And how it works.
Many of you may be wondering what is a hydroponic crop, the meaning of the word “Hydroponic” derives from Greeks, Hydro(water), Ponic(labor) in summary hydroponics means the crop that grows in water without the necessity of a solid subtract like is soil, that’s a revolutionary in the agriculture industry, about millennials all crops have been grown on soil, and the development of agriculture has been all around it but thanks to last investigations we find out that is possible to grow plants without soil.
At first sight, we know that for growing a plant we need some basic resources like water, soil, and sun. The goal of water is to keep the plant hydrated to keep doing its basic functions. The paper of soil is different, soil gives the plant a subtract for developing its roots and also gives the micronutrients and macronutrients needed.
So in Hydroponics we keep the basic things to keep the plant alive and developing, these are the nutrients and the water, but we do something different with the soil, we remove it. So now we have the plant, water, and nutrients, maybe you are trying to figure out how you put these three things together and make work it.
Removing the soil means that we have to find out a new way to give the plant nutrients and hold up its roots. Here is where the different Hydroponics Systems kick in, every system finds a different way to solve this but all of them have the same fundamentals.
A Hydroponic System Must:
- Fix the plant; So we can’t have the plant over there floating away without the chance of getting a fixed place and development.
- Supply water; Needed for the development of the plant, like nutrients.
- Supply nutrients; Here’s where the concept of Nutritive Solution gets in, a Nutritive Solution is a solution prepared by the producer that contains all the macronutrients and micronutrients needed for the plant.
- Supply oxygen; Very important, water unlike soil, can’t provide enough oxygen for the plant, soil due to its poorhouse structure can, so this is important because without the needed levels of oxygen roots get putrid.
- Supply good environmental conditions; Hydroponics farms, are usually made under greenhouses to provide good temperature conditions for the plant’s growth.
Pros Of Hydroponics
- Optimize space usage; Thanks to Hydroponics we can grow plants in two directions, horizontally(on the ground) and vertically, thanks to the removal of soil we can put plants one above the other and grow them. So compared to traditional agriculture with 1 square meter of hydroponics you can grow much more plants.
- Optimize resources; As we will see below in “How Works An Hydroponic System”, With Hydroponic Agriculture we can optimize the water and nutrients used by recycling them, this way of growing crops is more respectful to the environment and more efficient.
- Temperature track; One of the main problems that agriculture always and nowadays more due the climate change is the weatherhails, a frosty night…, can ruin the hard work of weeks and also months, so usually in cold regions is usual to build a hydroponic under a greenhouse making the temperature conditions more stable.
- No pests; Thanks to removing the soil we also remove all the wildlife that contains making it very difficult to pests to develop, and also we don’t need insecticides making the final product more healthy.
- Plants grow much faster; Thanks to the points I have exposed before the plants in a hydroponic system are in a more friendly environment with full access to water, nutrients, no pests, and no frosty nights which means that a plant can grow much faster compared with a plant in a traditional system.
Cons Of Hydroponics
- High Investment; To build, develop and make work a hydroponic system is needed a much higher investment compared to the traditional way, which makes it more difficult for people to start a hydroponics business.
- Not all types of crops can be grown; Due to its physical limitations hydroponics can’t be used for all types of crops, for example, you can’t grow tubers like potatoes or onions, this limits hydroponics applications to the type of crop that grows upwards not down.
- Requires monitoring and maintenance; Compared to a traditional crop, hydroponic crops need much more monitoring because a lot of things must be in the correct range, like pH, CEa (electrical conductivity), temperature… If there is not good maintenance of the installation and also monitoring and the ranges of the parameters said before are not correct, that can harm the crop and affect its development.
- Vulnerable to power outages; An hydroponic system is equipped with different technological gadgets that must be powered by electricity, a cut on the supply platform can stop the system, and if the system doesn’t work plants can die.
There are a lot of different types of Hydroponic systems but we will focus on the NFT Technique because is what I find more interesting.
You can find more types of Hydroponic systems int his link https://www.nosoilsolutions.com/6-different-types-hydroponic-systems/
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
This technique, as his name claims this technique consists of letting a nutrient film flow within the roots, giving them water, nutrients, and enough oxygen for developing correctly.
Normally the structure of this technique consists of PVC pipes placed parallel, on the pipes we found placed the plants we want to grow. The Nutrient Film Technique is recirculating, it means that water is always recirculating due to the pipes, that is providing the plant always with water and nutrients that make the growing process much faster.
As you can see in the image above this is how an NFT structure looks, we can identify the basic parts, the pipe or conduct, that holds the plants with his net pots, below that conduct we can see the deposit of water, inside of it there is a bomb that pumps water against gravity for put it on the top of the conduct. And this is how an NFT works, it’s always the same, the farmer or producer puts its nutritive solution on the water this water is pumped to the plants where they get those nutrients and water and then grow.
The world change fast, agriculture like other sectors is facing new problems every day and with the uprising of the population, agriculture will struggle if don’t find new ways of producing.
In my point of view, I think that hydroponics will be a solution but not the only one.
One of the problems that agriculture is facing is with the product surface, if the population keeps growing we would need more surface for growing crops, and this is a problem because the surface is limited on earth, so hydroponics solves this problem well becoming an efficient solution when we have to optimize the space we have.
Another problem that hydroponics solves is related to the ecological footprint reducing it. Due to its characteristics hydroponics can be deployed in cities we can use buildings inside cities to grow plants, which allows us to reduce the CO2 footprint and make it more sustainable and km.0 the production of food, also we can recycle water and nutrients making it more eco-friendly.