11 Jun What is Hydroponic Farming system?
The world is seeing a growing demand for food with the population on the rise. Climate change is playing spoilsport on traditional farming. Farmers are looking for advanced and sophisticated technologies for food security throughout the year. It is here that hydroponic gardening, the method of soil-less farming becomes relevant. So what exactly is Hydroponics? Read on to find out.
Why hydroponic farming in India?
India is a primarily agricultural country with a growing population of 1.37 billion. We face the challenge of having a low farm yield of 30-50% of developed nations (source.)
Our agrarian practices to date have been conventional. We have done so little since the Green Revolution to improve productivity. Technological advances are key to propelling crop growth to feed our mighty population. (Source)
We have been witness to climate change, water scarcity and polluted land unfit for agriculture. This significantly impacts agriculture. Countries around the world shifting to more advanced and clean agro practises. Mechanised systems only can enhance agriculture today. Farms in India too are changing to keep up with the pace.
Farming in India today
An agricultural nation can be identified by vast spread of farmlands and tilled grounds. This is precisely how the country looked a couple of years back. Today we see shrinking growing areas, scarcity of water and loss of quality of soil. One has to look for newer technologies for farming to sustain and flourish in the future. Farming for years has been labour and water-intensive, which isn’t a sustainable practise anymore and is one of the primary reasons for many people to make the switch from agriculture to other jobs. (source)
The future of farming is here-Hydroponic farming
Sustainable farming has long been in the making, and many are shifting to healthier options due to hues and cries about the unchecked use of harmful pesticides and chemicals that have serious health consequences.
Hydroponic method is the science of growing plants without the use of soil and solely relying on water enriched with essential nutrients for growth. The elimination of soil makes farming possible in confined spaces by resorting to various arrangements, even vertically, meaning cutting down on land use. It also means a reduction in weeds, pests and parasites that usually affect crops.
Hydroponic farming-How does work?
Recycled materials like trays and even PVC pipes are used for this water-based agricultural system. The plants have to be placed above to dip in the nutrient-rich water. The water solution is circulated continuously and the reservoir beneath stores the water when the growing systems are not functioning.
We supply the essential nutrients to the plants through the system. The nutrient depends on the type of plant being grown. Since we fully eliminate soil, there is no question of pests. This, in turn, reduces the number of herbicides and pesticides input to the produce. We can also source the nutrients used for Hydroponic farming from fish excrement, duck manure and others. This is a step in sustainability too.
The nutrient medium primary consists of primary and secondary nutrients that are essential elements for plant growth.
- Primary nutrients are nitrogen, potassium and magnesium. Whereas,
- Secondary nutrients are calcium, sulphur, and phosphorus.
- Micronutrients like iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, and boron are also present in this mixture.
You have to store the nutrient mixture at room temperature, away from sunlight and shake it well before using it. (source)
Hydroponic plants also give you responses about the nutrient content of the solution and one can know them by observing the colour of the leaves. You can alter the mineral levels as you see the signs. For example, a saturated solution of nutrients turn the leaves brown, makes it look burnt and curled. On the other hand, yellow leaves can signal that too less nutrients are reaching it.
How do you set up a hydroponic farm?
There are basically two methods of hydroponic farming, i.e., Static solution culture and Continuous-flow solution culture.
Static solution culture
As the title suggests, this system is static. The nutrient medium is in a closed container. houses, A hole cut out in the cap lets the plant suspend from the top. It is such that the root touches the medium.
The solution may be aerated or un-aerated. Change the nutrient solution every once in a while. An electrical conductivity meter monitors the concentration level of nutrients.
Continuous-flow solution culture
This is a technology that the most modern hydroponic farming enterprises use. This setup means the nutrient medium is continuously flowing about the roots of the plants from a reservoir. This provides the opportunity to take feedback, adjust and fine-tune metrics like temperature, humidity, PH and nutrient levels precisely and closer monitoring of the growth.
Nutrient film technique(NFT) is a prevalent technique today. Here, the nutrient-rich water solution is circulated through the thick root mat of the plant. The root mat is at the bottom of the channel, and the top is exposed to air. This is to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen.
Hydroponic farming in India
Without doubt, India looks like an ideal candidate for this emerging technology. It’s a great time to make the shift since there is a huge market for high-quality and nutrient-rich vegetables. Also called urban farming, hydroponic farming truly lives up to its name. Many have shifted their farms indoors to air-conditioned spaces. To save space, you can use vertical hydroponic farming and stacked layouts. Farms can use lights to replace for sunlight which makes up for weather/seasonal fluctuations that would otherwise affect yield.
It is said that this technology had reduced land and water consumption by a whopping 80%. Many innovators are currently shifting to the boon of a technology which is setting its roots strong and firm in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand among others. (source)
What’s the cost of hydroponic farming?
Like its versatility in growing different plants, setting up of a Hydroponic farm also can be done according to your budget and expectations. The farming can be done using tailored kits that make the job a lot easier and cost-effective at our own homes. Hydroponic farming at home is a great idea for fresh produce. Profitably maintaining a hydroponic farm requires careful attention to crop health, water management and maintenance of hydroponic equipment.
Water recirculation is a crucial step to cut cost as is pruning crops when required to extend the production life of crops. The hydroponic farming cost is the cost of getting started. This includes the equipment and setup of Hydroponics, which is slightly high. This is especially so if you invest in the climate-controlled and artificially lit environment. But it will pay-off in yield in the long term. There are also various centres that offer hydroponic farming training in India. You will learn the basics of hydroponics from here and can get started.
The state of Tamil Nadu has had great yields from hydroponic cultivation due to their availability of abundant sunlight so weighing in on the strengths of the region you are farming at is a smart move. Metro cities are slowly but surely becoming home gardening hubs and even avenues of large-scale commercial hydroponic farming. (source)
Benefits of hydroponic farming
The pros of this farming are endless and make you wonder why we haven’t taken it up already. Let’s go through them.
A steady supply of nutrients
Hydroponic technology ensures a ready and abundant supply of nutrition to the plant, round the clock, which makes plants grow 50% more effectively than from the soil. Therefore you can have fresh harvest year-round compared to seasonal produce from conventional farming. (source)
It is completely environment friendly as water does not go to waste at any point and can be reused in plenty, thereby drastically bringing down the need for fresh water supply. A simple example illustrates this. Say 1 kg of tomato by conventional agriculture requires up to 400L of water whereas Hydroponics puts the figure at 70L (source)
Lessens use of harsh chemicals
Soil-less means eliminating insecticides and pesticides, a huge bonus which makes the vegetables a far healthier choice than available in markets today!
Can also be done without arable land
With land a major challenge for all farmers now, Hydroponics is the perfect way to go about with better yields using very limited space. The technology also opens the door to indoor farming, in a way that has never been done before. You can even set up your own hydroponic garden in your balcony on the 20th floor.
Uses less space
This system of farming in a small area makes harvesting easy, ensures food safety controls convenient to manage carefully and thereby ensure higher yields, reduces wastage of crops from environmental damage and even ensures a supply of off-season produce when the prices in the market are at peak.
Combine with aquaponics
You can also integrate Hydroponics with aquaponics. This symbiotic relationship of vegetables and fish is a great conservation endeavour. (Source)
Hydroponic farming is a highly advanced technology. We can fine-tune them in many ways. You can set up a small hydroponic garden in your backyard with simple trays and nutrient solutions. You can even amp it up with heavily environment controlled systems. One can closely monitor the humidity and temperature levels this way.
Hydroponics over Organic Produce
The current generation is positively very aware and curious about the source of their food. We are curious to know the whereabouts of our food . People enquire about how the food they consume grow.
Also, today, our food contains an alarming amount of chemicals. This is the case, especially with vegetables and fruits. The generation is looking for organic, locally sourced alternatives, and are ready to pay the price too.
While organic food is healthy, they require enhanced effort to sustain their growth. This is due to factors like climate change, pests and seasonality of crops. They deter the variety of crops you can produce in a given time frame. This drives up its price prohibitively and makes it more of an indulgence and not an everyday choice for most people.
Growing exotic vegetables with Hydroponics
With globalisation, there is a growing taste for the exotic fruits and vegetables in the country, from avocados to fresh farm-grown strawberries. These are mostly imported nowadays at a hefty price tag. About 85% of the country’s exotic vegetables are imported, which is a considerable revenue point. The price of these, if produced domestically is 30% less than that of their import counterparts. (source)
Hydroponics is especially beneficial for exotic varieties. Why? Due to the ability to grow them in temperature-controlled, nutrient-rich surroundings that mimic its natural growth habitat with an eliminated risk of local pest interaction.
Best plants for Hydroponics
This revolutionary technology can grow any kind of plant in any part of the world. But, there are some plants that respond really well and thrive in Hydroponics. Plants that are tolerant to moisture and have a considerably smaller size are the best choice to be grown by this farming. This is because, they fit into the racks easily and have smaller roots.
Tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberry, lettuce and leafy greens are the best candidates for this farming and work wonderfully in this water-driven farming system. Shallow-rooted plants like leafy vegetables are bets for hydroponics. But you can also grow roots and sturdier plants, with a setup to accommodate their thick roots.
Coconut husk, and peat moss furnish the growth mediums. The extra support makes it possible to grow vegetables like cucumbers and beets. Flowering plants require sunlight to grow. But leafy ones can thrive in fluorescent light, thereby, making them ideal for hydroponic farming indoors.
Hydroponic farming – The right decision
Hydroponic technology promises to bring to the market the best of fresh farmed vegetables all year. They are pesticide-free, and have a lower price than organic produce. This is a sophisticated farming method. Customer can witness the entire production process through CCTV cameras. They can ensure that safe production practise are in place.
Triangle farms employs hydroponics which gives you fresh vegetables that are sustainably produced. It is also good for the environment as for you.