High Pressure Aeroponics System – Prologue – Part 1
Hydroponics has been an interest of mine since the first time I had heard of it. If I recall correctly it was as a result of playing Age of Empires III: The Warchiefs Expansion pack and using the Aztec Civilization. There was a reference to “Chinampas” which upon further research was considered by some, to be a form of hydroponics. I have spent a fair amount of time tinkering with hydroponic technology in the past 6 years since then. I have grown deep water culture tomatoes, I have worked for a greenhouse that used the nutrient film technique (NFT) to grow basil, and now lettuce for profit. For quite awhile I thought modern hydroponics was king, and in some respects I’d say it still is in many instances, for instance on a low budget, NFT is the way to go. However, one fairly recent night, while brainstorming my next project, I stumbled upon a video showing off a VERY small greenhouse in Greenbay, WI. The owner of this greenhouse used a variation of hydroponics known as aeroponics.
Upon further investigation I discovered that this system is actually a low pressure aeroponics system, which has been referenced in different hydroponic communities as a “pseudo-aeroponic” system. In a low pressure aeroponic system, the nutrient solution is being sprayed, rather than misted, a result of using a low pressure pump (aquarium pump) and low pressure nozzles. High pressure aeroponics (HPA) is a system “originally” developed by NASA, and in doing so they a few key variables that should be controlled (e.g. precise spray cycles, 50 micron droplet size, sanitation). Many HPA builds I have seen use a high pressure pump pumps straight through to misting nozzles. Many of these builds have a common complaint associated with them, which is that the pump dies quickly after running the rather demanding time cycle for HPA (5 seconds on, 5 minutes off, or thereabouts). How to solve this problem? Rather than running the pump on that cycle, pressurize an accumulator tank with nutrient solution, and use a solenoid valve on a timer to release nutrient solution at the desired interval.