O’Hare’s aeroponic garden. Similar to a hydroponic garden, it lacks soil. This is the first aeroponic garden in any airport in the world. (Photo by Holly Hildreth/Getty Images)

Learn | 01.26.2021

What is Aeroponics?

Some growers swear by aeroponics. But what is aeroponics exactly and is it something you should consider? Here are the pros and cons.

What is Aeroponics?

Aeroponics is a hydroponic growing method in which the roots are suspended in an open-air grow container and consistently sprayed with nutrient solution.

This method is most often used for root cuttings or clones and is favored by expert growers because of the ease with which they can control very variable of the grow process including nutrients, humidity, oxygen intake and pest control.

Aeroponics was first patented by Richard Stoner in 1985 and came into wide use shortly after, but the system was first developed in the early 1900s as a method of studying the root systems of plants.

In an aeroponics system, cannabis is planted in net pots sometimes with the use of a hydroponic growing medium like rockwool or hydroclay. The net pots allow the roots to grow downward into a darkened grow chamber that is kept humid to prevent the roots from drying out. The chamber is kept absolutely dark to prevent algae growth and sun damage to the root system.

If conditions are consistent and root health is examined regularly, aeroponics systems can result in some of the healthiest root growth of any other grow system. The roots are sprayed with oxygen-rich nutrient solution, either consistently or through a timed mechanism that is kept in the chamber and can also act as a reservoir. However, it is recommended to use a separate container for the reservoir so that the grower will be able to monitor the nutrients solution and supplement it if needed without disturbing the roots.

The Pros And Cons Of An Aeroponic System

Photo courtesy of Paul Goings via Flickr

There are plenty of reasons to choose a hydroponics system and many master growers as well as large-scale growers swear by it. However, there are also aspects of an aeroponic system that could make it extremely difficult for first-time growers.

Pros Of An Aeroponic System

  • While the above-ground portion of plants breath CO2, the roots breath oxygen, which aeroponics systems have plenty of since the main growing medium is air. Growers are also able to apply a perfectly tailored level of nutrients directly to the exposed roots allowing the plants to reach their full potential.
  • Like many hydroponic grows, this system is extremely efficient when it comes to water usage as any nutrient solution that is not absorbed by the roots can be recycled.
  • Since the plants’ root systems are in an open-air medium, they are not constrained by pot size or the availability of soil. This means that more clones can be planted closer together and the number of plants you can grow at one time is only limited by the size of the setup.
  • Like many hydroponic systems, the lack of soil means that the plant is not susceptible to pests that are usually found in soil.
  • Harvesting is also made easier by the lack of soil or grow medium as plants can literally be pulled out of the system, roots and all.

Cons Of An Aeroponic System

  • Unfortunately, the simplicity of this set up also means that a poorly monitored grow can quickly go wrong. As the roots are suspended in the air, with no growing medium, they require consistent humidity and feeding to prevent damage and nutrient deficiency. This means that a minor kink in the system, like clogged pipes, power outages or poorly mixed nutrient solution can result in a spoiled crop.
  • This system is not recommended for beginners. You need to know exactly what you are doing in terms of nutrients. A lack of knowledge can quickly make this system expensive as roots can start dying within an hour of the system shutting down. It’s important to have a backup power source as well as a backup hydroponics system in case something goes wrong.
  • While pests are not common in an aeroponics system, mold can be an issue in the planting container since the roots require moisture and darkness—conditions under which mold can thrive.

Is Aeroponic Cannabis Higher Quality?

Photo courtesy of Edward H Blake via Flickr

According to growers who swear by aeroponics systems, cannabis grown with this method has the highest level of trichomes of any other method of growing cannabis. The plants’ root systems are also not limited by space and, therefore, can yield large and healthy plants which, if cared for correctly, could reach that strain’s full potential for cannabinoid content.

Avid Growing Systems, which specializes in aeroponics, claims that these grows can also reduce the amount of time it takes to grow a cannabis plant, knocking the grow cycle down from 90 to just 60 days.

Still, many growers swear by soil grows and say that cannabis grown the old-fashioned way has a richer flavor profile than aeroponic weed.

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