fruits and vegetables without disturbing them.
The biggest advantage of aeroponics is that it provides higher plant yields. Since the plants are getting the highest level of nutrition possible, they are likely to grow longer and faster. If you are growing for profit, consider these expensive systems as they may be worth the investment.
In addition to harvesting more ingredients, you will also find that the roots of plants grow better in aeroponic systems. The tougher your plants are, the more resistant they are to disease, so you can benefit from them for longer.
Improved plant health
Aeroponics is generally run in an enclosure, which prevents pollutants from entering your plants. You will also find that they are much less likely to be affected by pests as they are usually used in greenhouses.
When growing an air garden, you should pay close attention to the environment around it and minimize the chance of bacterial growth. By eliminating the chance of contamination and bacterial growth, you have much better plant health. You will also find it will be easier to keep the same plants over a long period of time.
Less water consumption
While hydroponics is the clear winner in water reuse, aeroponics consumes less. Depending on the size of your garden, aeroponics can use up to 25% less water than hydroponics. It also needs fewer nutrients as it is gently sprayed rather than being washed over the roots. It is important to note that both systems are superior to traditional tillage in saving water.
Is hydroponics better than aeroponics?
Sоmе оf thе аdvаntаgеѕ оf hуdrороnісѕ оvеr аеrороnісѕ аrе:
Lower upfront costs
If you’re curious about the world of using water to grow plants, hydroponics is where to start. While aeroponics may seem more interesting, it also takes more to set up. Considering that aeroponics requires the use of specialized machinery to produce a nutrient-rich mist, hydroponics does not. With hydroponics, you can invest in hydroponic nutrients, add them to your water tank and let the system do the work.
There are many DIY methods of building a hydroponic system that you can use to make your hydroponic system at home. By switching from traditional soil cultivation, you will find that it is a much more cost-effective solution.
Great for beginners
In addition to the lower start-up costs, hydroponic systems are also great for beginners. With aeroponics, you should know the basics of growing plants in water, which you can learn with hydroponics. In addition, the deeper aeroponic systems must be taken into account. If you need to do maintenance, you need to know the plant’s needs and system.
Hydroponics requires minimal maintenance, especially since you have complete control over the nutrients your plants receive. You don’t have to worry about working with sensitive equipment or working with accurate timers to make or break your settings.
Most hydroponic systems are explicitly designed to recycle water so you can have a sustainable garden. You will find that with significantly lower levels of waste, your system will reuse essential nutrients for your growth. This point also shows that the reservoir does not need to be refilled as often as long as the nutrients and pH levels remain stable.
Variety of plants
If you’re considering aeroponics or hydroponics, it helps to think about what to grow. Thеrе аrе mаnу dіffеrеnt types оf сrорѕ уоu саn grоw wіth hydroponics.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Hydroponics?
Spread of the disease
While your plants are not submerged in the ground and susceptible to most diseases, hydroponics can facilitate the spread of root diseases. Since your plants share the same nutrient-rich water, the roots of the other plants will be affected if one plant is sick. This process can make it nearly impossible to find the source of the problem and force you to throw out all of your plants and start over.
Requires adequate space
When considering aeroponics versus hydroponics, it’s important to consider space requirements. Compared to aeroponics, hydroponic plants often require much more space. Since the systems are not as modern and sleek as their competitor’s, you will need to create a large garden.
You also need a lot of storage space for the nutrient-rich water solution and the growing medium.
Use of growing medium
As an added expense that you will be responsible for, hydroponic gardens require an inert growing medium to keep the plants in place. This item is another thing to buy and another part that requires maintenance. You need to change the growing medium regularly to make sure it doesn’t affect the health of your plants.
As the medium wears down, you will need to add more during the week. It’s just an extra step that you can avoid by using aeroponics.
Higher long-term costs
When considering aeroponics versus hydroponics, it’s important to consider running costs. The long-term cost of your hydroponic setup will largely depend on the size of your garden. That said, it can take a lot more to maintain a hydroponic setup than aeroponics.
It will have to consume a lot of electricity for a variety of accessories including pumps and LED grow lights. Before choosing one or the other, you’ll want to do some quick calculations to determine your annual energy consumption.
What are the disadvantages of aeroponics?
Requires accurate timing
It will take time to consider the finite details of aeroponics. You need to find the perfect timing for all of your sprinklers to ensure your plants are properly fed. Plants that do not cover regularly on the schedule are susceptible to drying out and dieback.
When creating your first aeroponic setup, you will likely have to spend a lot of time making sure everything is perfectly timed. There will also be many adjustments you will need to make depending on the growth of your plants.
Higher upfront costs
Even though aeroponics is incredibly advanced and profitable, you have to pay a lot more to start your first business. You need a lot of specialized equipment such as specialty sprays, pumps, nutrient solutions, timers, and humidity controllers. The amount of money required to start an aeroponics system can be intimidating for beginners.
Nutrient absorption in hydroponics and aeroponics
When you eat and drink well, you feel good. The same goes for plants. All the research shows that plants absorb more nutrients from aeroponics than from hydroponics.
In fact, macronutrient intake, for example, shows a clear picture in a lettuce study:
- Nitrogen: 2.13% hydroponics, 3.29% aeroponics
- Phosphorus: 0.82% in hydroponics, 1.25% in aeroponics
- Potassium: 1.81% in hydroponics, 2.46% in aeroponics
- Calcium: 0.32% in hydroponics, 0.43% in aeroponics
- Magnesium: 0.40% in hydroponics, 0.44% in aeroponics
This explains why plants grow faster with aeroponics, but it also means you waste fewer nutrients, which saves money in the long run.
Still, growth and performance aren’t everything when it comes to choosing which system to install, especially if you want to do it professionally or at least cost-consciously. Both are more efficient than in-ground gardening, but one method is more efficient than the other when it comes to making the best use of resources. And you guessed it, it’s aquaponics again. In fact, compared to land gardening:
In terms of saving irrigation water, hydroponics can save you between 80% and 90% water compared to land gardening (depending on the system you use). But aeroponics will save you 95%! When it comes to fertilizer savings, hydroponics ranges from 55% to 85% (again, depending on the system) and aeroponics remains stable at the top end of this range – 85%.
If you want to compare an increase in productivity, Tomato cultivation shows that hydroponics produces between 100% and 250% more than growing on land (still between double and more than three times more), but aeroponics works in the air ( small pun) with 300% more.
Therefore, in terms of long-term running costs, aeroponics is cheaper than hydroponics. That said the main cost of aeroponics can be the electricity used by the pump; because there are so many pumps and some gardeners get carried away with the quality and power of the pump, running costs can quickly add up if you go the techies route.
What’s Better: Aeroponics or Hydroponics?
When considering aeroponics versus hydroponics, it’s easy to see which process is best for your needs.
As a beginner, hydroponics is the clear winner as it teaches you the basics and is less expensive to get started. On the other hand, aeroponics provides a higher return and a greater return on your investment in less time. Both alternative cultivation methods grow without soil. They also use less water than soil.
How about maintenance?
Your road to the green urban world of the future is now at a fork; on the one hand, you have an easy but rewarding life, on the other hand, you have a more difficult but productive life.
Aeroponics needs continuous checks and constant monitoring; hydroponics is much less demanding from this point of view. All aeroponic systems are completely dependent on electricity; not all hydroponic systems are.
Not only, but because HPA cycles are fast and short, any electrical failure, even a short one, can have serious consequences. Many aeroponic experts say it can be challenging to keep the humid and warm conditions in the aeroponic room constant. The problem is worse with small chambers,, while larger chambers, have more stable conditions. So overall, if you want an easy life, hydroponics is a much better option.
Inside and outside
Unfortunately, you have no other choice here. Hydroponic systems can be adapted to outdoor spaces, while aeroponics is especially suitable for indoor spaces. If you don’t have space in your home, garage, or even a greenhouse, hydroponics is your only option.
Both hydroponics and aeroponics deal with growing plants without the traditional growing medium of the soil. The location of plant roots determines how they receive nutrients.
The choice of aeroponics over hydroponics is presented as a matter of spending more on better facilities (which is absolutely justified). Regardless of which of the two is superior, there is no doubt that the introduction of these growing systems has proven to be a blessing in disguise with soil degradation and for those interested in gardening in condominiums and urban areas.