Aeroponic Cannabis: It Just Hits Different

CATEGORY Learning Sesh

LENGTH 7 MIN READ

AUTHOR Nora Lenhardt

Dig into different cannabis cultivation methods and discover why aeroponic rises above the rest.

Our collective connection to cannabis goes back – way back – some 12,000 years. Suffice to say, there have been major advancements in its cultivation in that time. Here, we’ll dissect modern cultivation methods and delve deeper into the most innovative – and undeniably the most sustainable – way to grow cannabis: aeroponically.

We’ve run a 100% aeroponic operation from the beginning. Since our inaugural harvest in 2016 in southern Illinois, we’ve expanded operations to Arizona, and are on the cusp of launching in California. After chatting with our Head Grower and Director of Operations in Arizona, it’s clear that growing cannabis aeroponically isn’t exactly the easy route. But the consistent results – and primo product – are worth the toil.

So, what does it entail to master the art of aeroponic cannabis? Let’s take a journey – from soil, to water, and finally, to air.

First Things First: Soil Cultivation

Chances are you’ve grown a plant or several in your life and are familiar with soil-based growing. Maybe you’ve killed a few in your day and, like this writer, cannot figure out what you did wrong this time. That’s the takeaway with soil-based growing: too many variables that make it difficult to pinpoint what went wrong – or even right.

Aeriz Head Grower, Kevin Maloney, notes that soil is the most basic way of growing – the most forgiving even – but there are many “buffers for error.” Because soil varies greatly and increases the likelihood of gnats, pests, and fungal contamination, it’s extremely difficult to consistently manage optimal nutrition.

Now imagine these dilemmas on a large scale – a field of cannabis with multiple roots all searching and struggling for proper nutrients, water, and oxygen. When plants themselves are doing so much work to simply survive, not all can thrive; some fare well and others fall behind. Of course, cannabis is grown with soil in many operations throughout the world, but oftentimes the outcome is (frankly) lower-grade, dirtier weed in less bountiful quantities.

Presumably after much trial and error, some of our green-thumbed ancestors saw another way to help plants prosper more effectively. They removed a variable from the equation – soil – and the more advanced growing method of hydroponics was born.

While you may be imagining a giant, lab-like facility with clipboards and white coats, the basic idea of hydroponics originated thousands of years ago – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Floating Gardens of China being two pristine examples created well before Christ. Since then, and within the world of cannabis, hydroponic grow operations are wildly prevalent today.

Built in approximately 600 BC, this is what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon may have looked like. Destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BC, it's considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Essentially, hydroponically grown cannabis works like this: the plant sits in some type of medium (often spun limestone, rockwool or coco coir), which is then suspended in or dispersed with – you guessed it – water. Within the water are all the fertilizers and nutrients the plant needs to grow, resulting in a larger yield, less contamination, and better-quality cannabis than soil cultivation.

Sounds great, right? It is… for the cannabis. However, it yields a lot of waste. Oftentimes, the media used to hold plants are not reused or composted. Reusing them would risk contaminants re-entering the system, so many commercial growers buy new media after a single grow cycle. On top of that, the water and fertilizer mixture may only go through the media once. From there, it goes straight to the sewer. So, while the cannabis may be more plentiful and promising, landfills and natural resources pay a hefty price.

Finally: Earth-Friendly Aeroponics

When we say that sustainability is at the core of everything we do, we truly mean it. However, not in the “save the turtles of course, but then gulp through a soggy paper straw” type of way. No, our enduring efforts to minimize waste actually produce a more high-quality product. It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits all – the planet, the plant, and the many cannabis consumers who consistently seek purity and value transparency. As we’ve become the largest commercial aeroponic grower in the world, we’ve adhered to our principles while perfecting our precise process.

Exposed roots are misted at exact intervals, 24/7.

In contrast to hydroponics, aeroponically grown cannabis is suspended in air with only a small amount of media present in the process – recycled media at that. Plants are started by hanging cuttings in neoprene collars, exposing roots that are gently misted. Once a bit more robust, the rooted cuttings are transferred to a net pot with a small amount of clay pellets to anchor the plant and allow it to grow upright. Roots emerge through the bottom of the pot where they’re misted with a nutrient and water solution at exact intervals, 24/7. Rather than constantly draining this solution, it’s re-circulated; this closed-loop system results in roughly 30% less water usage than hydroponic growing, or 95% less than growing outdoors in soil. Furthermore, the hovering roots are exposed to more oxygen and an increased availability of nutrients at a time. So, plants grow faster and fuller while still retaining their natural compounds – i.e., the original cannabinoids and terpenes that define and differentiate every strain.

Maloney equates the whole process to taking care of ourselves: “if we work out and eat right, we look and feel our best… we’re doing the same with cannabis using aeroponics.” By delivering the “most precise amounts of nutrients in short bursts and sprays,” they give the plant “exactly what it wants when it wants it, providing the environment is correct.”

Explaining the arduous task of achieving an ideal aeroponic environment would be rather arduous in and of itself. Both Maloney and Director of Operations, Reece Roder, note that other cultivators are intimidated to switch to aeroponic cannabis because they’re under the impression that it’s “the harder way to grow.” While they’re not wrong, Roder emphasizes with pride, “but you end up with a more premium product,” free of contaminants.

And that brings us to arguably the most important part of our process: the complete flush. While some grow operations may skimp on this part, for the last 7-10 days of the growth cycle, nothing but water is put through our system, “forcing the plant to deplete its nutrient levels inside itself.” In layman’s terms: what’s left is “the most natural version of itself, as if it was grown in the wild.” And that’s the goal – to produce flower in its purest form, over and over again. Our aeroponic flower is literally the foundation for everything we offer, its prestige the crux of our success.

 

Vegetation tables at our facilities.

Worth It In Every Way

“It’s not easy, and we take pride in doing it the hard way so customers and patients can have that premium bud and enjoy it without worrying about contaminants,” Roder says in earnest. That dedication – combined with the diligence of the entire grow team who tend to plants’ every need on a minute-by minute basis – results in a whopping zero parts per million of contamination. In short, our cannabis is cleaner by careful aeroponic design. And the high? As Mother Earth intended.

RECENT CONTENT

BACK TO THE REALM
;