Best Aeroponic System – 2023
Jules Walters • Published: Oct 11, 2023
An aeroponic system that sprays nutrient mist over plant roots that dangle in the air may have seemed futuristic 20 or 30 years ago. But then NASA got involved, and now the science is ready not just for astronauts. You can have one at home!
In this article, I’ve listed 3 of the best aeroponic systems for growing plants. I’ve based my choices mainly on customer reviews and cost. Clearly, how they look will also be a factor if you’re thinking of putting your aeroponic system in a prominent part of your home.
What exactly is an aeroponic system?
An aeroponic system is an advanced way to grow plants where the roots hang free and are constantly sprayed with a fine mist, or droplets, of nutrient-rich water.
Unlike traditional soil based farming, or hydroponics (where the plant roots are under water), aeroponic systems allow plants to grow with their roots suspended in air.
Aeroponics tends to promote faster growth and higher yields while saving water and space. The absence of soil or other growing media also shrinks the risk of harmful pathogens entering the system and the resulting plant diseases.
Jules’ picks for the top 3 aeroponic systems – 2023
Tower Garden’s aeroponic growing unit for indoors is one of the most practical on the US market. The LED grow lights fix to the tower top, then hang to the sides, and make it easy to assemble and install. All you need is a convenient power socket.
Shipping is free for most states, but the whole bundle will cost just over a thousand dollars at 2023 prices. So, if you’re on a tight budget and a bit practical, you may want to consider a DIY approach.
Aerospring’s enclosed tower garden for indoor use gets some of the best customer reviews I have seen for an aeroponic system.
A few users comment that the LED lights are a bit harsh, giving the unit the appearance of an alien spaceship after dark. To make up, though, it comes with a roll-down, roll-up tent you can zip up at night to enclose the illuminated chamber.*
*Also: Aerospring claims that with the tent closed the unit delivers a 30% higher growth rate.
I like the compact, open-plan nature of Garden’s self-watering kit. Its interesting design makes it a show piece almost as much as a home farm.
Gardyn claims self-assembly takes 30 minutes. All very well for them to say, when they’ve probably done it themselves a hundred times. Reviews suggest it will take a bit longer. I like the vacation mode, though. You can go away!
Also on the plus side: Gardyn’s currently throwing in a free gift of a countertop-sized microgreens kit.
How does an aeroponic system work?
Aeroponic systems are similar to hydroponic systems, given both rely on mainly water and nutrients to grow plants. Neither use soil as a growing medium. So, aeroponics is often spoken of by experts as either a subset or offshoot of hydroponics.
The key difference is that the plant roots in a standard hydroponic system are planted in a sterile growing medium, such as coir or perlite. Aeroponic systems rather use water mist to deliver essential nutrients.
Other features of aeroponic systems:
- Nutrient-rich mist. A nutrient solution is sprayed onto the exposed roots as a fine mist or droplets. This mist contains a carefully balanced mixture of the water and nutrients required for plant growth.
- Oxygenation. To ensure that the roots receive enough oxygen, the system intermittently sprays the roots and then stops for a short period to allow air to reach them. This cycle ensures that the roots stay oxygenated and remain healthy.
- Growing environment. The aeroponic system is usually housed in a controlled environment, such as a greenhouse, where temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions can be optimized for plant growth.
- Monitoring and control. Sensors and timers are key to effective aeroponic systems, as they help to maintain optimal conditions for plant growth. These devices monitor and control factors like nutrient concentration, pH levels, humidity, electrical conductivity, and lighting.
- Harvesting. As the plants grow, they can be harvested by cutting the exposed portions above the roots. Those same roots can then often be cleaned and used again for new growth.
Aeroponic systems offer several advantages compared to traditional soil-based growing methods. These include: more efficient water usage, faster growth rates, and higher yields. However, they require precise control and monitoring to ensure plant health and successful growth.
Low pressure & high pressure aeroponic systems
Low pressure aeroponics deliver nutrients to plant roots in a spray of water droplets. High pressure systems aeroponics supplies the same nutrient-rich mix to the plant in a fog or mist.
As for which is better, this will depend mainly on your budget, and how much complexity you’re willing to take on. These are the key considerations:
- Cost. Low-pressure systems are generally cheaper than high-pressure systems. If budget is a concern, a low-pressure system may be the better option.
- Maintenance. High-pressure systems typically require more maintenance due to the complexity of the equipment involved. Low-pressure systems on the other hand are usually simpler to maintain. If you have limited time or resources for maintenance, a low-pressure system might be the way to go.
- Plant type & growth stage. High-pressure systems are generally better suited for larger, more established plants, as the high pressure allows for larger water droplets and better coverage. Low-pressure systems are more suitable for seedlings and smaller plants, as they produce finer water droplets that are gentler on delicate roots.
- Environment. Consider the environmental conditions of your growing area. High-pressure systems can work well in hotter climates as they can provide a cooling effect. Low-pressure systems may be more appropriate in cooler climates where excess humidity is less of an issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which plants are best suited to an aeroponic system?
In short: plants that have shallow root systems, grow fast, and can flourish in moist environments. These include: leafy greens, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and microgreens.
Examples of microgreens include micro-basil, micro-kale, and micro-arugula; all of which have high nutritional value and short growth cycles.
Having said that, almost any plant can thrive in an aeroponic system, given an adequate, regular supply of water, nutrients and oxygen.
Why is electrical conductivity (EC) important?
Electrical conductivity indicates how much mineral nutrient is in the water supply to your hydroponic or aeroponic system. Just as pH levels show how acid or alkaline the water is, so EC will show the water’s nutrient levels.
Fun fact: Pure water has zero conductivity, as it’s mineral-free.
What is closed-loop aeroponics?
A closed-loop system in aeroponics is one that’s fully enclosed. The nutrient-enriched water that’s sprayed on the root zone is continuously recirculated. This method minimizes water waste, and allows greater control over the growing environment compared to other systems.
Is aeroponics better than hydroponics?
Both aeroponics and hydroponics are advanced methods of growing plants without soil. While there are similarities between the two, there are some key differences.
Aeroponics allows for maximum oxygenation, which promotes faster growth and higher yields. It also needs less water compared to growing in soil – even than some standard hydroponic systems – and zero use of pesticides.
The big BUT, though, is that aeroponics systems are usually more complex and expensive than hydroponic systems to set up and maintain.
Deciding which method is better depends on your specific needs, growing conditions, and personal preferences. Plants grown aeroponically may grow faster and yield more crops, but the system needs more frequent maintenance. Hydroponics can be more beginner-friendly and cost-effective, but may not offer the same level of efficiency and yield as aeroponics.
In short: if food production is your purpose, and you’re up to the regular maintenance, then aeroponics may be the answer.
What are the disadvantages of an aeroponic system?
- High initial cost: Setting up an aeroponic system can be more expensive than traditional methods, due to the investment in equipment and technology.
- Technical expertise: Aeroponics needs you to understand and manage various factors like nutrient solution, misting cycles, and environmental controls. The best manufacturers supply clear instructions with their aeroponic systems. YouTube’s also a big help!
- Vulnerability to power outages: Aeroponic systems rely on an uninterrupted power supply for pumps, misters, and environmental controls. Power outages will disrupt the system and may impact plant health.
- Risk of misting failure: Inadequate or uneven misting tends to result in poor plant growth. A quick check each day will ensure the system runs smoothly.
What’s the biggest problem with aeroponics?
Clogged nozzles on the spray heads is a very common problem. It’s easy to fix though, and is generally preventable, through regular cleaning of the systems component parts, such as pumps, tubes and filters.
What are the running costs of an aeroponic system in the home?
Running costs of a home aeroponic system vary depending on the size of the system, the type of plants grown, and the particular tech setup you use.
But your regular running costs will include:
- Nutrient solution
- Electricity – to operate pumps, timers & grow lights
Unit costs for electricity and water vary widely, and depend on your home location. But, at 2023 prices, you can expect annual costs of between $100 and $200 to support one aeroponic tower system.
What is the environmental impact of the aeroponics system?
The aeroponics system has several environmental advantages over soil-based methods of agriculture.
- Water conservation. Aeroponic systems use approximately 90% less water compared to traditional soil-based agriculture. The nutrient-rich mist in aeroponics is reused, reducing water waste significantly.
- Reduced pesticide use. Due to the controlled environment and absence of soil, aeroponic systems are less prone to pests and diseases, which reduces the need for pesticide use.
- Space efficiency. Aeroponic systems can be stacked upright. That makes better use of space and lessens the demand on agricultural land.
- Reduced soil erosion. Since aeroponic systems don’t rely on soil, the trade-offs versus soil-based agriculture include: less erosion and topsoil loss, as well as less use of harmful fertilizers and run-off into shared waterways.
Don’t forget that the overall environmental impact of an aeroponic system also depends on factors such as the source of electricity. Ask yourself: is it from a renewable energy source?