Can You Grow Grapes Aeroponically?
The simple answer is yes. But it's not just as easy as popping a piece of the vine on a stick or a trellis and you're good to go.
With proper planning and finding the right space to suit your needs, however, growing grapes aeroponically can reap rich rewards, enabling you to harvest healthier grapes faster, eco-friendlier, and pesticide-free.
Aeroponics vs Tradition
Growing grapes outside has been around for centuries, being a very successful farming method passed down from one generation to the next. The view of a large field filled with rows of vines is a spectacular sight, an iconic picture on many an Italian or Spanish hillside as well as in numerous other countries in the world.
So, to diverge from this renowned method to one that is relatively new, well, there has to be more noticeable benefits.
Above all, what aeroponics allows is for your average person to start growing grapes without having to own large swathes of land, without having decades of experience or a large bank account, and being able to take advantage of unused areas in an urban setting.
Scientific progress and invention, as well as advancement in machinery and equipment, has cultivated this new innovative system of growing grapes, eliminating many obstacles in the standard grape growing process.
Cultivating the grapevines in an indoor, controlled environment has numerous advantages. The first is space.
Although seeing a field filled with vines as far as the eye can see is a sight to behold, perhaps it is not the most economical method to grow grapes for the masses.
A huge amount of land is required to do this, and that land, that soil can determine the quality of the grapes. Another determining factor is the weather that fluctuates with the seasons throughout the year-long growing season and can adversely affect the crops.
Growing grapes inside with aeroponics eliminates these two barriers to successful grape growing immediately.
Also since the roots are free-hanging they do not need to be planted deeply in the soil, the vines do not need to be planted to face the sun and six feet apart, as well a host of requirements to be undertaken painstakingly just to keep them alive and pest free.
As long as certain requirements are met for optimal plant health, for growth, and the indoor environment is optimized for grape development, the aeroponically growing grapes could be the way to go in the future on whatever scale or size imaginable, big or small.
After this article, you'll have more of an idea of what to do, what not to do, and even how to do it.
First, let's look at what exactly aeroponic growing is and why it's the new way to grow.
Aeroponics? What's that exactly?
Awareness of indoor farming has been increasing in popularity recently as the potential of growing crops in a controlled environment is becoming more apparent and appealing.
With this flexible method of indoor vertical farming, crops can be grown year-round regardless of any extreme changing weather conditions in the area, and also it allows a higher number of grapes to be harvested with less spoiling due to infestation, disease, or a variety of mitigating circumstances from excess rain, to adverse weather conditions and even to too much sun.
For growing grapes, aeroponics can prove to be very advantageous.
Traditionally growing grapes in soil requires a distance of about 6 feet of space between each vine and each plant is going to need a lot of sunshine to ripen the fruit. Once the new shoots start to develop, called canes, they are then pollinated by insects and the wind.
An irrigation system can be set up to provide sufficient water and pesticides and chemicals are used to ward off insects and protect against diseases.
It can take up to a year of pruning, spraying, and watering before the plant bears any fruit.
Aeroponics does it faster, cleaner, and eco-friendlier.
Easy Aeroponic Set Up
Vertically growing grapes in an indoor space turns all of this system on its head, so to speak.
In fact, there are two methods of indoor growing.
The first and more common method is hydroponic growing.
This involves submerging the roots of the vine in a container with filtered water that has a pH level of between 6 -6.5 and using a filtration system to regulate the amount of water applied to the roots.
Growing grapes aeroponically compared to hydroponically is a little bit more of a complex system, however.
Aeroponic growing involves suspending the plant roots in the air and watering them periodically rather than submerging them in a container.
This is achieved by suspending the vines in a foam plank, for example, with the roots left to dangle in thin air. Water is applied by using a misting system that is set on a timer to spray filtered water every few minutes that is mixed with a nutrient-rich solution to provide sustenance.
This method is extremely effective but requires a fairly complicated set-up that is easy to master in a short space of time. With a bit of patience, all can be set up and operational in no time at all.
After a period of trial and error, if you are new to this process, you will become aware of what needs to be done periodically to help your vines to grow healthily and steadily in these conditions, which will make every re-growing season in the future that much easier.
Benefits of Aeroponics
Rather than waiting up to a year for your harvest to ripen, the grapes can be cultivated in a shorter period of time, being harvestable up to 25% quicker, a major benefit if you're short of space and even shorter on patience.
That's one of the benefits of this system.
It's as if devoid of the constraints of soil or a containerized system, the roots of the vines take advantage of the extra oxygen flowing constantly and being so readily available, that the results are a faster growth spurt.
Efficiency is also a key benefit here also, with less water actually being used and lost to evaporation, 95% less in fact, and the water can even be recycled along with the nutrients to make this process cost-effective, saving on wastage and being good for the environment.
Pesticides are a thing of the past here as well, as they are simply not needed. When the equipment needs to be cleaned and maintained, everything can be sterilized simply, eliminating the need for harsh chemicals.
Growing vertically also reduces the amount of space required to grow larger quantities in a smaller space compared to outdoor lateral growing, and the upside of the closed-loop irrigation system is that there is no runoff of harsh chemicals to foul the surrounding ecosystem, making this method eco-friendlier.
If a small DIY model is all you're after without automation, then it can be set up inexpensively from as little as about $100.
A professional aeroponics turn-key system, on the other hand, could cost well into the four figures if built at scale, with nutrient monitoring equipment, a backup power supply, pumps, timers, thermostats, tubing, and a pressurized water tank capable of delivering the finest possible puff of moisture, to name just a few equipment requirements.
Constant Grape Attention.
The system utilized for aeroponics is a closed system that has to be monitored on a regular basis, not only to check that the spray timing hasn't failed, but also to maintain the misters to ensure that there is no clogging of the spray holes.
The nutrient concentration also has to be recalibrated constantly so the precise parameters required for the crops are the same and do not fluctuate excessively. Too much variance in the cocktail of the pH balance can be detrimental to crop growth, and can even lead to loss of an entire crop if not monitored regularly.
Another worst-case scenario is if there is a power cut for a certain amount of time, the roots can stop being misted and become starved of nutrients. However, with proper vigilance and the right monitoring back-up systems, this worst-case scenario can easily be avoided, and a hassle-free growing cycle can be achieved time and time again.
Everything needs food and light to thrive, stay healthy and productive and grapes are no different. In their case, they need nutrients that aeroponically will be provided by adding magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and other nutrients to the water periodically. And they need light and energy to survive and thrive.
Because aeroponic crops are grown indoors in a sheltered environment special lighting has to be installed to provide this life-giving nutrition.
These energy-intensive lights have to be installed to harness sufficient light to give the plants the energy needed to grow and these are normally run using electricity. Solar energy could be a good alternative option, however, if possible.
So environmentally wise this is not an optimal situation. And since the water pumps rely on electricity, well, you can see that the profit margin can take a hit as the pumps have to be running constantly.
Growing Indoor Temperature Changes
Something to consider when looking at growing grapes aeroponically is the space that is going to be used as that will determine the equipment required. Humidity is also a factor that has to be considered as is temperature, and air quality.
If you were setting up in a greenhouse, for example, circulation fans may have to be installed to control the temperature. The fans would be required because the use of lamps installed to create light often emits a fair amount of heat and this hot air has to be vented.
If the temperature is too high problems can occur because the vines will require more water than usual which will affect the timing of the misting system and the nutrient content in the water.
In other words, the vines will get thirstier and need more water to survive. So, if the temperature fluctuates too much, the misting systems would have to fluctuate accordingly, which would make a complex job even more complicated.
Conversely, too low a temperature will slow down your plant’s growth and absorption of nutrients, creating another problem.
The solution with the fans is to have them connected to a thermostat for automation, exchanging the heated air inside with cooler air from outside to maintain a controlled atmosphere.
If a different indoor space is being used apart from a greenhouse for aeroponic growing, a similar system can be set up but just on a smaller scale.
The Humidity Factor
Mold problems can occur if the humidity is too high and the vines can even overheat if the ambient atmosphere is already saturated with moisture. While rare with aeroponics, too dry an atmosphere will cause excessive water absorption of the vines.
To maintain balance, a humidistat can be used alongside a thermostat or a single combined thermostat/humidistat as a better option to tackle this potential problem.
Automation is highly recommended to keep a close eye on the temperature and to maintain a humidity level of between 60% to 70%, perhaps with a warning signal to alert you to anything requiring immediate attention.
The advantages of aeroponically growing grapes in this fashion are numerous and far outweigh the teething glitches
initially encountered with setting up this system.
However, with the numerous benefits of a faster growth time, more control of the environment, an organic, pesticide-free product, well, it's definitely worth the small initial hassles.
So, whether it's just to have a better, tastier grape for your own consumption or to make your own wine, this revolutionary system could be for you. For the casual grower, having your own crop of grapes hanging from the vine and grown by your own hands can't be bad either.
What's not to like?
Have a grape day!