DWC vs. Aeroponics – which style of Hydro is better?

The above is a question which both new and experienced growers still grapple with, given the fact that the hydroponic landscape is constantly changing and adapting to meet increased commercial demand, through rigorous innovation and technology.

Personally, I’ve always loved Deep Water Culture, probably because it was the first style of hydro which I was introduced to at a relatively young age.

The ease of use, accompanied by exponentially larger yields and somewhat shorter total cultivation cycle, was something which always appealed to me, and whether conducting a small home-grow, or a commercial operation, the goal is always the same; higher yield (and potency, hopefully) with shorter turnarounds.

The total control over the entire process, along with fairly immediate remedies to problems, was also something which pulled me in to this (at the time) niche style of growing.

For simplicity’s sake, DWC involves submerging the plant’s root system in nutrient-rich, oxygenated water, and Aeroponics involves roots being suspended in an enclosed high-humidity environment, sprayed with water and nutrients at given intervals. Note that there are various styles of DWC and Aeroponics (and hydroponics, generally), but the above is the main gist of it.

Oxygen and moisture are key to the process of nutrient absorption in the cycle of photosynthesis. Nutrient salts move through the plant's root surface, along with water and oxygen, to begin the conversion cycle. These nutrients are transported up into the canopy level as compounds, where photosynthesis uses energy from sunlight (or artificial lighting), converting CO2 and nutrient salts into plant growth, while releasing oxygen and water into the air. In summary, roots need oxygen while the canopy needs carbon dioxide.

Hydroponics accelerate this process by providing nutrients directly to the roots.

The downside, for more inexperienced cultivators, is that oxygen levels have to be managed constantly. Standing water, depleted oxygen, PH levels, and nutrients can trigger algae growth and fungal issues in your reservoir and containers, which requires a lot of attention to keep at bay.

Nutrient dosing is normally managed on a batch volumetric level. Everything is mixed at one time, irrigated, and when it runs out, mixed again (although there are fertigation options on the market which solve this issue). Managing nutrient dosage, water acidity levels (pH), and oxygen mix can be a complex process.

Providing the same nutrient levels to hydroponic plants across this cycle and a large irrigation area can be a challenge, but by using the latest technology, including software, hardware and cloud-based controls, an experienced cultivator can precision-manage a large operation to (almost) perfection.

So, which is better? DWC or Aeroponics?

In truth, there are a range of products competing for the top spot in this specialised marketplace. It is hard to choose one over the other.

That said, DWC will provide a more forgiving environment, should you have a power outage (even though you should theoretically have back-up gens in place), because the roots are still suspended in water, whereas roots in Aero will dry up quicker.

Aside from that unlikely (commercial) scenario, Aeroponics tend to use around 70% less water than any other cultivation method, because nutrients and water are precision dosed at intervals, and sprayed directly onto the roots.

Cost for commercial set-ups of Aeroponics can be significantly higher, but the yields between both methods are comparable.

The choice is yours!

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