Growers are being sought to take part in commercial pilot trials of a novel design of rolling bench which incorporates aeroponic technology – in which plant roots are exposed to a fine mist of fertigation solution.
The performance of the prototype benches, designed by vertical farm technology company LettUs Grow, is being compared with that of standard hydroponic benches in the vertical farm facility at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC).
LettUs Grow’s lead project engineer Temi Odanye said the design combines ultrasonic aeroponic fertigation with the practicality of a traditional greenhouse rolling bench, making it feasible to install an aeroponic system in a greenhouse as well as in artificially lit vertical farms.
While the current trials are looking at a range of microgreens, she said the benches are adaptable for a wide range of other types of crop.
An event at STC at the end of November presented initial results to invited growers and greenhouse constructors and gathered their feedback on the practicalities of the design.
“The trial results have been encouraging and we have already collaboratively identified some areas for further improvement,” said Ms Odanye. “Growers at the event commented on the simplicity of retrofitting aeroponics into existing and new-build facilities. There was also some useful feedback from growers and constructors around product integration with auxiliary automation equipment, such as bench-cleaning machinery.”
In traditional hydroponics or NFT the plant roots are bathed or submerged in solution. In aeroponics the roots are suspended in air and exposed to a fine mist, which LettUs Grow claims improves oxygenation and results in better growth and crop yield increases of between 20 and 200% over hydroponics.