Monday, December 10, 2012

Build your own Awesome Aeroponic Garden


A few weeks ago, Digital Diner's own Bix and Widdakay (half of the Awesome Is What We Totally Are team) taught a class on Aeroponics at Workshop Weekend (see their presentation here).  It was a smashing success.  In case you missed that, now, thanks to the magic of the web, you can build your own Awesome Aeroponics Garden in your own home.  More on that in a minute.

First, on a personal note, let me say that I am a convert.  When the kids started out on these hydroculture projects I thought it was interesting and I was curious to learn about it, but that was the end of it.  As I've learned more and more about it, it has convinced me this is very important technology and a key to our future on this planet and beyond.  The benefits and efficiencies are really compelling and I encourage anyone with even the slightest interest to learn more.  I'm sold.

Aeroponics (or fogponics in this case) is a form of Hydroculture (growing plants without soil), but rather than delivering nutrients to the plant roots via flowing water, in aeroponics, the nutrients are delivered in the form of a mist.  The process was developed by NASA who hopes to use it to grow plants in space.  Small (5-10 micron) aerosolized droplets of water enriched with nutrients float around in a root chamber where the plant roots dangle freely.  The roots can efficiently absorb the droplets and grow quite quickly producing up to 13 crop turns per year rather than about 5 using traditional techniques.

We have seen this in practice when we planted some lettuce in our traditional garden (geoponics) at the same time as we planted it in one of our hydroponic systems.  The picture below shows two leaves that were harvested at the same time a few weeks later; one from the traditional, geoponic garden and the other from the hydroponic garden.  The results really impressed us.
Geoponic lettuce on the left vs hydroponic lettuce on the right
The hydroponic lettuce is dramatically larger
Hydroponic methods recycle water very efficiently, so it is estimated use up to 98% less water than traditional methods.  These systems generally need no pesticides or herbicides.  They offer incredible control over the environment the plants live in, allowing one to tune it to particular needs of the plants.  For example, we have some strawberries growing in one of our Awesome Aeroponic systems.  We would like them to start producing strawberries, so we have moved the system inside where it is warmer and varied the nutrients in just that system to encourage the production of fruit.  We would never have that kind of control using traditional means.

Hyperlocavorism

These systems are really engaging and interesting to watch grow.  We have been experimenting with several different types of systems here at Digital Diner and I'm happy to say that it has turned us into hyperlocavores.  While locavores eat food that is produced locally in order to get seasonal, fresh, produce that is grow to be eaten rather than transported, we have taken that to the extreme of growing our own food.  In a very small bit of space, we are growing enough lettuce to provide our family of four a salad almost every night.  The food we grow at home never has pesticides, spends time on a truck or in a grocery store, was grown in a water efficient way and is always fresh and tasty.

The system that team Awesome Is What We Totally Are has designed is small and portable and capable of growing herbs, lettuce, strawberries and all sorts of great stuff.  Go build one for yourself and try it out.  It isn't very expensive (~$40),  doesn't take up much space, and yet can produce some delicious food for you and your family.

Build your own Awesome Aeroponic Garden here!
Learn more about hydroculture from the Awesome Team here!

Team Awesome Is What We Totally Are
"Make What Matters"