"In comparison to a normal greenhouse setup, our systems have lower operational costs as the energy saved on climate control measures per plant is reduced by 80%. The same energy used for 20 plants is now shared by 85 plants," says Praveen Sharma, founder of Flora Consult.
Established in 1997, Flora Consult is an India-based (hybrid) greenhouse builder, the company has won various International Awards for its projects and its Aeroponic Grow Towers (AGT).
When it comes to AGTs, they are highly preferred in India, the UAE, Kenya, and Ethiopia because, ultimately, they are low in operating cost, and they successfully grow crops such as leafy greens, vine crops, and a wide array of herbs which work rather well in a hybrid setup.
Low energy use
Continuing to explain why the towers are a great asset for indoor and hybrid growers, Praveen explains that the towers allow for a higher Leaf Area Index (LAI) of the greenhouse, which improves the humidity and does cooling by leaf canopy, which in turn reduces the load of evaporative cooling in arid zones. According to Praveen, that results in the lowest energy for nutrition operation; a 1 HorsePower pump for eight hours of operation is enough to cater for an acre of greenhouse.
"Thanks to our thermal sensed nutrition cycle operations. The nutrition is calibrated for every location based on the evapotranspiration rate, with a correlation to temperature," Praveen affirms.
As Praveen illustrates, in a typical greenhouse of a 4 to 4.5 m gutter height, the average plant population would be around 60 to 75 plants per m2. Whereas under Venlo Greenhouses, where the gutter height is often 6m, the AGT-138 (the Tower Variety that can house 138 plants) is suitable. For a Venlo-type greenhouse, the effective plant population can be 85 plants per m2. Given a normal NFT system provides just 17 to 20 plants m2 plants as against 85 plants m2, potential in the AGT system under typical greenhouses.
Aeroponic Cherry Tomato set up at the Center for Innovation and Training in Vertical Farming
Thrust production technique of cherry tomatoes
As shown in the photo above, the following technique is developed at the Flora Consult's Center for Innovation and Training in Vertical Farming (CITVR) in India. The Cherry Tomatoes plants were grown on existing AGT-108 Models and as can be seen, the towers are divided into two Tiers.
First, Tier-1 is planted which comprises 42 transplanted seedlings that will be staying there for 130 days. Once they're mature enough, these cuttings will be moved to Tier-2, where they'll stay for another 40 days until they're ready for harvest.
"The vegetative propagation of cherry tomatoes on aeroponics is amazingly quick and certain. The cuttings in Tier-2 begin production quite fast and are ready in 40 days' time."