Airponix, United Kingdom

A farming system for a water-constrained future

Airponix is a soilless system that allows farmers to grow food crops with significantly less water

Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water for basic human needs such as food. Over the past 100 years, global freshwater use has increased six-fold. The demand for water continues to grow steadily at a rate of about 1% per year. This increase is the result of a growing population, economic development and shifting consumption patterns, in particular to more water-demanding meat and dairy heavy diets. Critical measures are needed to improve the efficiency of water use in agriculture. Water in the Airponix system generates a nutrient-laden fog, creating a cloud of <20 micron droplets using very little energy. The fog moves freely around the protective enclosures in which the growing plants are supported. Using electrostatic charge, the droplets adhere to the plants’ leaves and roots and are absorbed. A fully automated system is also being developed to give plants what they need, when they need it, operated by a mobile phone app. The Airponix system can grow root crops, soft fruits and brassicas. They grow within low-cost, protected growth chambers that are suitable for almost any terrain. According to Airponix, the system uses 85% less water than normal crop production techniques with no requirement for expensive and scarce arable land. The contained system also prevents water run-off.