In News: Hydroponics, the art of soil-less farming, is trending this year.
What is Hydroponic farming?
- It is a new kind of farming in which the plant’s growth and productivity are controlled by water and its nutrient levels in the water. In general, it is the farming without soil and growing crops on water
- The objective of hydroponic farming is to cultivate vegetables with minimal use of soil and water.
How Hydroponic works
- In hydroponics, it takes an average of 45 days to harvest crops like lettuce, basil, and baby spinach. The same would take around 90 days when grown the traditional way. Water consumed to grow these crops is 90% less.
- A nutrient solution is mixed into the water in the control room.
- From here it is pumped into troughs which house the net pots with the crops.
- Since the water directly reaches the roots, it is absorbed much better and you need much less water as well since nothing is lost in the soil absorption
- Plants take the nutrients from the water using sunlight, then they produce the output.
- It is a method of growing plants without soil in which plants get their nutrients from a mineral solution.
- The method is suitable for growing greens and herbs as they don’t have deep roots. Tomatoes and strawberries are other popular items
- The initial costs of setting up a hydroponic farm is very high.
- A physical outer structure is required to grow the plants. This can be trays or tubes, which are typically made of food-grade plastic. The cost of this is typically Rs. 50,000-75,000 for 1,000 sq ft.
- High costs involved in plumbing systems and automation such as sensors, controllers, water pump etc.
- Money paid to consultants for help and guidance.
- Cost involved in maintaining ambient temperature and moisture
- Depending on the type of enclosure, costs can vary from ₹25,000 to ₹1.5 lakh.
- In some cases, LED lights are used to mimic sunlight, this further increases the cost.
- Cost from Water
- If water of an area has dissolved minerals or is hard, purification devices will be needed to make it usable, thus adding to the costs.
- In-Process Costs
- Power costs due to regular water supply , LED lights and climate control.
- Plants also require nutrient feed from time to time which is either prepared at home or purchased from manufacturers.
Benefits of Hydroponic Systems
- Hydroponics has been used since ancient times. Hanging Gardens of Babylon is one such example. There are many benefits of growing plants hydroponically.
- Plants grow faster so the yield is high
- Can be grown anywhere, underground, rooftops and greenhouses
- Plants can be grown where traditional farming is not possible
- Water and nutrients are recycled and reused
- Organic food can be produced without using fertilizers or pesticides
- Hydroponics is extensively used in space research programmes.
- Hydroponics can be used to grow food away from earth where soil is unavailable
Few drawbacks of using hydroponics:
- High upfront investment
- Requires technical knowledge
- It can be misused to grow banned products like marijuana