With increasing pressure on global food supplies requiring ever more intelligent use of technology, urbanized vertical aeroponic methods are shaping up as a promising alternative to traditional farming. Aeroponics requires less space, less water and no pesticides and the AeroFarms system takes things further by using LEDs in stacked units to maximize efficiency and use of available space.
The AeroFarms system allows leafy greens and herbs in particular to be grown at room temperature indoors in urban environments. As soil is replaced by a proprietary reusable cloth growing medium, there's no washing of produce required, resulting in an increase in shelf-life of anywhere from one to four weeks depending on what's being grown. In addition, due to the indoor growing environment and shortened growth cycle, the lack of pests allows produce to be grown pesticide-free. Also, aeroponic methods use less than 20% of the water required by traditional agricultural methods and less than 80% of that required by hydroponic methods. Finally, transportation costs are almost negligible when compared to agricultural methods that make production in urban areas impossible.
One criticism often leveled at aeroponic systems that use artificial light is that a significant amount of energy is required. Aerofarms' seeks to minimize energy use through the use of LEDs which have nearly five times the life expectancy of High pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, can be placed closer to the plant (which assists in stacking) and can be designed to evenly distribute light to the crop. Aerofarms' has also conducted research into what specific wavelengths of light are required by growing plants. By using LEDs that target these wavelengths, it's thought that significant energy savings can be achieved.
It should be pointed out, however, that Aerofarms' system is not for hobby farmers. But if you're thinking of setting up a commercial farm in an urban setting, the company claims a 20 to 33% return on investment.