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Aeroponics, an innovative solution for the efficient use of water in agriculture

Aeroponics is emerging as a promising alternative in agriculture to face the growing challenge of optimizing water use in the context of scarcity and growing demand. According to Andrea Catalina Garrido López, who has a master's degree in Environmental Engineering from UNAL, this method, which consists of growing plants in an air or mist environment, could reduce water consumption in agriculture; a sector that currently uses 70% of the world's water.

In aeroponics, the plants dangling roots and lower stems are sprayed with a nutrient-rich solution in an atomized or sprayed form, eliminating the need for land and significantly reducing water use. Garrido López highlighted the importance of developing innovative technologies and solutions that take advantage of unconventional water sources and manage resources sustainably to face the challenges posed by climate change.

To demonstrate the feasibility of this technology, Garrido López designed two prototypes that capture moisture from the air and convert it into water for the nutrient solution. The first prototype uses a compression dehumidifier and the second a Peltier-effect dehumidifier. Both systems are connected to vertical PVC towers, designed to house up to 18 plants, but with the potential to be expanded to 30 plants.

The prototype with the compression dehumidifier had a 48.80% water generation, consumption, and energy cost efficiency. In addition, the prototype also has a network of electronic sensors connected to the internet to automatically monitor and control optimal growing conditions, such as temperature, humidity, nutrient levels, lighting, and pH.

This interconnectivity represents a significant challenge as it requires the precise integration and programming of all sensors to function properly. The ability to preemptively adjust parameters ensures optimal plant growth and prevents disease.

In her experiments, Garrido López successfully grew romaine lettuce, kale, tatsoi, and mizuna, in 35-to-43-day cycles, significantly less time than traditional cultivated on land. This breakthrough demonstrates aeroponics' potential to produce food in confined spaces, offering a viable solution for cities or areas with limited availability of arable land.


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