Benefits of Hydroponics

Benefits of Hydroponics

Like it or not, hydroponics is likely to continue expanding and evolving as time goes on. And in parts of the world that are being devastated by drought and topsoil erosion, it presents some appealing advantages.

hydroponics farm
hydroponic farm

High Yield
Hydroponics offers a higher yield of calories per growing area. This is one of the reasons the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping to implement the use of hydroponic farming in areas of food shortages to help produce more crops and feed more people. Plus, plants grown hydroponically can grow at least 20% faster than their soil-bound counterparts.

Unlike growing in soil, where there are so many different influences (pH, light, air temperature, microorganisms, tilth, and so on), hydroponic growing can be almost completely controlled. This is because it effectively removes the plant from a natural environment and instead creates what is, at least in theory, an optimized ‘ecosystem’ designed to grow in the absence of soil. The plants are fed a nutrient solution that can come in many forms, but usually, it’s water with a mix of fertilizers and minerals or trace elements that plants require for food.

Less Water
At a large scale, hydroponics consumes less water — up to 90% less than traditional field crop watering methods — because most hydroponics use recirculation techniques to minimize waste. In conventional farming, water is lost due to evaporation, inefficient irrigation, and soil erosion among many other factors. Because hydroponics is removed from the natural water cycle, it can cut down on losses in these areas.

Regional Diversity
Hydroponics allows farmers to grow food pretty much anywhere. For instance, hydroponic systems can be set up in homes, greenhouses, or any indoor space. Even desert climates, like in Egypt and the Middle East, can support hydroponic agriculture at a scale capable of addressing local food needs. Scientists are even attempting to utilize the technology on the International Space Station — in a facility called “Veggie” — to grow food for astronauts so that they can stay in space for longer missions. In fact, after a lot of testing, astronauts were able to eat space-grown leafy greens in 2015.

Continuous Production
Hydroponic technology offers continuous production as well. Unlike conventional agriculture which primarily utilizes large outdoor crop fields, hydroponics growers don’t have to worry about the changing seasons. Crops can be grown and harvested year-round, increasing supply and reducing the need for preserving food.

Fewer Toxins
While conventional agriculture relies heavily on chemical herbicides and pesticides, hydroponic systems do not require much if any of these toxic applications. Because there’s literally no soil for pathogens to live in, few pests or diseases can survive in a properly-maintained hydroponic setup. And although chemicals are sometimes still a part of hydroponic growing, most at-home systems can remain free of pesticides and other harmful agrochemicals.

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