13 Apr What Is Hydroponics And What It Is Used For
What Is Hydroponics? What is Hydroponic Farming system?
The world is seeing a growing demand for food with the population on the rise and climate change playing spoilsport on traditional farming. Farmers today are looking for advanced and sophisticated technologies that promise 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, a primarily agricultural country with a growing population of 1.37 billion and we face the challenge of having a low farm yield of about 30-50% than that of developed nations (source.)
Our agrarian practices to date have been conventional. Little has been done since the Green Revolution to improve productivity and employ technological advances to propel crop growth to feed our mighty population. This has affected revenues as well. (Source)
With the turn of the century, we have been witnessing to climate change, water scarcity and polluted land unfit for agriculture- all this significantly impacted agriculture. With countries around the world shifting to more advanced and cleaner agro practises and putting in place mechanised systems that enhance agriculture today, farms in India too are changing to keep up with the pace.
Farming in India today
The mark of an agricultural nation is the vast spread of acres and acres of farmlands and tilled grounds. This is precisely how the country looked a couple of years back. Today with shrinking growing areas, scarcity of water and loss of quality of soil becoming a real issue. So, it becomes relevant to look into newer technologies for farming to sustain and flourish. 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.
What is Hydroponics definition
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 It work?
You can set up the water-based agricultural system by using recycled materials as trays and even PVC pipes to contain the water. Place the plants right above to dip in the nutrient-rich water. The system will circulate the water solution continuously and the reservoir beneath stores the water when the growing systems are not functioning.
Depending on the kind of plant, the system feeds the essential nutrients to encourage growth. Since this method eliminates the need for soil, there is no question of pests. This automatically reduces the input of herbicides and pesticides to the produce. Growers can even opt for sustainable and organic nutrients for Hydroponic farming; like fish excrement, duck manure, and other natural elements. This makes the system more environment-friendly and sustainable.
The nutrient medium primary consists of primary and secondary nutrients that are essential elements for plant growth.
- Primary nutrients are nitrogen(N), phosphorus(P) and potassium(K)
- Secondary nutrients are calcium(Ca), magnesium(Mg) and sulphur(s)
- Other micronutrients include the likes of iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, and boron.
Store the nutrient mixture at room temperature and away from sunlight. Shake it well before use. (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 with too many nutrients will turn the leaves brown. The leaves will look burnt and curled, However, if the leaves turn yellow, it can signal that too fewer nutrients are reaching the plants grown.
How do you set up a hydroponic farm?
There are basically two types of hydroponic farming, i.e., Static solution culture and Continuous-flow solution culture.
Static solution culture
As the title suggests, this system is static. A closed container houses the nutrient medium, The grower suspends the plant from the top through a hole cut out in the cap so that the root touches the medium.
The solution may be aerated or unaerated. You have to change the nutrient solution as and when required; and have to monitor the concentration level of nutrients with an electrical conductivity meter.
Continuous-flow solution culture
Hydroponic growers mostly use this technology is in modern hydroponic farming enterprises. 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.
Many growers also used this prevalent technique called nutrient film technique(NFT). In this method, the nutrient-rich water solution circulates through the thick root mat of the plant. The root mat is at the bottom of the channel. To ensure an adequate supply of oxygen, expose the top to the air.
Hydroponic farming in India – what is hydroponics and its advantages
Without a 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, 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 with the vertical and stacked layout that use lights to replace for sunlight which makes up for weather/seasonal fluctuations that would otherwise affect yield.
Evidence suggests that this technology reduces land and water consumption considerably. Many innovators are currently shifting to the boon of a technology which is setting its roots strong and firm in Himachal and Tamil Nadu. (source)
What’s the cost of hydroponic farming?
Like its versatility in growing different plants, you can also set up a Hydroponic farm according to your budget and expectations. You can practice farming using tailored kits that make the job a lot easier and cost-effective at our own homes. Profitably maintaining a hydroponic farm requires careful attention to crop health, water management and maintenance of hydroponic equipment.
When you want to speed up production and increase the shelf life of your produce, water recirculation is a crucial step to cut costs. So is pruning crops. The cost of getting started, the equipment and setup of Hydroponics is slightly high, especially if you invest in the climate-controlled and artificially lit environment, but it will pay-off in yield in the long term.
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 – What is Hydroponics used for
When you look at the advantages and disadvantages of hydroponics, the pros of this farming method are endless. It makes 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 the plant grow 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
Growers can also combine a hydroponic system with aquaponics, combining vegetables and fish in a symbiotic relationship with the fish waste feeding the plants along with the nutrients supplied. (Source)
Hydroponic farming is a highly advanced technology that you can fine-tune in many ways. It can be as simple as setting up a small hydroponic garden in your backyard with simple trays and nutrient-rich solutions. It may also mean setting up heavily controlled environments- where you have to monitor factors like humidity to temperature levels. The level of sophistication is for yours to choose.
Hydroponics over Organic Produce
The current generation is positively very aware and curious about the source of their food. They want to know about the whereabouts of their food. Where it came from? How was it processed?
Also, this generation is looking for organic, locally-sourced alternatives. They are ready to pay the price for it too. This is because they know that many suppliers inject alarming amounts of chemicals into the food, especially vegetables and fruits, from source to consumption.
While organic food is healthy, it requires enhanced effort for sustained growth. Factors like climate change, pests and seasonality of crops may 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 globalization, there is a growing taste for the exotic fruits and vegetables in the country, from avocados to fresh farm-grown strawberries. Most suppliers import these exotic vegetables nowadays which explain the hefty price tags they carry. About 85% of the country’s exotic vegetables are imported, which is a considerable revenue point. If you can produce domestically, the prices can be driven down by almost 30% of the import counterparts. (source)
Hydroponic growing is especially beneficial for these exotic varieties due to the ability to grow them in temperature-controlled, nutrient-rich surroundings. The system allows growers to mimic its natural growth habitat. It also eliminates the risk of local pest interaction. Today, many farmers are paying attention to exotic plants grown hydroponically, because they can ensure a year-round supply.
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. The best choices are plants that can tolerate moisture and have a considerably smaller size. Look for the kind of plants which can fit into the racks easily and have smaller roots- they grow the best with this type of farming.
Tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberry, lettuce and leafy greens are the best candidates for this farming and work wonderfully in this water-driven farming system. Look for shallow-rooted plants like leafy vegetables. If you want to grow sturdier plants, you have to amp up the setup to accommodate their thick roots.
Coconut husk and peat moss can make the perfect growth mediums to grow vegetables like cucumbers and beets to give them more support. Flowering plants require sunlight to grow, but leafy ones can thrive in fluorescent light as well making them ideal for hydroponic farming indoors.
Hydroponic farming – The right decision
Hydroponic technology promises to bring to the market the best of farm-fresh vegetables all year. The produce is pesticide-free and due to the widespread use of the technology; priced more affordably than organic produce. The sophisticated hydroponics method gives the customer the opportunity to witness the entire production process through CCTV cameras. That way, they can see that their food production is safe.
At Triangle farms, we employ hydroponics to give you fresh vegetables that are produced sustainably, that is good for the environment and for you.