Thinking only of farming and cultivation every mind pictures flat expanses of open land pulsating with life, the fresh harvest of rice, wheat, paddy or vegetables. The canopy of branches with birds fluttering from one bough to the other on a sunny morning, away from cities’ smoke, completes the idea of the idyllic environment. But urban farming is quite different.
Farm spaces can be set up in an open space like a cubicle-sized room fitted with a tech support system that creates an artificial environment favourable for growth. These hi-tech, advanced model of sustainable farms, operate on the science of hydroponic farming, a soil-free farming technique.
What is Hydroponic System?
Hydroponic Farming System is a system of growing crops without soil, often called soilless farming. In the hydroponic system, the liquid nutrient solution is a mixture made up of essential plant nutrients.
The plant roots are suspended either in the static liquid solution or in a continuously flowing mixture. Unlike the traditional farming system, the hydroponic growing system requires continuous and undivided attention to the crops.
In hydroponic farming, plants grow naturally with minimal effort, drawing nutrients out of reservoirs filled with nutrients and water-rich solutions, under optimal positioning of lights and adjusted temperature conditions.
While the technique was a big hit in the other countries, where people initially used hydroponics and its farming variants to grow marijuana, it did not take too long to get the attention of scientists, entrepreneurs and practitioners of agriculture sector around the world.
Types of Hydroponic Farming
The growing system for each type of crop can be different so as the hydroponic system. Before choosing the hydroponic system, it is important to know about the basics of that system which will help in making the decision. Here are some of the types of hydroponic systems.
Aeroponic System is a type of Hydroponic farming in which it drastically reduces the amount of water used in growing crops.
In this system, roots get their nutrients and water through the aerosol mist sprayed on them. The roots get oxygen from the air and this system is comparatively challenging to manage but much more economical in the use of nutrients and water.
Standing Aerated Nutrient Solution
This system is also known as DWC (Deep Water Culture) system. This is the system in which the nutrient solution is static, suspending the plant roots in the nutrient solution.
Replacement of nutrient solution is required 5-10 days (frequency depends on the number of plants and the volume). A crop of lettuce can be grown in this system on Styrofoam sheets floating on an aerated nutrient solution.
Dutch Bucket Grow System
As the name suggests, this system uses buckets to grow plants. The buckets in the system can vary in size, depending on the requirement of the person. The plants which have much larger roots are grown with the help of Dutch Bucket systems like tomato and cucumber.
Nutrient Film Technique
NFT, channels are used in this hydroponic system to grow plants, the nutrient solution keeps flowing in these gully channels. A pump connected to the reservoir pumps the nutrient solution to the channels.
One of the benefits of the NFT is the easy installation of the system and the relatively low cost of the materials. Also, there are two different types of NFT system which includes Horizontal and Vertical NFT System.
Benefits of Hydroponic System
- Indoor farming in a climate-controlled environment means farms exist in spaces where weather, as well as soil conditions, are unfavourable for a traditional food production system.
- In this system, no chemical weed or pest control products are needed.
- No wastage and chances of higher productivity than the traditional farming system.
- Water is utilization very high when compared to the traditional farming method, up to 80-90% higher.
- This system eliminates the attack of pests and insects as crops are grown in closed spaces and it provides up to 90% efficient use of water.
- Production increases 3-10 times in the same amount of space.
Elements needed in Hydroponic Farming
There are several approaches to design hydroponic systems, but there are also necessary core elements.
The plant needs plenty of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and other rich nutrients to stay healthy and productive just like plants growing in the ground need soil and fertilizer. When plants are growing without soil, this plant food must be included in the water that’s feeding the plants. While one can make a nutrient solution, it’s easy to buy mixtures online or in stores.
Primo, filtered stuff with a balanced pH is required. Most of the plants like water with a pH level of 6–6.5. The acidity of the water can be adjusted with efficient solutions found at the local hardware, garden, or hydroponic store.
If the plants are growing indoors, one has to invest in some special lighting. Each type of plant will have a different requirement or need for the amount of light and the placement of lights.
In traditional farming, roots get the oxygen from pockets of air in the soil. Depending on the hydroponic setup, you will either have to leave space between the base of the plant and the water reservoir or need to oxygenate the container, which you can solve by buying an air stone or installing an air pump.
Even though this system doesn’t need soil, the plant’s roots still need something to hold on to. The typical materials include vermiculite, perlite, peat moss and coconut fibre. One has to maintain distance from materials that might compact (like sand) or that don’t retain any moisture (like gravel).
The Final Note
With a hydroponic system, one knows the conditions of plants that are being grown in. One has to only find the working formula of light, pH balance, and nutrients, you can replicate success without always getting hit with curveballs.
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