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Preliminary trial results:

UK: Aeroponic rolling benches result in uplift of 22% compared to hydroponics

“These trials provided us with a rare opportunity to test the first prototype’s integration and performance within an existing vertical farming facility. The preliminary growth cycles have provided us with initial design assurance, and proven functionality and produced some encouraging indicative growth results,” shares Temi Odanye, Aeroponic Rolling Bench Project Lead at LettUs Grow, a UK supplier of aeroponic indoor growing solutions.

In a new webinar episode, they get behind the science of Aeroponic Rolling Benches (ARB) with Temi Odanye (LettUs Grow’s ARB Engineering Project Lead), Oscar Davidson (Business Development Specialist), and Lucy Plowman (Technical Liaison Officer from Crop Health and Protection (CHAP). 

The first engineering trial has come to an end and Project Lead Temi is reflecting on the learnings from Stockbridge Technology Centre. On top of that, she demonstrates how LettUs Grow is bringing the feedback into its next development phase.

The trial: hydroponics vs aeroponics
In order to obtain results, five trials were held from November 2022, until February 2023 at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) and the CHAP Vertical Farming Development Centre (VFDC). During the trial period, various crops were cultivated such as micro radish, micro coriander, micro rocket and pea shoots. The growing media used were Growfelt and HollandBio Jute. The key aim of the research was to measure: the performance of aeroponics vs hydroponics, the hardware performance in an industrial setting, and obtain external operator feedback.

“It is clear how much effort and careful consideration has been put into the design of the ARBs and into their ease of integration within the CHAP Vertical Farming Development Centre. This has made operating the benches throughout microgreen production trials a simple and smooth process and has also given us the opportunity to trial novel aeroponic technology for the first time, alongside our existing ebb and flood hydroponic setup,” says Lucy Plowman, Technical Liaison Officer at CHAP. 

Temi shares that they obtained some positive results during the trial. For each of the final two trials, a total of 55 kilos were harvested from aeroponic benches. For the aeroponic benches, this equates to 4.5 kg per m2, whereas the hydroponic benches obtained 3.7 kg per m2. Meaning that the uplift of aeroponic benches vs hydroponics was 22%.

“As an engineering team, it’s incredibly useful to test our prototypes right at the beginning and get feedback on it. We really want to ensure that our design is not only fit for purpose from an engineering integration perspective but also efficient from a growing and operational perspective. Getting direct feedback from companies that are using the product day in and day out is highly valuable,” Temi affirms.

Promising takeaways
The physical integration of the rolling benches with the existing infrastructure in the VFDC was set up within a day. Seamlessly, the benches rolled into the system. In this particular trial, a length of ~15m of conductor rails were tested. As Temi explains, this is a means of distributing power along the test chamber without the use of fixed cables. This allows the benches to be powered in any location along the rails. For the electrical efficiency along this length, the team has seen negligible losses, demonstrating it’s a highly efficient power distribution concept.

Looking at the yield, the improvements with a first-of-its-kind prototype are really encouraging, according to Temi. “A particular focus in the current design is to ensure that the latest product can accommodate and integrate well with standard industry matting and plug plant trays.” On top of that, the electrical contacts design will be modified. Finally, recipe optimization is another focus to ensure the irrigation is specifically suited to larger benching products.

Development journey
LettUs Grow is undertaking a series of follow-up pilot programs. “It’s important to us to work in situ with growers, we know each growing environment is different. Having a two-way process is key for those early-stage adopters to see the benefit of aeroponics within their own environment,” Business Development Specialist Oscar Davidson concluded.

For more information:
Lucy Mitchell-Skone
Product Marketing Officer
LettUs Grow
Email: [email protected]