GreenFellas Engineering Group
The GreenFellas' Aeroponic-Hydroponic Growing System is an all-inclusive food production system featuring all the hardware necessary to produce vegetables year round with a minimum of effort and time expended. This system has a small footprint with a large vertical growing space for the training of vines to a unique removable trellis system.
This system may be used for laboratory use and academic study, but is simple enough to be operated at home by a gardening enthusiastic. It was designed by the GreenFellas Engineering Group to test the practicality of aeroponic gardening as a method of food production.
It is based on an aeroponic (fog) nutrient and water delivery system with a separate hydroponic drip system as a backup or alternative operating system. Aeroponic gardening uses no soil or substrate mediums and requires only a fraction of the water needed by conventional gardening. Its benefits are so promising that research is being conducted to incorporate aeroponic growing systems into high rise buildings, which will help eliminate the carbon dioxide emitted from the use of fossil fuels in food transport distribution systems.
The GreenFellas' Growing System is specifically designed for growing vine variety vegetables, which can best utilize the system's unique trellis system and thereby produce the greatest food yield in the smallest space possible by utilizing vertical space. Bushy vegetable varieties may also be grown, but they tend to overcrowd adjoining growing buckets. This system may also be used for starting seedlings or cuttings. A plant can be grown from germination to full maturation without ever being transplanted or moved from its original location. Each plant with its growing bucket and individual trellis can be relocated within the growing space or it can be temporarily removed to a remote location and returned later as might be required for laboratory or academic use.
The outer dimensions of the growing space are 80 inches in length by 32 inches in width. The total length of the system including its electromechanical components skid is 98 inches. This space accommodates 14 full size Bato style buckets in two rows of 7 buckets each. To comfortably work with this system a minimum area of 9 feet in length by 5 feet in width is required unless it is installed as a built-in where the gardener would work from the front of the unit only. The height of the trellis and reflector panel supporting frame is 90 inches, which is the highest point a vine can be secured.
This system utilizes the very latest fluorescent lighting technology. Recent developments in technology has resulted in the ability of a fluorescent lighting system configured properly to support full maturation of many vegetable varieties. The average light intensity reading inside this growing system is 6500 foot candles, which is a result of the T5 bulbs, special electronic ballasts and the wrap around reflective panels.
The best application of this growing system is for spaces that would normally be overheated by a H.I.D. lighting system. The cool burning fluorescent lights make this system user friendly during plant maintenance, allowing the gardener to tie and prune vines without fear of burns or unpleasant eye contact that is common when using H.I.D. lighting.
The centrally located fluorescent light fixture is height adjustable. The vertically mounted light fixtures are static as they do not require height adjustment. This lighting arrangement in combination with the gloss white reflecting panels insures adequate light penetration through dense growth.
The GreenFellas' Growing System is comprised of the following systems: the nutrient reservoir and lid, the fogging module, the fog distribution manifold with air pressure control, the air circulation manifold, the hydroponic irrigation manifold, the Bato buckets with lids, the trellis and reflector panel systems with supporting frame and the components skid.
The nutrient reservoir and lid are constructed from a black .50 inch thermoplastic material to prevent light from entering the reservoir. A series of cross braces are welded into the top of the reservoir to support the lid without any deflection no matter how heavy the plant growth becomes. A heavy duty reservoir construction with perfect alignment is the best way to keep the fog generated from within the reservoir from escaping at the lid. The GreenFellas cost just to construct this custom reservoir is twice the total sales price of complete hydroponic systems of the same capacity, but this type of construction is necessary to contain aeroponic fog under pressure which will escape at any gap and foul light reflector panels.
The fogging module uses vibrating transducers to produce the nutrient laden fog that feeds the plant roots. This module fills the entire reservoir with fog, which is channeled under a slight pressure into the Bato buckets by a proprietary method developed by the GreenFellas. The fogging module floats just below the reservoir lid access port, rising and falling with the nutrient level. The airflow moving the nutrient laden fog within the reservoir has been structured to evenly distribute fog across the length of the reservoir to insure that each Bato bucket receives substantially the same amount of fog. The fan pressurizing the fog also pressurizes air inside the separate air manifold pipe which blows air upwards through vent openings into the growing area to supply a constant source of fresh air to the growing plants. The air flow through the plant vegetation is equivalent to a soft wind.
Once the fog reaches the inside root growing chamber of the Bato buckets, it is still slightly pressurized and fills the entire chamber constantly bathing the plant root system with nutrient laden fog. The fog inside the buckets continuously condenses on the inner bucket walls and falls to the bottom filling the bucket to a depth of one inch before flowing over the Bato bucket's spillway and back into the reservoir to be circulated again. The one inch of nutrient solution within each bucket bottom acts as an emergency nutrient supply for the root system in the event of a power failure.
The hydroponic components of the GreenFellas' Growing System consist of the drip irrigation manifold and its associated drip lines, emitters, volume adjustment valves, drip line placement holders and pump. The plug cups holding the plant starting plugs are also part of the drip system as they hold the outflow from the drip emitters temporarily until the starting plugs having fully absorbed the water. They also contain the fog within the buckets. The net cups as shown on the photo at right are not required if the plant will be tied to the trellis.
The hydroponic drip irrigation system supports the aeroponic system. These systems are operated simultaneously, but the hydroponic drip emitters which operate off a 15 minute interval timer, are adjusted adjusted system wide by the timer and individually by a flow valve depending on individual plant requirements.
The system can be operated with only the aeroponic or hydroponic components working, but best results are achieved by using both with the hydroponic drip schedule adjusted to plant growth stages. The system can also be reconfigured to hydroponic use only by removing the bucket lids, adding a hydroponic growing medium to the buckets and moving the drip line emitters to a stake or replacing the emitter with a ring type emitter. With this arrangement the fan will still aerate the root system from the bottom of the Bato buckets.
The trellis system gives each growing bucket its own trellis so that individual plants can be removed from the growing system along with its trellis. Each trellis will support a considerable weight with the load supported by both tension from the top frame supporting the trellis and from compression from the bottom by the trellis legs sitting on the bucket 's lid. The trellis configuration is a ladder with hook supports at the top. Vegetables such as greenhouse variety peppers can be trained to run up both sides of the ladder. Cucumbers can run up one side of the ladder and then be trained down the opposite side. All plant tie methods are compatible with this trellis system and any unused trellis can be removed from the growing space to offer more working room for the gardener.
The light reflector panels are made from fiberglass and resin and have a dimpled gloss white surface. This style of reflector panel was chosen because of its very high durability and fire resistance. Although gloss white surfaces don't have quite the reflectance as metalized sheets, the growing system has more than enough reflected light to support spectacular growth. The reflector panels also bend without deforming making them easier to move in tight spaces.
Indoor growing systems with multiple electromechanical components should be securely mounted to a service board with cord control for all the assorted electric wires. The GreenFellas' Growing System utilizes a professional quality component mounting board on a skid constructed from a .50 inch thermoplastic material with a cord control system attached to the back side of the board. Keeping electric cords stowed properly not only makes for an organized appearance, but is a safety feature also.
The component skid has a height adjustment for the fan in the event that the system is located on an uneven floor or if the reservoir needs a layer of insulation placed underneath it. The thermoplastic component skid is completely non-corroding and keeps all electromechanical components off the floor.
The components skid also features a timer control tower for the lights and irrigation pump and any other timed device the gardener might add. There is extra mounting space supplied on the skid's vertical panel so that additional components can be added in the future.
The electric usage for this system is quite minimal as the fog module, irrigation pump and fan all use small amounts of electricity. The greatest load comes from the fluorescent lighting which consists of a total of 14 T5 high output bulbs that consume 55 watts each for a total of 770 watts. Only a single wall receptacle is needed to operate this system.
The Bato buckets have custom made lids to help prevent fog from escaping the bucket rim. These bucket lids are constructed from a .50 inch thick thermoplastic material and have a centered hole for accommodating 3 inch growing baskets and/or cup plugs.
System Length: 98 inches
System Width: 32 inches
System Height: 90 inches
Operational Space: 9 feet X 5 feet minimum or 9 feet X 7 feet to work from both sides of growing area.
System Weight Empty: 297 pounds
System Weight with Reservoir at 1/2 Filled: 633 pounds
Electric Requirement: 120v 15amp circuit (dedicated circuit not required, although suggested) All electrical components connect to the electric timer tower which will then plug into a single wall receptacle.
This system is custom fabricated by the GreenFellas to laboratory standards.
Custom made 84 gallon capacity nutrient reservoir, custom made reservoir lid with built in fog distribution standpipes, 14 Bato buckets with custom bucket lids and 3 inch centered hole, 3 inch net cups and cap plugs for all buckets, custom heavy duty thermoplastic support stand for the lights, trellis and reflector panels, three 4 foot fluorescent light fixtures comprising two 4 light and one 6 light fixture, fourteen T5 6000 Kelvin fluorescent bulbs for vegetative growth, seven T5 3000 Kelvin bulbs for flowering stage (to be mixed equally with vegetative bulbs at discretion of the grower), thirteen custom made trellis ladders, six custom made reflector panels comprising two end panels, two side panels and two top side panels, one custom made drip irrigation manifold with fourteen drip lines including one drip emitter and one flow valve for each drip line, one submersible drip irrigation pump, one custom made air manifold duct, one industrial 130cfm fan, one fan speed controller, one modified three transducer fogging module with power transformer, one timer control electric plug tower, two mechanical timers, one custom made thermoplastic components mounting skid and stand with custom cord control system on the reverse side, misc small hardware items.
The photo above shows wheat grass, barley grass and greens sprouting aeroponically in this system by using a specially constructed bato bucket lid developed by the GreenFellas. The photos below show a mechanical wheat grass juicer assembled and disassembled.