Vertical gardening is slowly but surely becoming mainstream, even spreading to environments that one would not normally associate with much greenery like the work place. One such example are PodPlants which were developed specifically to cater to the office environment. PodPlants are 2.4m high sealed vertical garden modules that are designed to be free-standing and low maintenance. The units are made out of recycled ABS plastic but the walls of the unit are kept very thin making each PodPlants unit weigh in at only 20 kg which is unusually light given the overall size. They use a patented irrigation system developed by the creator where the exposed roots of the plants dangle within the device, and is based on the increasingly-prevalent aeroponics technology which feeds plants using an air-suspended mist of nutrient solution. One of the problems with many aeroponics setups is that they are also a breeding place for bacteria, but the inherent design of the patented PodPlants is designed to address this issue. As a result, plants grown in PodPlants are healthier allowing them to grow more vigourously. The PodPlants are very easy to install, with the only requirement that they be located next to a power socket – no additional piping or drainage is required as with other vertical gardens. One reason for the increasing popularity of plants in the work place is the recognition that they not only increase the health and wellbeing of their workers but also increase worker productivity as much as 15 percent! Now that’s a compelling reason for any company to install a vertical garden and why PodPlants are becoming so popular.
These days everybody, it seems, is opening an indoor farm! The US company, AeroFarms, is the latest enterprise to hit the news with their soon-to-be biggest indoor vertical farm in the world. As with other iterations of the indoor farm, the idea behind it is to provide more nutritious fresh produce to the local population in a more environmentally-friendly way. It is well-established that as fresh produce sits after harvest, even when refrigerated, the nutritional content begins to degrade, so having to extensively transport produce from distant traditional farms is generally detrimental. In addition, indoor farms do not have to use fertilizer (in the traditional sense), nor do they need any pesticides as the plants are grown in aseptic conditions where pests are kept at bay simply by the plants being isolated indoors. One unusual feature of the AeroFarms set-up is the use of a technique known as aeroponics in place of the more commonly-used hydroponics technologies. So what’s the difference? Aeroponics, as the name suggests, delivers water and nutrients to the plants by creating a mist in the air space around the plant roots. This is different from hydroponics which delivers the same feed as a watery solution that bathes the roots. Is aeroponics better than hydroponics? It is not clear. One thing for sure is that it is more difficult (and expensive!) to create an aeroponic set-up than to build a hydroponic system, so it probably won’t be the preferred system used by us amateur indoor gardeners just yet.