What is hydroponic agriculture?
Hydroponic agriculture is a process of growing plants without the use of soil using an exact water-soluble mix of nutrients and minerals provided directly to the root system of the plant. The process is nothing new in fact it has been used for thousands of years.
Using the gravity-engineered design, ancient farmers were able to grow crops in water without using soil on large scales feeding a whole population of people.
History of Hydroponic Agriculture
Hydroponics has been around for a long time, the process used by ancient civilized people of Babylon as far back as 600 AD. The Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were considered one of the Seven Wonders of The World. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon along with the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Temple of Artemis in Turkey, the Statue of Zeus in Greece, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Turkey, the Colossus of Roade’s (Greece), and the Lighthouse of Alexandria located in Egypt.
Most of these Wonders Of The World don’t exist today and the accounts of the Hanging Garden of Babylon were noted by Ancient documents and architectural writings found through research of the ancient civilizations throughout the years. These gardens were located along the Euphrates river. The gardens supposedly used the Chain Pull System. This system carried water up from the river and allowed it to trickle down to each landing of the garden.
During the 10th century, the Aztecs used a system of floating gardens using hydroponics. They were driven out of their land, and they settled on the banks of Lake Tenochtitlan but they were not able to grow crops there.
They built rafts from reeds and roots found on the shore and used silt soil from the bottom of the lake. They floated the rafts out to the middle of the lake and crops grew on top of the rafts with their root system growing through the rafts into the water. The rafts were called Chinampas and the silt was nutrient-rich with a variety of organic compounds that the Aztecs used for farming crops.
The Chinampas supported an abundance of flowers, crops, and even trees. While allowing for a constant source of water and root oxygenation. The Chinampas were even grouped together to form large islands. Some of these were inhabited by gardeners and others maintain the islands and used their Chinampas to travel to local markets with fresh vegetables and other crops.
These Chinampas were a huge success and supported as many as 200,000 people during the height of the Aztec civilization. The makeshift islands were bigger than some cities in Europe. When the Spanish arrived, the sight of these floating cities astonished them.
William Prescott the known historian who witnessed the destruction of the Aztec Empire by the Spaniards remarked in his writing that the chinampas were Wandering Islands of Verdure teeming with flowers and vegetables moving like rafts across the water. The Chinampas continued in use well into the 19 Century. Countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador knew about hydroponics, how it works, and similar types of systems in their own culture.
In the 1600s new scientific experiments studying plant growth and their requirements led Jan Van Helmut to discover how plants take nutrients and substances from water for necessary growth. Little was known about the Sciences at this time until the next century or two came about with modern scientific research. By the turn of the century, it was determined by an English Scientist John Woodward that plant growth was dictated by certain nutrients that were in soil and water or both but more importantly.
It was through his efforts that European plant physiologists found that a plant takes in these nutrients and substances through its root system and passes through the stem and out the pores or openings on the leaves of the plant.
They also proved that plant roots take up minerals along with oxygen and nutrients from either water or soil, and absorb carbon dioxide through the leaves of the plant. Then they transform that Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen through respiration which was an important part of the puzzle. As time went by more knowledge became sophisticated and advanced into what we know as modern scientific research. The modern theory of chemistry made big advances during this time.
By the 1800’s elements believed to be essential for plant growth were identified and botanists were growing plants in other mediums like sand and charcoal instead of soil. They understood that water was needed for a plant to live and then narrowed down what minerals and nutrients were needed for the growth of the plant. Once this nutrient optimization mixture for the plant was developed, it was considered a major breakthrough.
By 1856 it was known that plants could be grown in inert material or medium as long as the medium was moist and had the minerals in it that were needed by the plants for normal growth. The next step would be to eliminate the media completely and grow the plants with water-rich nutrients and minerals.
By 1860 German Professor Julius Von Sach Professor of Botany at the University of Wurzburg and his partner W. Knop an Agricultural Chemist published the first Standard formula for a nutrient solution that could be dissolved in water where plants could be grown. This marked the end of the long search for the source of nutrients necessary for all plant growth.
These German Scientists help create with their predecessors a new science called Nutriculture. The early investigations in plant nutrition demonstrated that normal plant growth can be achieved by immersing the roots of a plant in a water solution containing salts of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Sulfur (S), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), and Magnesium (Mg) along with Carbon(C) Oxygen(O) and Hydrogen(H) These elements are considered Macronutrients.
With further refinement, Scientists narrowed this down further to seven elements required in small amounts for the plant’s optimum growth. These were Iron Chlorine Manganese(MN) Boron(B) Zinc(Zn) Copper(Cu) and Molybdenum(Mo) The actual total amounts of elements are between 15 and 17. Modern Hydroponic fertilizers although not perfected still contain more nutrient-rich substances than regular crop fertilizers.
Interest in a practical application using Hydroponics came through the Greenhouse industry where there were problems related to a soil that needed to be replaced frequently because of problems with structure pests and fertility. All these problems would be alleviated with the process of Hydroponics and soilless culture.
Dr. Victor Tiedjens was an early pioneer in soilless farming from the 1920s to the 1930s. He found that farmers were using dry fertilizer at this time and that if they dissolved it first with water the plants would better utilize it. Also, the solutions used could better be manipulated for different strengths and for different plants. This led to the invention of liquid fertilizer.
In 1929, Dr. William F. Gericke of the University of California dedicated his Lab to a commercial crop production operation. First called his department aquaculture then found that term was being used in another science field and changed it to Hydroponics which means Hydro(water) ponos (working water) in Greek.
His operation became a huge success with predictions of 25-foot tomato plants and exaggerated results for crop production. Some press publications called it the biggest invention of the last century. Unfortunately, the success was premature and the excitement proved harmful for a long time.
The technical part of Hydroponics and the fact crops using it need constant attention created disdain and left it dormant until the technology caught the world’s attention again.
During WW2 the science of Hydroponics was revived when the government started experimenting with the process again. The British and American forces that were stationed on Islands in the South Pacific used Hydroponics to grow fresh vegetables and produce for troops during the war. The military used the method as it’s the sole process for overseas produce production. They continued long after the war producing huge amounts of fruits and vegetables using the same way.
Dr. Gericke’s Hydroponic Garden in 1945
But the real turnaround was the influx of plastics after the war and the new technologies that came in the early seventies created the environment needed for Hydroponics. Pumps, timers, and automated electronic equipment were necessary for its rebirth. The old structures made from concrete and iron involved with agriculture and greenhouse production were revamped. The process that was discovered 50 years previously could finally be delivered.
It was available and streamlines today’s largest issues in the world today like water scarcity and food shortage. Hydroponics can produce 10 times the food yield per/acre using 1/10 the water in use.
Importance of Hydroponics
Today Agriculture and outdoor landscape irrigation consume 70% of the global water supply. Each continent in the world today is struggling to access safe and reliable water reserves. The world’s population will reach and exceed 9 Billion people in the world.
We will need twice the amount of water and land to accommodate this amount but there is not enough available. Deforestation won’t be an option. We need to grow more food on the land we already have while keeping this land fertile and destroyed from overuse.
New technologies are being used to solve these huge global problems. What affects one affects all. Eventually, these problems won’t be restricted to one area of the globe. Changing the economics of Agriculture using more stringent processes and procedures will be needed now.
There are international companies, some right in our backyard, that are leading the way with new technologies like Hydroponics, Precision Irrigation, and Wastewater Utilization.
Digital solutions for all processes of farming to monitor analyze and control every step of agriculture Farmers are finding that the more sustainable approach to agriculture, the more profitable while saving precious global resources from food and water to energy and land.
How can we keep up and grow enough food for the increasing population is a huge question that needs a solution. The components of a farm system that were used for centuries have to change to keep up with a changing world. Growing plants without soil could be a solution.
The need for producing more productive food in smaller spaces with fewer resources gives rise to Hydroponics in agriculture.
How does hydroponic farming work?
How Does a Hydroponic Farming Work
Using nutrient and mineral-rich solutions to grow plants in places that would never be home to them is the unique idea behind the process. Using habitats that have no business in sustaining crops but with a proven methodology can be very successful.
Since the travels of Marco Polo in the 13th century in China. The process of Hydroponics is very old but the technology that makes it possible now is very new.
Applying the proper amount of nutrient solution to the root system is the formula for growing vegetables in water without soil. This process can bring an abundant amount of crop yield. Plants can be held in an inert material and a drip system can add the nutrient solution drop by drop with no waste.
The plant can even be suspended with its roots in the air and sprayed with a solution mist or a sloping film that allows the solution to trickle over its roots. All the systems are controlled and outfitted by mechanized pumps and timers that deliver the solution from a separate area also using gravity in certain schemes of design.
The solution is aerated so that oxygen is added to the plant’s roots at the same time it receives the nutrients. This procedure ensures the plant’s mineral absorption rate that requires energy which in turn uses oxygen is successful. The plant is totally maintained automatically. With the proper amount of food and oxygen for the best end results.
Delivering Nutrients to the plant is a whole science in itself. Plants require over a dozen essential minerals and nutrients with the optimal amounts varying according to species, stages in growth, and local conditions, and all PH dependent.
Some have to be provided to the plant separately from others. Some compounds react with other substances that hinder the absorption of nutrients for the plant along with the other plants.
Too much of this and too little of that can destroy the outcome. The complicated science of Nutri-culture has been one of the obstacles to the ease of operation and use of Hydroponics, and how it works in agriculture and business.
What Is Hydroponic Farming Hydroponic farming isometric flowchart with staff and elements of orangery constructions water pump fertilizers vegetable market vector illustration? How can we keep up and grow enough food for the increasing population is a huge question that needs a solution.
The components of a farm system that were used for centuries have to change to keep up with a changing world. Growing plants without soil could be a solution. The need for producing more productive food in smaller spaces with fewer resources gives rise to Hydroponics in agriculture.
The Hydroponics Process
Too much of this and too little of that can destroy the outcome. The complicated science of Nutri-culture has been one of the obstacles to the ease of operation and use of Hydroponics, and how it works in agriculture and business.
Unlike other methods of crop growing, contamination is an issue farmers have to deal with. Enclosed areas such as greenhouses, help with this part of the operation problem. The process of Hydroponics can be quite simple too.
The Hydroponic process doesn’t have to be complicated. In this video, you can see the mechanics and the whole idea is really pretty simple. As long as the roots receive the proper nutrient and food source plants will grow in small unorthodox places that would normally be impossible. This type of farming that is 1000 years old is basically the same process. This inexpensive creative way of Agriculture could benefit many people in many different areas of the world.
Environmental Benefits of Hydroponics
There is no waste The nutrients delivered to plants can be precisely added so there is no waste of water or minerals compared to any other type of agriculture. Up to 90 % of the water used in standard farming for growing crops can be saved by the use of Hydroponics.
Better yields Because of the precise delivery of nutrients to the crops it is optimized for a better and more predictable result. No leeching from fields, huge savings on fertilizer & pesticides-Eco Friendly
More Control of Pests and Diseases because of the soilless environment.
Locations- Plants can be grown anywhere like spacecraft or indoors. Because all environmental conditions can be controlled unconventional spaces can be used like subways or basements.
There are Negatives to growing with Hydroponics
Artificial light-heating/cooling and the Mechanics of using Hydroponics have to be maintained.
Equipment that has to be used can be costly along with the hydroponic start-up cost.
The vulnerability of a wrong Nutrient dosage and power outages can wipe out the entire crop. Plants are less hardy in a water-based solution. This can affect the whole crop until it’s picked up and corrected. This could be a malfunction in equipment or power outage or a human mistake.
An important feature that can affect the results of using Hydroponic plant growth is the use of artificial lighting. Hydroponic Drip System has to be set, adjusted, and maintained. Nutrients delivered mechanically are the only sources, so they have to be right.
Temperatures have to be regulated for the health of the plant and especially its roots. Heaters and cooling systems along with thermostats have to be controllable and functioning. Support for vine plants like tomato plants needs to be maintained. A word about Pollination. Mechanical equivalents of bees and insects are needed if some of the plants growing need self-pollinating to produce fruit.
Is Hydroponics Sustainable
Big changes are in store for the future of farming and are already in place. In 1900 about 11 million people worked in agriculture in the US, feeding the country that number has dropped significantly by almost half. This is due to the ongoing influence of new technology that exists in the agricultural business.
Computerized precision equipment that delivers more sustainable fertilizers and water and timers that automate the system into a loop that can operate, adjust and think for itself. New on the horizon is automated robotic pickers that can pick fields of fruits or vegetables twice as fast as humans can.
Drones can precisely remove weeds or shoot individual plants with pesticides using 90% less by applying exact amounts where needed, unlike the older process of blanketing entire areas of crops in fields. Lasers from drones can even zap the weed without the use of chemical pesticides at all. 20-40% of crop yield can be saved by preventing pests and diseases from ruining crops every year.
Tiny sensors and smartphones will play a role in the communication between the new technology and the producer who can make critical, more sustainable changes to the whole system from anywhere in the world. Core samples of farmlands or greenhouses can be taken for testing by mechanical farm equipment and analyzed and the crops can be saved continuously without human interference.
There are plans for farms to be completely run by automation. Automating crop information through technology is even done from space through satellite pictures. New software programs are being developed to control crops no matter how big, no matter what the product is for the least cost and best yield. Hydroponics will be part of that new plan to feed the world.
How can we keep up and grow enough food for the increasing population is a huge question that needs a solution. The components of a farm system that were used for centuries have to change to keep up with a growing world. Growing plants without soil could be a solution. The need for producing more productive food in smaller spaces with fewer resources gives rise to Hydroponics in agriculture.
Using habitats that have no business in sustaining crops but with a proven methodology can be very successful. Since the travels of Marco Polo in the 13th century in China. The process is very old but the technology that makes it possible is very new.
Fine-tuning the Hydroponic systems to work even more efficiently will be the key. Applying the proper amount of nutrient solution to the root system is how to grow vegetables in water without soil which can bring an abundant amount of crop yield. Plants can be held in an inert material and a drip system can add the nutrient solution. The plant can even be suspended with its roots in the air and sprayed with a solution mist or a sloping film that allows the solution to trickle over its roots.
All the systems are controlled and outfitted by mechanized pumps and timers that deliver the solution from a separate area. The solution is aerated so that oxygen is added to the plant’s roots at the same time it receives the nutrients. This procedure ensures the plant’s mineral absorption rate that requires energy which in turn uses oxygen is successful. The plant is totally maintained automatically and with the newest sustainable technology will work miracles in the most barren parts of the earth.
Commercial Hydroponic Systems
New sustainable companies are popping up all over the country, some right in our own backyard that provides alternative farming methods. What used to be a hobby is now ready for prime time. Water and land scarcity have brought us to a serious place.
The reports from around the world are alarming but there are technology and entrepreneurs ready to take on using the capital to move towards the next chapter in agriculture.
The idea that you can grow fresh healthy crops on land that had no use, using 90% less water and no pesticides while providing jobs and business growth to places that have seen no business growth in some time is enticing to young people that see the opportunity and seize it. companies Edenworks in Brooklyn NY uses the process of Aquaponics which is a sustainable method of raising both fish and vegetables. Using Hydroponic Greenhouse technology.
It is popular with individuals, entrepreneurs, educators, missions, and governments. Furthermore, with this type of indoor farming, you grow substantially more food with less water, land, and labor than in traditional agriculture.
Garden Fresh Farms uses Hydroponics to grow leafy vegetables all year long naturally converting fish waste to fertilizer which acts as the nutrients fed to the soilless plants using the Vertical Farming method. This new farm technology is taking the world by storm because of the natural process of production and the guaranteed delivered fresh to Supermarket approach is getting a lot of attention. It’s called 24 Fresh from the farm to the supermarket within 24 hours.
They’re able to do this because of the space that they occupy in the same neighborhood as the restaurant and the supermarket. Hydroponics makes this limited space growth possible. The business models have a sustainable goal of benefits that are all-encompassing with reducing water by up to 90%. Reducing energy by up to 50% Reducing land use by 100%. For the Consumer, it uses no pesticides and is all-natural. It is fresher, tastier, and higher in nutritional value.
Sold at a competitive price and also sold year-round for availability. An investor in these sustainable eco-friendly companies achieves a solid return on investment. It can revitalize neighborhoods and Local access to healthy foods through CSAs and creates jobs along the way to success.
Dr. William Gericke would be proud with joy to realize the dream he had of his invention would come to fruition and become such an important early discovery. It looks like it could be the answer or at least part of the answer to the biggest questions we face in the near future.
Hydroponics Agriculture For The Home
Up until the late 70, the idea of growing plants indoors with no soil was taught in schools but was more of a science experiment in Biology than a practical standard for crop growing. School teachers spread the process through instructions from Dr. William Gericke who dreamed of other scientists and agriculture societies to see the true value of his experiments and their results. He wanted farmers to replace fields of wheat and potatoes with hydroponic systems.
His porotype systems for tomatoes, flowers, and salad greens resulted in huge yields and successful bounties more than any other standard conventional field growing during this time. Even during the war countries showed interest in his procedures because of the growing concern about population growth and fewer resources. But it didn’t happen.
There was one group of people that used the invention of Gericke and began a whole line of new business, The business of pot growing. The 70s brought the war on drugs and the pot was considered a drug.
The normal way to grow pot was for people would buy plots of open land in warmer climate regions like California, Hawaii, and Florida. The pot culture picked up the hydroponics systems and took the whole thing indoors.
The first-time growers spent a huge amount of money to get the new green business going. Apparently and I wouldn’t know but the cost paid in equipment was well worth the product, and then some.
Still, the start-up cost for the equipment involved is still a hurdle when it comes to making a commercial go at the business level end on hydroponics.
The smaller systems on sale can yield good amounts of veggies and flowers and are fairly inexpensive. Hydroponic growth is the future, and the future is here. Hydroponics gardening offers numerous benefits over traditional growing including control over pH and nutrient balances, a reduced amount of pests and diseases, and reduced water and nutrient waste. This one is self-sustaining using fish waste for nutrients.
An Aquaponic System is a self-sustaining hydroponic station that combines fish culture with plant production into a single, beneficial ecosystem. In other words, the Aquaponic System works by using fish waste as a natural fertilizer for the plants, the plants, in turn, help create clean water for the fish to live in. The farmer won’t have to add nutrients to the roots of the plants by using Aquaponics.
- The nutrients are produced by fish poop in the tank water where fish live.
- That nutrient-rich water from the tank is pumped over a media that holds microbes. These microbes convert the nutrient-rich water down to nontoxic material.
- That converted waste is added as nutrients to the plant’s roots, which use as food.
Aquaponic can take up minimal space in your home. All you need is a Hydroponic System with a fish tank added to the system. Indoor systems will need artificial light but the Outdoor system won’t.
Hydroponic Kits For Sale
Hydroponic Kits for the home or apartment enable the grower to grow all year round. Herbs, vegetable flowers, and more can grow right on the countertop in your kitchen. This one comes with automatic features that will turn the specialized light bulb’s 10-watt full spectrum that comes on and turns off. The gardener still has to learn to keep up with the mixture and nutrient addition but with some added help from the newer units that alarm when it is feeding time. The systems are many gravity Fed Systems like this one called AutoPot 8 Pot (3.9).
Seed kits for whatever plant you desire and it will keep fresh vegetables growing year-round in your kitchen. Easy to assemble the systems are amazingly simple to use and require minimal energy. Indoor Flowering Systems. The LED lights concentrate on daylight white LEDs for fast growth, blue LEDs for bigger yields, and red LEDs for more flowers and fruit. With ideal lighting and optimally balanced levels of water and nutrients, plants grow up to five The kits come with everything you need to get going for a modest price.
Most of these smaller hydroponic kits germinate in 7-14 days and harvest in 4-6 weeks and continue long after that. The plants grow in water and air with no soil to mess with. This system called the AeroGarden Sprout LED with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit, Black has a reservoir that provides the root system with an abundant balance of oxygen and water, and nutrients.
The root systems are suspended in the air and grow fast and efficiently as the exact amount of nutrients is added aromatically when needed. Advanced LED lighting system that is tuned exactly for maximizing photosynthesis, resulting in rapid, natural growth and abundant harvests.
The systems use an adjustable lamp arm that can maximize your plant growth. These growers use no pesticides or herbicides from the seeds throughout the whole process. Making it a totally green healthy product.
The Outdoor Hydroponic Gardens can use different types to take advantage of the space needed to grow a good amount of plants and vegetables. This outdoor system is called a Vertical Hydroponic that uses a height advantage along with the sun and warmer temperatures of the summer season.
Once the seasons change again, the farmer can move his/her system indoors with an Indoor Hydroponic System with either a homemade kit or something from the Home Improvement store. The addition of artificial lighting will be the only component needed from the Outside System.
Since the Hanging Gardens of Babylon one of the Seven Wonders of the World has been hanging around, and so has the process of Hydroponics. We just needed a couple of thousand years or so to discover it and now you can buy the system at the nearest Home Depot.
The future of Hydroponics looks very good considering all the issues that the world is experiencing these days like water scarcity and overpopulation. Not to mention the overuse of land that will come along with the future of the earth’s water shortage. Sometimes you need to look into the past to find a solution for the future.
This may be one of those times.
For more great articles on Aquaponics and other water topics stay right here at MyWaterEarth&Sky-There are a few reasons Trout are preferential in a Hydroponic system. One is the final product when harvested. Trout has great texture, color, and flavor and is delicious to …………… Continue reading
JimGalloway Author Editor
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