Hydroponics comes from two Greek words ‘hydro’ meaning water and ‘ponos’ meaning labor. Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants without soil by using water solvent which consists of mineral nutrients.
It can include an aggregate substrate, or growing media, such as vermiculite, coconut coir, or perlite. Hydroponic production systems are used by small farmers, hobbyists, and commercial enterprises.
Hydroponic systems are engineered as a highly space and resource efficient form of farming and represent a considerable source of industrially grown produce.The method is suitable for growing greens and herbs as they don’t have deep roots.
Improved growth and yield:
- Hydroponics provides higher yield and economic returns compared to traditional agricultural practices because of an increase in harvest cycles and balanced nutrient supply.
- This is likely due to the increased oxygen levels found in the nutrient solution and the carefully controlled environmental factors.
- By increasing a plant’s oxygen levels, you stimulate root growth and enhance nutrient uptake.
- These optimal growing conditions equate to less stress on plants and a more bountiful harvest.
An extended growing season:
- Hydroponics system is not affected by weather, wild animals and any of the other external biotic or abiotic factors.
- Cold climates with chilly winter temperatures and shorter day lengths prohibit plant growth.
- But with a hydroponics system, plants can be grown hydroponically year-round because the grower controls the temperature, light, and nutrient-supply.
Higher plant density:
- Plants grown in soil have rigid spacing guidelines that must be followed to allow each plant equal access to the soil’s somewhat limited supply of water and nutrients.
- Because hydroponics systems deliver a more nutrient-charged solution to the root zone, plants can be grown closer together without competing for root space.
Less water consumption
- Even though hydroponic systems depend primarily on water to grow plants, they use between 80 to 90% less water than plants grown in the ground.
- In traditional gardening, a large amount of water is applied to the soil to allow adequate moisture to reach the root zone.
- When moving through the soil, the water evaporates and only a percentage of it reaches the roots.
- In hydroponics, the water immediately reaches the roots, with little lost to evaporation.
Expensive to set up:
- Compared to a traditional garden, a hydroponics system is more expensive to acquire and build.
- Costs range depending upon the type and size of the system purchased, and whether or not it’s prefabricated or built with individual components to create a customized design.
Vulnerable to power outages:
- Both passive and active hydroponics systems depend on electricity to power the different components such as grow lights, water pumps, aerators, fans, etc.
- Therefore, a power outage will affect the entire system. In active systems, a loss of power can be detrimental to plants if it goes unnoticed by the grower.
Requires constant monitoring and maintenance:
- Hydroponics requires a higher level of monitoring and micro-managing than growing plants traditionally.
- To maintain a carefully controlled growing environment, all system components need constant vigilance—lights, temperature, and many aspects of the nutrient solution such as pH and electrical conductivity.
- The nutrient solution also needs to be flushed and replaced regularly, and the system parts cleaned often to prevent buildup and clogging.
- Because hydroponically grown plants are grown in water instead of soil, waterborne diseases are considerably higher.
With the water circulating continuously through the system, infections can spread quickly throughout the growing system as a whole, affecting the whole collection of plants.
Problems affect plants quicker:
- Soil protects the roots from extreme temperature changes, slows diseases and pests from attacking, and regularly releases and absorbs nutrients.
- Without soil to act as a buffer, plants grown in hydroponics systems react negatively to problems like nutrient deficiencies and disease much quicker.
Hydroponics: Current Status
- According to Future Market Insight study, the global hydroponic size is estimated to grow at CAGR at 7% over the forecast period.
- In 2023 the hydroponic industry is expected to be valued at US $2.78 billion. The hydroponic industry is expected to grow to US $5.70 billion by 2033.
- Leafy vegetables, such as spinach, arugula, kale, and lettuce are increasingly gaining popularity among hydroponic growers.
- Europe and Asia Pacific regions are estimated to cultivate the most substantial amount of tomatoes through the hydroponic method by 2028.
- Hydroponic farms are widely utilized in India to grow leafy greens like lettuce, herbs like Italian basil, and vegetables like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and red and yellow bell peppers.
- Larger greens, such as cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers, account for most hydroponic production in terms of quantity and value, followed by leafy greens like lettuce, arugula, and pakchoi.
- Current hydroponic farming markets are confined to metropolitan cities. India has ~40 commercially functioning hydroponic farms as of 2023.