January 18, 2016
Futuristic plots never cease to grab our attention. Man is all agog over new thrills, cool gadgets, and the next big thing. In the world of indoor gardening, fogponics is the next generation in soilless growing. This advancement of aeroponic principles is based on NASA innovations for the space program. Once again, overcoming the challenges of grow food in among the stars offers us solutions needed here on Earth as well.
Fogponics came about as NASA’s solution to issues found in aeroponic growing. Perfecting food production for astronauts means heavy production in a compact space while conserving every ounce of resources possible. Their agenda also includes doing away overcoming pests and disease. It’s not like astronauts can run up to McDonald’s if crop failure strikes.
The ‘dry mist’ technology used in fogponics is generated through ultrasonic foggers, with the nutrient droplets being only 5-10 microns. A huge difference in the 20-50 micron size of the mist droplets used in aeroponics. There are shortcomings with aeroponics, one being that the wet mist is not all used by the plants who best absorb in the 1-25 micron range. While the excess drains back into the reservoir, this causes some undesirable effects. The development of algae on the surfaces inside the root chamber, and the possibility of waterborne pests and diseases are aeroponic issues that fogponics reduces.
Fogponics uses less water and energy to complete the growing cycle than the parent aeroponics system. The growth rate difference is also remarkable. Speed of food delivery in space is critical to survival and the benefits of faster harvest with even less possibility of pest or disease issues found in fogponics ensures that astronauts will not go hungry. It also reduces water and energy use, translating to cheaper food production on Earth.
Timing your misting cycle is critical in fogponics. If the misting cycle is allowed to run too long roots cannot absorb the dry mist and water droplets form on them that can bring about the issues of heavier moisture present in aeroponics. If the cycle is not long enough, insufficient moisture is being supplied which translates to drying roots. Additionally, a rather weak nutrient solution is used to offset the constant absorption rate. A regular nutrient dilution causes root burn and alternatively the proper dilution allows for higher efficiency in nutrient uptake. Like all the different types of hydro growing, here too you must monitor your system and nutrients very well.
Fogponics systems have come available for propagation in the USA for the past couple of years, but we haven’t seen one through in the UK yet. We called up a couple of industry insiders located in the UK, and they assured us a system is in the making. No specific dates were mentioned though. If you’d like to experiment with with fogponics yourself, we advise you to do some research. Researching this method of growing online will also turn up DIY instructions (like the video below). Essentially all you need is a tray or bucket with a cover and an ultrasonic fogger to start. Have fun experimenting!
This article written by Tammy Clayton was originally published in Garden Culture Magazine, Issue 2 under the title: “Fogponics: Food from Vapor”.
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