Hydroponics is the process of growing crops without the use of soil. Hydroponics can be any nutrient solution or inert growing medium such as perlite and sand — basically anything other than traditional potting mixes or soil.
The technique avoids soil to speed up growth while avoiding plant diseases. Plants produced by hydroponic techniques do not have any pesticides; therefore they pose absolutely no danger to humans.
Techniques of hydroponics
There are 2 techniques of hydroponic farming. These include
- The solution culture
- The medium culture.
The medium culture uses a medium to handle the system, such as the sand, the gravel and rockwool culture.
On the other hand, the solution culture usually does not use solid media for the technique, but only the nutrient solution.
You have to select one of two methods to supply nutrient-enriched water to the plants.
One of the methods is passive method, which normally requires watering manually, which is useful to small projects.
The other one is the active method, which is mostly use by larger hydroponics farming, it uses pumps to deliver the nutrition.
Different types of hydroponics
There are about six main types of hydroponic systems.
- Wick Systems
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
- Drip Systems
- Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
There are several hydroponic kits suppliers available in the market, but farmers can cut on acquisition costs by fabricating their units based on expected production volume and projected returns.
How to build a hydroponic fodder system
A hydroponics fodder unit is straight forward to make, considering it is a chamber with predetermined humidity, temperature, and intensity of lighting for active sprouting and growth of fodder. Usually, a hydroponic fodder system is made up of a framework of shelves on which plastic trays are stacked.
Advantages of Hydroponics Farming
Some of the major benefits of hydroponics include:
- Eliminates and reduces soil borne diseases, insects, bacteria, and fungi.
- Increased productivity. Using nutrient solutions, artificial lights, heaters and other pieces of equipment, plants can be made to develop faster, produce larger yields and grow all year round.
- Minimize use of fertilizer.
- It can be used in places where in-ground agriculture or gardening is not possible (for example, dry desert areas or cold climate regions)
- More eco-friendly. Water in a hydroponic system can be recycled – at its most efficient a hydroponic farm only uses 10% of the water a normal farm uses. Because it’s a closed system, nutrients don’t leach away – an efficient hydroponic farm may only use 25% of the fertiliser a regular farm uses. Plus, eutrophication (dense growth of aquatic plants like algae caused by run-off of fertiliser) isn’t a problem. Soil pests are non-existent, and in enclosed greenhouses natural predators can be used to control insect pests – next to no pesticide is required.
- More complete control of nutrient content, pH and growing environment.
- Crop rotation/fallowing is not necessary and transplant shock is reduced. Farmers don’t need to worry about exhausting their fields of certain nutrients through growing the same crop over and over – there is no need for crop rotation, so in-demand crops can be focused on
- No weeding or cultivation required
- Some crops like lettuce and strawberries can be lifted from ground level to a much better height for planting, cultivation, and harvesting, giving much better working conditions and hence lowers labor costs.
Challenges of hydroponics farming
- High set-up and running costs
Setting up a hydroponic farm requires a large amount of equipment, all of which needs to be purchased before the farm launches.
Many of the control systems – pumps, water purifiers, lights, heaters, etc – need to be powered, which costs money. In conventional farming, heat, light and (some) water is provided naturally for free.
- Need for expertise and monitoring
although a hydroponic farm requires less effort overall (planting and harvesting is far less labor-intensive), hydroponic plants cannot be left to their own devices for long periods like regular fields of crops. A hydroponic farm must be regularly attended to by a farmer, or else automated
Hydroponic farmers need to understand the technique, which is complicated.
What kind of plants can I grow?
The simple answer is almost any houseplant, fruit or vegetable that you want. As a general rule, solution systems are best for plants with shallow roots.
Some examples are leafy greens, such as lettuce and spinach, radishes and herbs. Aggregate systems generally are best for vegetables with deep roots, such as beets, or those that are top heavy, such as squash and cucumbers.