Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Aeroponics technology-An alternative to hydroponic production system

Man's constant endeavor to ensure adequate food to every denizen in this planet jas seen tremendous progress over the last few decades and agricultural and biotechnologists have revolutionized the food production landscape beyond recognition. Their innovative spirit and efforts have provided a variety of growing technologies for all edible crops consumed by human beings. Probably constraints on availability of land to expand cultivation through conventional or traditional methods have resulted in evolution of technologies like hydroponics, aquaculture, tissue culture, genetic engineering, etc which are becoming main stream practices in some countries. One of most amazing technologies that is going to revolutionize agriculture is aeroponics which does not need neither land nor large quantities of water. Though it is at an early stage of commercialization, aeroponics may be the most attractive option available for food producers around the world. Recent reports that world's largest commercial aeroponics production facility is about to be commissioned in the US are indeed exciting. Read further details below.  

"An upcoming indoor vertical farm is not only claimed to be the world's largest, but to use cutting edge growing technology. AeroFarms' new 69,000 sq ft (6,410 sq m) facility in Newark, New Jersey, will be based in a converted steel factory and will incorporate a new corporate HQ for the firm. It's expected to grow high-quality and healthy produce all year round. As with the soon-to-start-trading Growing Underground, which is based in formerly disused tunnels beneath London, AeroFarms' new indoor farm will look to serve local markets. This will minimize the farm-to-fork journey and benefit both the environment and the produce itself in the process. Where Growing Underground uses hydroponic technology for crop rearing, AeroFarms uses an "aeroponics" approach. Similar to hydroponics, aeroponics employs a cloth medium for seeding, germinating and growing crops and LED lighting for photosynthesis. Specific wavelengths of light are targeted to help to maximize photosynthesis efficiency and to minimize energy consumption. The major difference between the two growing systems is that hydroponics uses a liquid solution to deliver hydration and nutrients to crop roots and aeroponics uses mist. AeroFarms says this produces faster growing cycles and more biomass than other approaches. The new facility is a public-private partnership and has been variously funded by the City of Newark, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), Goldman Sachs, United Fund Advisors, Dudley Ventures and Prudential Financial. Designed by KSS Architects, it offers a controlled, safe and sanitary environment in which to grow crops without the need for sun or soil. In addition to faster crop cycles and the ability to grow crops all year round, the benefits of this sort of farming are said to include the elimination of pesticides, increased produce shelf-life, a reduced contamination risk through the lack soil used, the production of clean and dry produce at the point of harvest and minimized wastage through the use of a closed-loop irrigation system (one that repeatedly recycles any run-off water). In addition, the modular vertical stacks used for growing the crops make the operation highly scalable. AeroFarms says its approach to farming is 75 times more productive per square foot annually than a traditional field farm and uses over 95 percent less water. Once up-and-running, it estimates that the new facility will have the capacity to grow up to 2 million pounds (910,000 kg) of baby leafy greens and herbs every year."

It is not that aeroponics is a brand new technique invented recently but its technologization took several years with its viability not established beyond doubt. Now that commercial facilities are being set up based on aeroponics, the economic viability may not be a hindrance for its fast spread in the coming years. Though it is limited at present to production of greens and high value herbs, time is not far away when aeroponics become a major contributor to many of the food crops we consume to day. High efficiency of aeroponics compared to the conventional cultivation and hydroponics is going to be the driving force for its manifold expansion. With high pressure on land from the non-agricultural sector, aeroponics presents itself as a panacea in future as far as food production is concerned. There must be global cooperation in making this technology affordable to growers in developing countries with limited capital availability..


No comments: