Now-a-days hydroponics has become the most popular and trending searched topic on Google. Hydroponics is mainly practised in Greenhouse or in indoor gardens. Hydroponic farming is not new. In fact it is practiced since ancient times. Egyptian records of several hundreds years BC describe growing plants in water. A form of hydroponics was established in the hanging garden of Babylon, ( the floating garden of China and Mexico). Theophrastus also worked on plant nutrients during 372-287. These were not  called hydroponics then because hydroponics wasn't discovered. Well, you may have heard of this word many times. This word is popularly famous for growing plants without soil. Do you know its true meaning? & how hydroponics has become more commercially viable than traditional farming. Let's discuss this topic in detail.

Definition of hydroponics?                

Hydroponics is a Greek word, derived from two words, hydro means 'water' and ponos derived from ponein means 'to labour'. And it means working with water.

                                                                      

In simple word, we can say that hydroponics is the cultivation of crops without soil in the nutrient rich water medium.

Plants are sown in water nutrient solution and inert media like cocopeat, perlite, vermiculite, Rockwall, clayballs etc., are used instead of soil to provide support to plant.

Let's discuss all these things in detail and see, why should we go for hydroponics?

How does hydroponics work?

Hydroponics works on a very simple pattern. Hydroponics operates on the principle that as you provide proper nutrients to the system the plant will grow well. Hydroponics replaces the soil with growing media like perlite, vermiculite and rockwool etc.

These inert media are used just to provide support to your crop. Their role is to transfer the nutrients in the water and keep the plants root oxygenated.

The nutrients provided in the system are moved to the growing media through the plant roots, usually by using water pumps.

Water continuously flows in 360°. Often timer is set for each action of the interval. There are many types of hydroponics system but the common thing is that they worked as per to the above principle.

The hydroponics farm is usually setup indoor or in greenhouse so, you yourself have to take care of its nutrients, climate, temperature, light, ventilation and so on. 

So, now discuss the most interesting topic, what makes hydroponic farming more commercially viable than traditional farming?

The large production in hydroponic farming in comparison to soil farming may be due to several factors. In some cases, the fertility of soil may not be good or it has poor soil structure because of continuous farming. In such case hydroponics (soil-less) could be much beneficial.

The presence of various diseases and pests in soil greatly influence its overall production.

If we talk of greenhouse production efficiency of soil less culture or hydroponics than it has been seen that hydroponic tomatoes give 20 to 25% more production than soil culture.

In the greenhouse conditions soil sterilization practices, adequate fertilizers and high yield varieties are used but as a result many of the problems encountered under soil condition. This accounts for smaller increment in the yield under soil culture. On the other hand if you practises hydroponics in outdoor circumstances, it would provide 4-10 times more production than conventional soil-grown culture.

Specific greenhouse varieties have been bred to produce high yield in greenhouse culture. This type of varieties cannot tolerate easily in open field conditions. Commonly grown hydroponic crop in greenhouse conditions are cucumber, tomato, strawberry, capsicum, lettuce, pepper, other leafy greens and herbs. These greenhouse varieties have been mainly bred to resist foliage, root disease and also increment in production.

The main disadvantage of hydroponics is the high initial cost, some diseases like fusarium and verticullium easily spread throughout the systems, creates complex nutrient problem and sometimes water and electricity risks occur.

 

So let's discuss all these topics in detail...

 

Following are the 15 reasons that make hydroponic more commercially viable then traditional farming.

1. No soil requirement

It means you can grow crops in places where the land is limited or where the soil has become completely infertile.

It is best for areas like West Indies and Hawai which have a large tourism industry and have very little land for vegetable production.

Also, hydroponics has been considered by NASA as the future of farming to grow food for astronauts in the space (where there is no soil).

2. Water saving

Plant grown hydroponically used only 10% of  water to run the plant system as compared to soil culture.

The recirculation of water occurs in hydroponics. Plant will take the necessary water. While runoff water is captured by the plant and returned to the system.

In the hydroponics system water loss can only occur in two ways, one by evaporation and second by tillage but a standard hydroponics system have very less chance for leakage.

3. Better use of space and location

As I have discussed earlier hydroponic plants can also be grown indoor or in bedrooms etc. and also takes very less space. 

In hydroponics by doing multiple layer farming you can better use space and location.

4. Climatic control

Like in Greenhouse, hydroponics Grower has total control over temperature, humidity, light intensity and the composition of air. So, the hydroponics growers  are free to grow crops all around the year with the proper management.

Farmers can also grow off-seasonal crops and earn huge profit from it.

5. Better growth rate

Yes, hydroponically grown plants have faster growth rate than soil.

Why?

Because you are boss for plants command, light, temperature, humidity and especially nutrient.

Nutrients are provided in direct uptakable (soluble) form to the plants. For example if we talk of nitrogen, it is provided in NO3- and NH4+ direct uptakable form to the plant. However in soil nitrogen is given in immobile form which converted into nitrate (NO3-) and nitrite (NO2-) form by the working of microorganisms. In hydroponics there is no role of microorganisms to convert fertilizers in its soluble form. That's why hydroponic plants provide 2x better growth rate than traditional soil farming.

6. pH control of the solution

The salt concentration measurement is prerequisite before mixing nutrients with water. Water contains all the minerals. This means it is easy to calculate and adjust the pH levels of water.

The optimum pH should be maintained between 5.5 to 6.5 in the nutrient solution.

7. No weeds

If you grow plants in soil than you know how irritating the weeds are. (Weeds are unwanted plants which grow with the main crops). However, if we talk of hydroponics then not a single weed grow with the main crop.

Hydroponics systems are completely weeds free and reduces our cost of herbicides and also reduces intercultural practices in the crop.

8. Fewer pests and diseases

And like weeds, hydroponic plants also get rid of venerable soil diseases and pests like nematodes, root rot, fussarium, damping off, wilts, photoplasms, aphids etc.

Also when grown indoor, gardener can take care of its surrounding variables.

9. Less use of insecticides and herbicides

In case of soil culture, pesticides are used heavily to the plants which makes it more poisonous or toxic both for human health, animals and soil microorganisms.

But, in hydroponics farming the good thing is that it uses very less amount of pesticides and herbicides, which makes it toxic free. Healthy and fresh vegetables are produced which is more nutritious and good for human health.

No use of poisonous chemicals make a strong point of view for hydroponics in the time when criteria for modern food and safety are placed on top.

10. Labor and time saver

Besides spending more time on tillering, ploughing, hoeing, weeding, fumigation, watering etc. in soil culture. You can save more times to enjoy if you go for hydroponics farming because it is proven to set high production in hydroponics.

If you look at the future of agritech, hydroponics must be a important part of it.

11. Experience and technical knowledge

You are running a system, which requires many types of equipments and necessary specific devices are used, what plants are being sown and how they survive in soilless medium.

12. Water and electricity risks

In hydroponics system the main requirements are water and electricity. Beware of the combination of electricity and water. When working with water systems and electric equipments, always put safety first in commercial greenhouses.

13. Threats of system failure

Your use electricity to operate the whole system. So, Let me tell you don't take the initial action for a power outage, the system will stop working immediately, and the plants can quickly dry and die in few days.

Therefore, a backup power source and plan should always preplanned, especially for systems of great scale.

14. Initial expenses

You make sure to spend under Rs. 10000 to few more thousands or lac (depending on scale of your garden) to buy equipment for your first installation.

 

Initially you must have to spend money on these things i.e., light, pump, a timer, nutrient, media, PVC or UPVC pipes, Frames etc.

15. Investments

If you are fond of reading news, you have definitely heard that many new indoor hydroponics system has been placed in your locality. Well that's a very good thing for development of agriculture and hydroponics. However, many commercial greenhouse hydroponics systems are being establishing day-by-day. But many challenges are faced when hydroponics is started on the large scale. This happens because of high initial expenses and uncertain return on investment.

Conclusion

The main disadvantage of hydroponics is the high initial cost, some diseases like fusarium and verticullium easily spread throughout the systems, creates complex nutrient problem and sometimes water and electricity risks also occur.

Overall the main advantage of hydroponics is, it has more efficient nutrition regulation, can be grown indoor, efficient use of fertilizer and water, cost of sterilization is very low and the most important thing yield per acre is high.

 

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