Aeroponics is the growing of plants with the roots exposed to the air. Water and nutrients are misted or sprayed on the roots.
This method provides several advantages to a colony on Mars:
- Water Conservation
- Disease Control
- Increased Crop Yield
- Aeroponics plants do not have a buffer of soil to temper changes or any type of technical problem. So they need constant monitoring and are somewhat less stable than soil grown cultures.
- Monocultures are susceptible to disease.
- Salt buildup, and basically any contaminant buildup in the water, needs to be controlled.
The long term need for aeroponics in a martian settlement is debatable. Plants will produce excess biomass, and all living beings will produce waste, that can be incorporated into soil. So the amount of soil available to a settlement naturally grows with time.