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Hydroponic Farming: The Eco-friendly Future

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Hydroponic farming
Have you ever come across the thought of how the bunch of kale now on the kitchen counter came to the marketplace? Have you wondered how sweet peppers are grown in the farms and transferred to the market?The fact is that fruits and veggies have always been handy to us but as the world population is growing continuously, producing more food and being sustainable at the same time has become a challenge. With the continuous increase in population, some estimates propose that there is a need for 70% more food in the future but 80% of cultivated land is already in use, and the speedy urbanization is set to extend the challenge of food production sustainably.To cooperate with the growing population, more technologies are getting discovered. One such technology is Hydroponic farming that favors producers to grow plants without the use of soil. 

The Sustainable Alternative

Hydroponic farming

Hydroponic farming is a niche technology for the production of food that authorizes producers to grow plants without the use of soil. A subdivision of hydroculture, this practice uses mineral nutrients to nourish plants in water without using soil. Hydroponic farming involves only around 10% compared to soil-based agriculture. It is because hydroponic systems provide reuse and recycling of water and nutrient solutions, and hence, no water is wasted. 

Quick FAQs:

  1. What are hydroponic systems?

Hydroponic systems are basically of 6 types and all the Hydroponic methods are a combination of these six types.

  • Deep Water Culture
  • Wick Systems
  • Ebb and Flow (Flood & Drain)
  • N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)
  • Drip Systems
  • Aeroponics.
  1. What do I need to start hydroponic farming?

Some prerequisites to start hydroponic farming are:

  • A minimum space of 10*10 feet on your terrace or balcony
  • An initial investment of Rs 10,000 which can be considered as cost-effective
  • About 4 hours of your time to look after the system

You can initiate your hydroponic farm by planting saplings in bottles or grow bags. Then in the future, you can shift to bigger PVC pipes to farm on a large-scale.

Hygiene should be the top priority in the process of hydroponic farming. 

  1. How much water is required for the plants?

Per day 4 liters of water is required for a 1-square-meter big farm. So you can regulate the amount of water your plants need based on the size of your farm.

  1. Do seasons affect this farming method?

The technique is dynamic, where the weather, climate, seasons all play a necessary role in ascertaining how much water, light, and nutrients your plant needs.

It is important to perceive that setting up a hydroponic farm is not a robotic practice of just watering the plants at a fixed time interval and expecting them to grow. Every plant is different from the one hence; there is no fixed formula to go with.

  1. Which vegetables can be grown well?

Some vegetables that grow well are cauliflower, chilies, brinjal, beetroot, spinach, ginger, lettuce, capsicum, tomatoes, carrots, and such other vegetables you can choose from.

Benefits of Hydroponic farming

Hydroponic farming

Hydroponic farming is highly beneficial when compared to traditional methods of cultivation. In hydroponic farming, the plant roots have consistent access to an unrestrained supply of oxygen, and water as well. Besides the amount of water, oxygen, and mineral salts is also controlled.

Other advantages of hydroponic farming include,

  • The strength control of the plant’s nutrition
  • An evident advancement in yields and quantity
  • A high multiplication success rate
  • Savings on fertilizers
  • No use of herbicides and pesticides
  • More productive use of space

Food safety is the most substantial benefit in hydroponic farming because of the controlled environments as products are cultivated under stringent quality control specifications following strict preventative methods. The product is on hold until it is verified free of pathogens and is then delivered to the public.

Drawbacks of Hydroponic farming

Hydroponic farming

There is a restricted production to hydroponic farming. Although you can grow throughout the year, which may create a difference but still you are narrowed by the available space. A hydroponic plant cannot grow if it is overcrowded or congested.

You need to supervise a hydroponic garden constantly. Maintaining the hydroponic garden and always keeping a check can be stressful for some, and there are chances that hydroponic farmers will have unsuccessful crops in their first few tries so you need to be ready for trial and error. As the water is cycled and filtered during the whole hydroponics system, if even a single disease takes hold, the entire crop can be destroyed in a matter of hours. 

Another risk in hydroponics farming is the uncertainty of water-based microbes. Fungi and bacteria grow in water. Although some fungi and bacteria are good for crops, some can be hazardous. 

Nevertheless, the benefits of hydroponic farming are ultimately great but the task is not an easy one to undertake.

The Next Generation Farming: Vertical farming

Hydroponic farming

Provided the demand for more sustainable agriculture, eco-friendly start-up companies across the globe are using hydroponic farming for the production of crops largely with a method known as “Vertical Farming”. Vertical farms are buildings loaded with endless levels of hydroponic systems, growing various crops in a controlled temperature and an indoor environment. 

Did you know?

The grandest vertical farm built in Dubai aims to produce 6,000 pounds of food per day, covering 130,000 square feet of the area utilizing 1/2500th the volume of water as a soil operation. Such a huge project will tremendously bring a change in the city that imports 85% of its food. 

However, vertical farms are a bit expensive to execute, and technically demanding on a large scale. Nevertheless, the food produced is typically more costly than equivalent soil-grown food due to the high-energy charges of managing the systems. 

Controlling food wastage through Hydroponic farming

Hydroponic farming

As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, of all the food produced every year, around one-third of it ends up being wasted. That’s almost 1.3 billion tonnes, which associates with a loss of roughly $1 trillion.

The mark in the value chain at which the food gets wasted most varies between developing and developed countries. In developing countries, wastage of food tends to take place during the more initial stages of the food value chain. Somewhat, it is because of the need for food transportation from rural to urban areas. After the vast spans, before hoarding and then trading it to the customers, immense resources are exhausted such as fuel, labor, land, time and the list continues.

Other reasons also involve restraints around crop management, farming, and reaping provoked by a shortfall of expertise and finances. Advancing the logistics and infrastructure of food in developing countries can help address some of these challenges. Meantime, the UNFAO claims the total of malnourished people is continuously growing: in 2016 it was 804 million but in the following year had increased to 821 million.

Thus, the huge amount of food that is wasted can be converted into organic fertilizer pellets for hydroponic farms. When mixed in water the pellets make the nutrients instantly available to the plants. It also lessens the demand for synthetic fertilizers, which create a lot of carbon pollution while they’re manufactured.

So to an extent, the food wastage and losses can also be covered through hydroponic farming. 

Hydroponics: The future of farming

Hydroponic farming

Realistically, food wastage cannot be completely stopped but hydroponic farming can tweak the value chain management. Some perishables such as leafy vegetables, root-based vegetables, tomatoes, turnips, carrots can be cultivated in large quantities although in much smaller spaces. It is not believed to be a full proof solution but it can be one of the solutions that can help our conversion from profitable farming and shift to an unconventional technique of cultivating at least some amount of food.

Hydroponic farming also administers advanced quality characteristics of the plant, nutrition, in particular. People tend to eat vegetables as it is a healthier choice. Upgrading the nutritional value of the plants is achievable through hydroponic farming and organized environment agriculture. Growth in the use of fertilizer can decrease the quality as well as the nutritional compounds in the plants.

A small step towards sustainable tomorrow…

Hydroponic farming

We are at a compelling point in time where we need to interrogate how much fossil fuel is consumed in transporting the food we eat. The amount of carbon and water footprints you are coming up with by consuming your protein smoothie? Except you try to eat organic and healthy food, is it eco-friendly? It is a staggering volume of water that is used for fruit orchards or irrigating traditional vegetable farms. Many farmers still favor growth stimulants and chemical fertilizers that go into the water bodies nearby. It is a monstrous cycle that needs to be stopped right now.

Hydroponic farming is going through rapid changes. It will facilitate customers to eat healthier and be closer to their food. It can cooperate to take the confusion out of what to buy at the supermarket with all year availability of healthy, safe, and clean food. While hydroponic farming may not completely replace conventional methods, it is breaching the paradigm of food production; we might see a new population of modern farmers forming green walls in their houses or in community places to provide families with fresh food cultivated all year round.