Say, I grow my plants in a 3 gallon container now. Could I grow the same size plant to harvest in a 2 gallon Air Pot or 2 gallon Smart Pot ?
Sorta. Kinda. Not really. All of the above.
What the auto-pruning nursery pots DO
provide is a healthy environment for the plant rootball. This is accomplished in a couple of ways.
1. It maximizes the amount of available oxygen to the soil's rhizosphere. Since we're trying to grow and maintain aerobic microbes they need oxygen. Basic Science 101 in high school and probably maybe even middle-school.
2. It maximizes the ability for the root ball to maintain the proper temperature levels for maximum health and vigor.
Where you and I will probably differ has to do with what is the ultimate goal in doing any process whether it's a feeding schedule, pruning, applying foliar applications - whatever. If the goal is to simply maximize growth rates then I'd suggest that hydroponics may be a better path.
If the goal of a gardener is to create the optimum environment for the plant's genetics to 'show their stuff' and to maintain the plant's vigor and resistance to disease then you can see that you're dealing with opposing agendas/goals.
Before I got sick and we had to sell our farm(ette), I made most of my money on growing strawberries. And I grew the best - over 15 varieties from around the world and 12 of those were heirloom varieties. IOW it was the quality of the end product that was the driving force.
I wasn't trying to grow the 'most' strawberries possible - my goal was to grow the best strawberries that I could which meant that I could charge pretty much what I wanted to with the top chefs in Portland and Seattle.
From my perspective it's important to lay out your agenda for your own perusal/study. What are your goals? Do you want maximum yield? Better go with hydroponics and deal with that learning curve.
Do you want to grow the best medical cannabis possible? With taste, smoothness, punch, disease resistance, have the ability to maximize the genetic code contained in that plant and such? Then you're better off with hardcore organic terrorist methods/processes, IMHO.
In my career in the wholesale produce industry one of my AOR (Area of Responsibility - heh) was to test new products. I've been 'taste testing' hydroponic produce for over 25 years. Tomatoes, bell peppers, cukes, lettuce, strawberries, et al. and it ain't happening. Ever. No way. No how. End of discussion.
The Dutch haven't been able to pull it off. The Canadians in British Columbia haven't been able to pull it off. It's simply factory food - on the same level as McDonald's or Taco Bell. You don't have to have the 'best' in that industry - you only have to sell the most.
Just a couple of random thoughts.