17 May 2002

Its take-off time for aeroponic crops

By Philip Clarke

CONVENTIONAL wisdom says you need soil, water and light to grow plants.

But Italian research group SAID has dispensed with the first two "essential" ingredients to develop its Green Line System.

Believed to be the first commercially available form of "aeroponics", the system suspends horticultural plants from wires in a greenhouse. Plant roots carried in covered troughs receive a nutrient mist periodically throughout the day.

The roots absorb what they need, any excess running out of the tank for recycling. Computer controls monitor and adjust nutrient, pH, light and temperature.

"People seeing this technique for the first time are astonished by the fact the roots are not immersed in any kind of natural or artificial substratum," says a spokesman for the Vincenza-based company.

Unlike hydroponics, aeroponics uses less space, creates no pollution from washings, no problems disposing of rock wool and uses significantly less pesticide.

SAID also claims significant power and labour savings, increased productivity, a good image and better quality produce.

The system is attracting particular interest from the Middle East, says group chairman, Giannino Bonata. &#42

SAIDs aeroponic Green Line System feeds greenhouse plants grown on wires with a fine spray mist to avoid the need for soil or regular watering. Aerial rooting can be prolific.