PURCHASING AN AEROPONIC SYSTEM
The market hosts different makes and models of Aeroponics systems. They defer in size and costs. This section explores these systems and their costs to give you more leverage while deciding which of them to purchase.
AeroFlo² come in 5 different specifications with different features to offer. You get 18-sites, 20, 30, 36 and 60 sites Aeroponic system. The AeroFlo² 18 costs $350-$370 and it has a 17-gallon reservoir. Three-foot grow chambers, 951 GPH waterpower 120 pumps, Injection manifold, support structure, 3” grow cups, cocoTek coco cups and 3-part flora nutrients kit.
You also get an AeroFlo² 20 which is suitable for small crops such as cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and others which do not grow taller than three feet. This system grows 20 plants at a time and will cost you $340. The specifications are 8-gallon water reservoir, two 6-foot chambers, mag drive 3 pumps, injection manifold, support structure; 3” grow cups, cocoTek coco cups, and 3-part flora nutrient kit.
If you intend growing salads, chives, and other plants which are up to three feet in height then the AeroFlo² 30 is the perfect system. This offers high performance even though it’s not big in size. AeroFlo² 30 growing 30 plants at a time comes with the following specifications; 17 gallon reservoir, Three 6-foot grow chambers, 951 GPH waterpower 120 pump, Injection manifold, Support structure, 3″ Grow Cups, CocoTek Coco cups ,3 part Flora nutrient kit. This system will cost you $475
AeroFlo² 36 like the AeroFlo² 30 comes with laser sprayers directed at the roots which create the perfect mist for your plants. The specifications are similar to the AeroFlo² 30 but differ slightly as the AeroFlo² 36 contains 40-gallon Panda reservoir, six 4-feet grow chambers and Bluestone pump. AeroFlo² 36 will cost you $800.
Last but no least in the AeroFlo² range is the AeroFlo² 60 which is the largest of the range and give 60 growing sites with extension which can be purchased separately. This is suitable if you want to go big in your garden. The specifications are similar to all the other ranges but this model comes with 40-gallon Panda reservoir, six 6-foot grow chambers and 1/4 horsepower TNC pump. AeroFlo² 60 will cost you $915.
Aerojet is a botanicare Aeroponic system which uses microjet sprays for misting. It comes with a grow tray which caters for 6 plant sites. The grow tray is removal for ease of maintenance. The specifications of the Aerojet are; Heavy duty anodized aluminium bench, Water pump, Reservoir, Grow trays with lids, Manifold piping, Sprayers, Root guards and 4-inch net pots. The Aerojet will cost you $700 for a two tray system.
Nutrients are an essential component to the growth of plants. In normal soil gardening fertilizers are used for this purpose. Aeroponic nutrients are made up of water soluble macro (N-P-K) and micro nutrients (trace minerals). N-P-K is an abbreviation of Nitrogen – Phosphorus – potassium where nitrogen is essential for the growing strength of the plants, Phosphorus is essential for flower and root development and potassium is important for the overall health of the plant.
Nitrogen applied in high quantities will make the plants grown faster but weaker and susceptible to various diseases so it is important that we apply the measure according to the plant species we are growing. Also the combination of N-P-K is different from plant species to species.
The nutritional solution is added into the water in the reservoir and monitored using TDS (total dissolved solids) meter. The measurements of the nutrients is in Parts per million (PPM) and added continuously as needed by the plants.
The Aeroponic nutrient solution must have a balanced PH level for successful results. PH level is the potential hydrogen-hydroxyl ion contents of a solution. Why is it important to maintain a specific range for certain plant types? A neutral PH level is 7 and Acids are lower than 7, alkalis is above 7. If the level is not in a proper range; the plant loses its ability to absorb nutrients needed for growth and health.
What is the balanced PH level?
The chart below will show you the recommended PH levels for specific plantations.
The tomato is down at 5.5 which would explain why it causes heart burn for some of us yet we still love it.
The next step would be to know how to measure the PH level in your solution. There are few methods in the market to accomplish these tasks. The choice is merely dependent on affordability, readability and stability
The first option is a paper stripe which is saturated with a PH sensitive dye that changes colour when dipped into a nutrient solution. The results on the paper stripe are then compared to a PH colour chart to determine the PH level on the nutrient solution being checked. This is probably the cheapest way to check your PH levels however it gets complicated to interpret because the colour differences are delicate.
Second option is a liquid PH test. You basically drop a small amount of the liquid to the nutrient solution you are testing. The solution will change colour and then you will compare the outcome to the PH colour chart to determine the PH levels. This is more accurate and reliable compared to paper stripes. As expected they are a little higher in price.
The most advanced test is the digital meters. This method uses high technology electrodes which are simply sipped into the nutrient solution and the PH level is displayed on the LCD screen of the device. The digital Meter will cost you anything from $19 upwards but still giving you the most reliable and readable results.
How do you adjust PH levels for Aeroponics?
It doesn’t help you much knowing that the PH level is high or even low if there’s nothing you can do about. With your Aeroponics system you can control the PH levels using a solution called PH adjuster (UP) which you can add to your nutrient solution to increase the PH levels or PH adjuster (LO) which helps lower the PH level if it’s too high. Both this solutions can be purchased from Aeroponics suppliers or an advanced gardening shop.
Now that we’ve learnt how to monitor your PH levels and the amount of nutrients needed for different plant types let’s move on to monitoring the actual nutrients. Remember you have to add necessary nutrients to the reservoir as needed by the plants but how do you know when to add or how much to add? Keep reading as I will answer those questions for you.
THE AEROPONIC SYSTEM
CREATING AN AEROPONIC SYSTEM
Firstly you need to know the components needed to build the system. You will need a Container which will serve as a reservoir for the water and nutrient mixture. You will need a pump to pump the water and distribute it through the provided nozzles. You will have to build a PVC structure so there’s PVC pipes that needs to be purchased. To distribute the oxygen and water solution you will need misters or spraying nozzles which can be purchased from your nearest hardware store.
The plants should be held by cups so you will need to purchase net cups for that purpose. A timer is needed to automate the system and an optional air Pump to renew the oxygen already present in your water solution.
Now that you have all this information let’s get building!
The container is to store the water solution needed to spray your plants. The size is dependent on each environment’s scale so if you have a larger plantation then you will need a container able to house more volume in terms of water and nutrients. This is a standard bucket which can be purchased at most hardware stores. The major requirement in terms of its nature is that the lid should have a lip on the inside. You could also use a bucket you have at the house provided it’s still in working condition, without holes to avoid leakage and wasting of the solution.
Before working the PVC tubing you need to measure the sizes of the tubes you will need to cut and this is easily done by working from the centre to the margins until the PVC structure is complete. The black object indicated by the arrow is the Aeroponics Pump. When purchasing the pump keep the following in mind: The pump must be able to operate in quiet mode, it should be in a perfect condition for the water and nutrient solution. Preferably choose a seal-less motor design as this guarantees a long life span for the device, the pump should have automation abilities to boost the pressure and should operate on demand.
The PVC structure is thus worked from the centre using the pump to measure the length of each pipe that needs to be cut. The end product should be your T pieces on top of the pump. In case you are wondering, The PVC structure will actually control the styling of the parameter so it is imperative that you get this right.
As you can see on the picture above, we’ve used the principle of working from the centre to the edges to measure the length of the piping. One key thing to remember here is that, your piping should be correctly fitted to ensure stability of your structure. Also we could have used welded iron pieces for this work but the plastic fitted pieces are easy to remove for cleaning/maintenance purposes as the edges of the PVC structure will contain clogs that need to be cleaned continuously.
Ok, now that we’ve secured that the structure is properly measured and will result to a stable PVC parameter, Insert the last four edges and connect the sides tubes cut to fit into the sides of your container.
You need to use the pots that will be used to hold the plants and cut holes accordingly as shown in the diagram above
Above is a picture of a mister/Spray nozzle which is used to distribute oxygen and the nutrient mixture to the roots of the plants. The nozzles are mounted on top of the built PVC structure which has been placed on top of the pump. For this system you will need less than 10 misters. You need high pressure misters for this job otherwise they will not be able to pump up the mixture as desired. The Nozzles come in 0.16” and 0.25”. This should have the capability of producing fine mist patterns to promote lower water usage and to avoid flooding the roots.
Aeroponics air pump
Generally you do not need the air pump to provide oxygen to your plants; this is already taken care of by the sprayers. The water contains all the air your plant’s needs. The air pump which is optional will assist in renewing the air already available in your water solution. This also causes movements/bubbles in the mixture thus ensuring that the solution stays mixed and the nutrients added dissolve well.
The component that brings the setup home! After all of the above is setup, you will use the Net Cup to hold your plants. Best would be to put a little sponge inside the cup and insert the step of the plant through exposing the roots to the PVC & misters underneath the lid. The sponge helps retain the water as the soil would.
Your Aeroponics system is not complete until it has a timer and a schedule setup. What would be the purpose of going through all the trouble to setting up an automated system which is not automatic? The timer can be any brand and you don’t have to purchase it from any specific supplier. The key features you need to note are the frequency is switches on/off. Some timers have a 15 minute ON interval and 24 hours OFF intervals. You get weekly timers as well so depending on your plantation and the frequency with which it needs to be watered and fed of nutrients.
Components of Aeroponics system
In case you got tired of going through the entire post above and want to jump into the work immediately. Here’s a list of all the components you will need to complete the setup; this is a convenient list for your shopping.
– Plastic container for storage
– PVC tubing
– Net cups
– Misters/Sprayer nozzles
One of the aspects we have not discussed yet is the lightning system used for Aeroponics. LED growing lights are important for the Aeroponics system. Just as a note, if you are growing your plantation is a semi-closed environment then you don’t have to be overly concerned about purchasing growing lights and your crops will be having exposure to the sun at a certain extent.
For the health of your plantation you will need to supply the plants with an average of 4000 pux of light. Beware of LEDs that produce too much heat as this may cause the death of your plants. Just a little more information on lights; it has colour different colours which are determined by the prism which are yellow; green; orange; red; blue and indigo. Red and blue reflections have the greatest impact of the growth of plants.
Green light is not very effective other than for its purpose of causing the leaves of plants to be green. The blue light is responsible for vegetative leaf growth when the red light is essential for leafing.
With this said we can safely conclude that light is essential for your greenhouse or Aeroponics system.