Aeroponics vs. Hydroponics: Which Method is Better for You
Whether you plan to start a new soilless garden or just want to modernize and improve how you grow plants, you will need to pick the right cultivation system.
And in many instances, this means choosing between hydroponics and aeroponics.
Aeroponics and hydroponics are two terms that many gardeners and farmers are always talking about as they are the most efficient way of growing plants without soil.
While they might have their similarities, they are different methods of soilless cultivation.
When it comes to their application or when you need to choose between them, things can be a little confusing. And this is more so for those that do not have an idea of how the two work and what sets them apart.
Hydroponics is the older of the two methods of planting without soil and also the most popular option. It has been evolving in the last few decades and there are now many variations including aeroponics.
In hydroponics, you eliminate soil and replace it with another medium for the plants to grow in and doing this ensures more efficient delivery of nutrients and also minimizes the risk of diseases.
Although there are now many options for the growth medium that you can use to grow plants in hydroponics, the most common ones are perlite, coconut husks, rock wool pebbles, and gravel.
But, almost any material that can work like a foam by soaking up water and move it, will work well as a growing medium for hydroponics.
When using hydroponics, the plants will get the nutrients that they need from the water which is usually a nutrient-rich solution consisting of various ingredients.
And this is different from aeroponics where there is no medium and instead the nutrients have to be sprayed directly to the roots.
With this setup, you need to buy the nutrient-rich solution and its formulation will depend on the kind of plants that you want to grow. But, mixing it up should not be a problem as most come with clear instructions.
And besides from the soil replacement medium and solutions, hydroponics also requires various other things such as reservoir pump, delivery pipes, timer and of course a reservoir and grow tray.
Most of the items that you use for hydroponics are also necessary for aeroponics, but the setup is different since the later does not require a growth medium.
Like aeroponics, hydroponics will rely heavily on electricity and so you also need to have a power back up when setting up the system. And this is one of the factors that make soilless methods of planting relatively expensive.
- Water efficient. Almost all modern types of hydroponics will recycle water to minimize waste which makes this a highly water-efficient method of farming. Hydroponic systems will use less than 10 percent of the water that you would use with conventional soil farming.
- More nutritional control. Hydroponics makes it possible to control the amount of nutrients that your plants get and when. Hence, you will have more control over the growth process and you can easily influence factors like the speed of growth and size of the plants.
- Relatively affordable. Although hydroponics is still quite an expensive method of farming it is relatively less costly than aeroponics. The initial investment that you need to make to set up hydroponics will be less than what you need for the same size aeroponics as it is a more complicated cultivation system.
- Quick spread of disease. The greatest shortcoming of hydroponics is the fact that diseases can spread quickly. Since the plants share the same solution and reservoir it is easy for water-borne diseases to spread. With an aeroponics system, this cannot happen as each plant gets its own spray of nutrients and it never comes into contact with others as the roots are not submerged in anything.
- Poor root aeration. Since the roots are submerged in hydroponics there is no proper aeration. In aeroponics, the roots are suspended in the air and so the plant is able to absorb more oxygen.
A growing medium is not necessary for plants to grow provided they get the nutrients that they need. And aeroponics proves this as it does not use any growing medium.
Aeroponics is a type of hydroponics but it is in many ways more efficient than the latter. Instead of a growing medium, it uses a support platform with a flexible collar to support the plants while the roots hang below in an enclosed chamber.
This system has some spray nozzles in the enclosed chamber which are responsible for misting the roots with water and nutrients at certain preset intervals.
The design of this cultivation system reduces the plant’s need for water and nutrients. And the plants will use a significantly lower percentage of both than when using the hydroponics system.
Aeroponics ensures that your plants will never have to struggle through layers of soil or an anchoring medium to get to water and nutrients. Hence, they can dedicate their time to grow. This will translate to faster growths, stronger plants, and better yields.
There is a more efficient absorption of nutrient when growing plants aeroponically, and this also means that you will need less fertilizer.
Any fertilize and nutrients that are not used are recirculated to ensure that you never waste anything in the growing solution.
Since the plants in aeroponics are not competing for nutrients, each requires less space and this provides for more efficient space utilization as you can have many plants in one small area.
- Higher yields. Unlike in hydroponics, plants will not have to compete for nutrients in aeroponics, and this translates to faster growths and higher yields. Also, availability of the nutrients throughout and the efficient absorption also contributes to the higher aeroponics yields.
- Maximum nutrient absorption. The absence of a planting medium and the fact that the roots are suspended means that there will be maximum nutrient absorption. There is no wastage of nutrients and fertilizer with this system as the plants will absorb almost everything.
- Easy plant transplantation. In the event that you have to move the plants, there will be no risk of transplant shock when using the aeroponics system. Unlike in hydroponics, there will not be a growth medium for your plants to move to or from and so it will be like they did not move at all. Also, it is possible and easy to move the plants from one aeroponics system to another.
- More sensitive system. Aeroponics is a highly sensitive method of cultivation that will require a lot of attention. Everything has to be working at all times to ensure the survival of the plants. In case of a power outage or a failure of the mist spraying nozzles, the plants can die out in just a few hours. In hydroponics, the plants will survive for longer in case the same happens since the growing medium continues to supply water and nutrients.
- High initial cost. Although an aeroponic system might look simple it will require a significantly higher initial spending than hydroponics. And this is because the system requires various accessories to function optimally. From automation tools to pumps, fine spray nozzles and timers there are many things that you need to pay for. Also, all these things will require setup which also means that this cultivation system will be pretty difficult for beginners to understand.
How it Works
Hydroponics and aeroponics are by far more superior methods of cultivation than the traditional soil-based ones. Both provide faster growths, higher yields and also minimize or eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides.
And while they might have many similarities, they are different methods of cultivations an each has its advantages and disadvantages. It is these pros and cons that you should use to pick between them.
Overall, aeroponics seems to have an edge over hydroponics as it provides better yields and significantly faster plant growth.
However, there are also some situations where hydroponics is still the better option. First, where the initial investment is a concern, hydroponics is the cheaper option.
And secondly, if you do not have a very reliable power supply you should avoid aeroponics as it is totally reliant on a stable or steady supply of power.