Automated Aeroponic Growing System

2015
Research Category: Engineering and Technology
Presenter: Paul Berry
PI: Peter Desnoyers

The global urban population is projected to increase by more than 2.5 billion people by 2050. Resulting developmental challenges and demand for food require sustainable solutions. Expanding conventional agricultural practices will exhaust natural resources, increase emissions and destroy ecosystems. Furthermore, growing disconnect between producers and consumers has resulted in decreased efficiency and accessibility. In the U.S., fruits and vegetables travel thousands of miles before sale, yet only 1% of adults meet combined consumption recommendations. Presented is an automated, enclosed system that enables consumers to grow high quality produce within the constraints of an urban environment with minimal oversight or expertise. An innovative design and prototype with functional software have been developed. Plants are grown aeroponically by spraying roots suspended in air with a nutrient solution. This reduces water consumption by 98%, minimizes nutrient use and eliminates need for pesticides or soil management. A microcontroller and series of sensors and actuators regulate lighting, temperature, humidity, nutrient delivery and CO2 enrichment. Controlling these variables can accelerate growth rate by 200%. A mobile application provides remote control, monitoring and notifications. An integrated system offers growers optimal preset parameters. Results can be shared through this network to create a continuously improving community. This system empowers individuals to grow fresh food year-round, and has a modular design that allows for scaled up commercial purposes. Underutilized urban spaces can become assets, making affordable produce accessible to local communities while creating jobs. Safe, controlled, high quality production has various applications including for distributors, restaurants and research institutions.

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