Hydroponics Is Gardening at Its Finest
The Need for Hydroponics
People do not know how lucky they are to live at a time when we have the most efficient agriculture in human history. Before this, man was mainly a hunter and forager. He could not stay put in one location as food supplies would soon run out. Life was hard as provisions were hard to come by and inconsistent. There would be some regions with an abundance of food, water, land and aquatic animals. There would be some regions that are barren and without much to offer.
Several thousand years ago, the concept of agriculture started to take root. Tired of relying on mere chance for survival, man put matters in his own hands. He began to grow his own rice, wheat, beans, vegetables and fruits. He also began to raise his own livestock.
Man developed many technologies that helped agriculture along such as irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and various forms of farm machinery. With this, civilization was able to make food readily available and you could take your pick of the litter from the freshest produce to choice cuts of meat. You also have the choice of frozen or canned meats and produce to stock for a rainy day.
With more than 7 billion people however, the world population becomes harder and harder to feed. To add to this, the boon of modern agriculture has led to such drawbacks such as soil depletion, forest destruction as well as the contamination of groundwater by pesticides and fertilizers.
Enter hydroponics. Hydroponics according to Merriam Webster dictionary is the growing of plants in nutrient solutions with or without an inert medium (as soil) to provide mechanical support. It is basically a soil-less form of agriculture which uses Rock wool, perlite, vermiculite, coconut fiber, gravel or sand as replacement for soil, a specially formulated nutrient mix and water. There is no limit to what you can do with hydroponics. It is only limited by your budget and imagination.
You can either do hydroponics in your backyard or indoor space. If you had the budget and space, you can make a complex system which has pipes, watering devices, lighting and mechanical systems. These more complex set-ups can distribute water and nutrients and can recycle water.
Benefits of Using Hydroponics
1. Maximizing Space – Instead of measuring farming lands by acres, we can measure them in inches as having a hydroponic setup lessens the amount of space needed to use for farming. You can make racks which stack on top of one another to be able to house more plans in a limited tract of land similar to the concept of making condominiums to house humans. A small tract of land and sky high condominium building can house hundreds of people whereas they can only house a few under traditional housing.
Instead of needing a large space between plants, you can just have minimal spacing as the plants’ roots do not have to spread far to get the nutrients that they need. In the traditional setup with soil, the plants’ roots have to spread out far and wide to not only support the plan vertically, but to also make sure that they are able to harvest water and nutrients in the soil. With the oxygenated nutrient solution, the nutrients the plants need are provided then and there in a medium that is more bio-available to them.
2. Reducing Water Requirements – One of the initial impediments to ancient agriculture was finding enough water to sustain the plants that were going to be farmed. This is especially true for rice, sugarcane, almonds, walnuts and wheat. These plants require vast amounts of water. It takes 2,497 liters of water to produce a single kilogram of rice. This number is simply mind boggling. Imagine how much water is used to produce enough rice to feed a single human being for one year.
3. A Weed-Free Environment – One of the most annoying aspects of gardening or farming is getting rid of unwanted plants. Weeds compete with your produce for sunlight, water and nutrients so it is in your best interest to get rid of them. You can either pull the weeds out manually or spend money using toxic herbicides.
4. Reduced Exposure to Pests and Diseases – Though the soil does contain the nutrients needed by plants to survive, it also is the medium through which diseases and pests are spread. Though there is no perfect medium to 100 percent remove all pathogens and diseases, removing soil from the equation removes a lot of pests and diseases from the equation.
5. Increased Efficiency – Back in the day there used by be more resources per capita. However, with the population boom, these same resources that used to be in abundance are now at a premium. For farming this includes tracts of land and water. With droughts all over the world and with the reduction of arable farming lands due to development of subdivisions and commercial structures, we have less farmland to work with and less water to work with. Hydroponics not only save in terms of space but also significantly reduce the amount of water required to grow crops.
6. Control Your Own Destiny – You can control a lot of the variables such as the amount of water, the amount of nutrients and pH level. Controlling the pH level is important as it affects the nutrient absorption of plants. You are no longer at the mercy of factors and variables you do not control.
7. Let Your Creativity Run Wild – There are various real world and online resources for creating your own hydroponic setup depending on your resources and budget. This makes it very flexible and something you can try different things on. You can choose to do things step by step or choose to place your own twist to it.
8. Higher Yields – Hydroponics gardens and farms have higher yields than soil-based setups as the plants are in an environment that allow them to absorb the most nutrients and avoid any deterrents such as weeds, diseases and pests. A lot of crops are lost annually due to pests and diseases and not having these losses help increase your yield.
9. Reduced Chemical Requirements – Chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides not only cost additional monetary investments, they also cause adverse health effects such as various forms of cancer and respiratory ailments.
10. Better for the Environment – Modern agriculture may have been a boon in the sense that it has increased our food security. However, it has had drastic effects on the environment. In order to create more farmland, entire forests have been leveled. Also, chemicals used in farming such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides have contaminated ground water as well as lakes and rivers. The pesticides used in plants are one of the causes for the alarming decline of the bee population in the United States. No bees equals less food for everybody as they help in the pollination process.
The soil has also been depleted due to over-farming and the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers. Less nutrients in the soil means less nutrients for the plants to work with and ultimately less nutrients in the foods we consume.
Farm equipment isn’t good for the environment either, tractors, crop dusters and harvesters all use fossil fuels which produce toxic carbon monoxide among other chemical by products.
Hydroponics on the other hand require less space, less water and reduces the need for chemicals. Which is much friendlier to the environment.