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Hydroponics VS. Aeroponics

Updated: May 15, 2023

What's the difference between Hydroponics and Aeroponics?

Are Hydroponics and Aeroponics the same?

What do they have in common? Why choose one or the other?

In this blog post we tell you all about it, so you understand each farming method and choose your favorite one!

aeroponics or hydroponics aquaponics farming greenhouse
Hydroponics VS. Aeroponics

It is very common to confuse these two techniques because they sound very similar.

There are many times that we see surprised faces when we introduce ourselves and clarify that we are not into HYDROponics, that we are into AEROponics.

Once you understand it, it is very simple!

We’ll focus here on large scale systems (5’000 m2 and more for indoor) and not on small scale “garden” installations. We will divide farming into 3 main branches : Traditional farming, HYDROponics farming and AEROponics farming.

1. Traditional farming, where the root grows in the soil.

Very familiar and intuitive for everyone, the roots absorb the water from the rain, from groundwater or from irrigation.

aeroponics or hydroponics aquaponics farming greenhouse farmers
Illustration of traditional farming

2. HYDROponic farming, where the roots are directly submerged by water. There are two main techniques:

· Deep Water Culture: the plants are on trays floating in a large basin of water. As the plant grows, it’s pushed down the greenhouse by newer trays with younger plants until it reaches its final size.

· Nutrient Film Technique: the plants are in a gutter and a stream of water is running through the gutter to bring the nutrients to the roots which in this case get also more oxygen to grow. The gutters can be static or mobile. Spacing techniques can be optimized in order to optimize the yields. The gutters also travel down the greenhouse bay, going in on one side as a young plant and being ready for harvest on the other hand.

A variant of HYDROponic farming is AQUAponic farming.

AQUAponics is a food production system that couples aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish, snails or prawns in tanks) with the hydroponics whereby the aquaculture water is fed to hydroponically grown plants (source : Wikipedia)

aeroponics or hydroponics aquaponics farming greenhouse
Illustration of Hydroponic farming using deep water technique

3. The AEROponics farming, (the technique that CleanGreens Solutions uses), where the plants are on a module (also called bench) where the roots are hanging in the air, and are sprayed with nutrients and water at regular intervals. This system can be with fixed nozzles or with a mobile system. As it is the case for hydroponics, the modules travel down the greenhouse bay during their growing cycle.

aeroponics or hydroponics aquaponics farming greenhouse
Lettuces growing in Aeroponics farming at CleanGreens Solutions greenhouse

The indoor growing techniques gain a lot of momentum right now as they are a key answer to several large trends that change our society:

  • The effects of climate change (droughts, floods…) are felt more often and more drastically. This is true in traditional growing countries like South of Spain for Europe or California/Arizona for North America but also in Northern areas this year with such a dry hot summer.

  • The side effects of the COVID crisis that exposed the weaknesses of a global supply chain and therefore raised an strong awareness and willingness at country level to increase food independence.

  • The drive from people to eat sustainable, local, pesticide-free products.

Of course Hydroponics and Aeroponics have a lot in common. Beyond both being soil-less techniques, they don’t use pesticides or herbicides as they’re in fully controlled environment, they allow more growth cycles and thus a higher yield while also reducing the amount of water needed to grow one kilo of produce. That is all very good news for the industry in general.

But they also have differences and according to your needs one or the other can be more suitable.

Oxygen is a key factor in the growth of the plant. The aeroponic technique allows the plant to be fully oxygenated throughout its entire growth cycle which leads to an ability to grow large heads of lettuce with great quality and leaf strength. Most lettuce gain a lot of weight at the end of their growth cycle, so being able to leverage these extra few days of growth without the roots being asphyxiated in water allows aeroponic producers to grow lettuce weighing 500 to 550g consistently throughout the year. This is especially interesting if you’re selling your lettuce for the ready-to-eat sector. That means less transformation costs for your clients.

At CleanGreens Solutions, we passionately believe that we can get the best of nature with the support of engineering, and obtain more efficient results with less impacts for our environment.

So, remember:

If the root grows in the soil, it's traditional farming.

If the root is submerged in water, it's HYDROponics (or AQUAponics, if there are fish inside).

If the root is in the air and sprayed, it's AEROponics.

Now that you can perfectly distinguish these types of farming that are so much talked about, tell us, which one is your favorite and why !

Thanks for reading us!

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