In the Spring of 2013 I visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida. At the start of my second week there we visited the Epcot centre. It was a stiflingly hot day, and my feet were aching so badly that I decided to head to the nearest ride I could find for a rest. I arrived at ‘The Land’. A nice little boat ride that I assumed would be full of dinosaurs and plastic zoo animals. The main attraction for me of course, was the promise of seats and air conditioning.
Ten minutes in (and after a fair few dinosaurs), I was greeted with a sight very similar to the image below. It was totally unexpected, and all of a sudden, I was very interested! Potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and watermelons were tumbling down from the sky. These plants had grown downwards, just as they would in the ground, but their only growing medium was a net, and the air. They looked healthier, larger, and tastier than any plants I’d seen pulled from the ground!
My brother (who knows everything), was quick to assure me that this was all perfectly logical. What we were seeing was called ‘aeroponics’, or 'vertical gardening', and it is something that is starting to take off across the globe (and off of it), and could actually be the future of food production. Developed from NASA experiments of growing food in space, aeroponics requires only mist to work. It is considered to be a form of hydroponics, as the water is used to nurture the plants. However, true hydroponics uses water as a growing medium. Aeroponics uses nothing.
Inspired by the work at Epcot, Tim Blank of Future Growing invented the ‘Tower Garden®’, a state of the art vertical growing system which you can use in virtually any sunny place outdoors. Even rooftops and balconies! Currently, Tower Garden® is not available in the UK, but if you really want to try it for yourself, click here for a set of instructions to build a DIY aeroponics system to keep you busy in the mean time. Now on to the next issue, why exactly, is aeroponics the future of food production?
Imagine the world in a few hundred years time. If we carry on the way we are doing. The huge and expanding population has caused the cities to sprawl further over our green spaces. The strain on infrastructure has matched the strain on food production. What happens if we run out of space to grow food? And how do we grow enough food for all these people? Aeroponics will be the answer.
Skyscrapers and tower blocks have popped up across the landscape in an effort to save space. But they’re no ordinary buildings. They’re green! Plants dangle like washing lines between the different buildings. Every balcony and every rooftop is dotted with tower gardens. The busy people of the future barely have anything to worry about as they go about their daily business and come back to their home-grown feasts in their 33rd floor apartments. No soil is required for aeroponics, which means less mess, no weeding and much less painstaking work on your knees.
You can grow almost any vegetable with an aeroponics system, as well as herbs, flowers and many varieties of fruit. What’s more, they will grow faster than they would in soil! Vertical Gardening also uses less than 10% of the water required for traditional gardening, so would lessen the increasing strain on reservoirs and water purification.
Aeroponics is also vital to the future of space travel. Deep space travel and long journeys throughout and out of the solar system will require astronauts to grow their own food. Growing food by aeroponics will save weight and space on the spacecraft, and also offers a potential source of fresh oxygen.
Self sufficiency and growing food at home is the start to a happy and sustainable future, and the key to the future itself. And now, we can look to the skies too.