Aeroroot Systems Aeroponics

aeroroot systems aeroponics

Aeroponics takes off for Surrey company working to grow basil plants without soil

‘We wanted to validate that we could make a product using our technology,’ company president says

Aeroroot Systems Aeroponics | Tom Zillich |

IMAGE: Institute for Sustainable Horticulture research assistant Mohammad Ameri with Peter Atwal, president of Surrey-based company Aeroroot, inside greenhouses at KPU in Langley. (Contributed photo)

KPU’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture (ISH) worked with Surrey-based Aeroroot Systems to optimize a method of growing basil plants using aeroponics, without soil.

After trials at the ISH’s Langley greenhouses, researchers have developed a growing procedure that can be used for a future sustainable agriculture operation, the university claims in a news release.

Aeroroot’s project is “a great example of how new technologies are being successfully applied to agriculture for commercialization,” according to Dr. Deborah Henderson, ISH director. “It’s always gratifying when we can help and then see the success.”

The Surrey company’s vertical, air-based growing system is said to use 90 per cent less water and 70 per cent less fertilizer than traditional farming methods.

Researchers inside the research greenhouses at KPU. (Contributed photo) 

To optimize growing, researchers at KPU tested everything from seed selection and production rate to growing media and nutrient volume. Trials were supported by high-tech systems monitoring for potential pests and diseases.

“When it comes to production, it’s really easy to draw something on paper, but to run it through three growth trials, that’s another,” Aeroroot president Peter Atwal said in KPU’s news release.

“We wanted to validate that we could make a product using our technology. There’s nothing new about basil plants, but what is new is using our technology to produce them.”

While high operating costs have long been prohibitive for vertical farming companies trying to make a profit, Atwal says his model will undergo further examination of energy costs before moving forward with building an efficient demonstration greenhouse.

“There’s so much uncertainty with farming technology and systems,” he noted. “To go big and to construct something huge is a capital mistake without actually building something at a smaller scale.”

Basil plants inside the research greenhouses at KPU. (Contributed photo) 

Aeroroot’s project is among the first funded through the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation, a new research hub led by Simon Fraser University. The centre brings together experts from higher education in B.C., including KPU.

In January 2023, Aeroroot Systems was among four B.C. companies to receive $540,000 in funding, including $122,500 from BCCAI, “to help ensure the province’s food systems remain secure, resilient and sustainable.” The three others were Agrotek Industries (Burnaby), Bakerview EcoDairy (Abbotsford) and Lucent BioSciences (West Vancouver).

ISH at KPU is a partnership of academia with B.C.’s horticultural industries and the community “to support B.C. in meeting demands for a higher level of sustainability and environmental responsibility. Its researchers aim to provide innovative biological and technological solutions for use in agriculture and landscape management to strengthen sustainability and resiliency.”

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