While there are a number of benefits to using hydroponic growing systems over traditional agriculture, the environmental benefits that hydroponic systems have cannot go overlooked.
Below we highlight how hydroponic systems work, illustrate the benefits they offer the environment, and shine a bright light on everything that makes hydroponic farm setups really feel like the future of the human food supply.
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
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A Very Brief History of Hydroponics
While hydroponic farming is definitely undergoing a bit of a renaissance right now, with technology and significant funding flooding into the industry from all corners of the globe, it’s important to remember that humans have been trying to grow food without soil throughout recorded history.
Sure, a vertical farming set up using hydroponic growers feels like it is some sort of “space-age technology” – and in a lot of ways it is – but is valuable to remember that the first recorded example of hydroponic growing came from Sir Francis Bacon all the way back in 1627.
Did you know? The Germans experimented with hydroponic growing throughout the 18th and 19th century as well, really honing a lot of the foundational skills and fundamentals that are so important for hydroponic gardening these days.
At the end of the day, though, all of the historical attempts at hydroponic gardening and our more modern versions have one thing in common – an end goal of finally being able to grow plants without having to use any soil at all.
How Does Hydroponics Help the Environment?
Farming takes up a tremendous amount of space. There’s just no getting around that.
Even the most efficient farms, taking advantage of the most advanced technology, still end up consuming a tremendous amount of land because the soil that the seeds are planted in is such a big piece of the puzzle.
With hydroponic gardening, though, the growing of food is completely disconnected from the land.
This opens up a world of opportunity to grow food in places you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise (including indoors), but it also allows for the land that would have previously been consumed with agriculture to be repurposed and used in other ways.
Also including approaches that are more efficient at capturing carbon, protecting the environment, and restoring the local ecosystem.
Major Benefits of Hydroponics
Below we run through some of the other huge benefits of operating a hydroponic system, using liquid nutrient solution mixtures to act as the “soil” for growing plants with little more than light and water.
Believe it or not, it turns out that the growing medium for developing nutrient dense, healthy, and natural foods matters a lot less than we had originally believed.
It’s all about making sure that the growing medium (whether it’s soil or water, or something else entirely) is able to deliver the nutrients the crops need for plant growth.
Once that’s covered your good to go!
Let’s run through some of the bigger benefits hydroponic growers enjoy compared to their more traditional farming brethren.
Significantly Increased Yields
Output is everything when we are talking about modern agriculture, particularly when operating at scale.
Hydroponic growers (whether they are doing so commercially or for their own localized food supply) are able to more densely pack their hydroponics system with plants than they ever would have been able to get away with when working with soil.
Hydroponic lettuce, for example, can be stacked essentially on top of itself with no ill effects whatsoever. The root systems are able to get all the nutrients they need, the plant is able to thrive even in close confines with other plants, and the yield skyrockets significantly because of that.
Uses Dramatically Less Water
While water is (obviously) a big piece of the puzzle when growing hydroponic crops, acting as the foundation for the nutrient solution that “feeds” these plants, you actually end up using a lot less water with hydroponics than you do with traditional farming.
In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for hydroponic systems to use as much as 10 times less water than traditional farming setups will.
Think about it this way:
With a traditional farm, you have two water your crops, that water has to penetrate the ground and fight its way to the root system before being absorbed and captured into the soil. That’s incredibly inefficient.
With hydroponic systems, though, the water is “captured” as well as reused and recycled – and as long as your plants are swimming in a nutrient dense solution they are going to be far happier (and healthier) than they would have been in the ground.
Can Grow Almost Anywhere
Outdoor gardens are completely and totally at the whim of Mother Nature, not just when it comes to day-to-day weather patterns but also local climate conditions and zone hardiness as well.
Try and grow peaches in Alaska, for example, and you’ll find out exactly what the limitations of traditional agriculture really are.
With hydroponic gardening, however, those localized issues disappear almost completely.
It’s possible to grow indoors, having total control over the climate and environmental conditions for those plants, and never have to worry about what Mother Nature is up to outdoors when it comes to the impact on your garden.
That’s a game changer, especially in urban environments where growing food sustainably outdoors can be a real challenge.
Allows for Localized Garden Development
Transporting food from the farm to warehouses to local grocery stores then into your vehicle and to your home causes a tremendous amount of environmental waste at every single step.
Hydroponic gardening, the other hand, eliminates almost all of those transportation issues – and the greenhouse gases and carbon emissions – entirely.
Now instead of having to have your bananas shipped to you from South America in the dead of winter you can instead grow your own down in the basement using a hydroponic plants system, cutting down significantly on the environmental impact of agriculture along the way.
Takes Up Next to No Space
Vertical farming has really taken off in urban environments and cities, and for good reason.
More and more people are waking up to the importance of having real, healthy food available, of having food security in areas where it’s difficult to grow things outdoors, and being self-reliant – particularly when it comes to getting your daily nutrients.
The trouble with traditional gardening, though, is that you need a lot of land and a lot of free space to feed people.
With vertical gardening, though, urban agriculture can happen in every single apartment (for the most part) and provide the kind of yield that most people never would have expected possible before.
This completely changes the conversation when it comes to growing food, flips soil farming on its head, and shows the shortcomings of conventional farming compared to hydroponic farming all thanks to this really innovative approach.
Vertical gardening is still in its relative infancy, too.
The innovations that will reshape this industry in the next 25 years could change the face of agriculture completely. Hydroponics plays a huge role in that!
Is Hydroponics Really the Future of Agriculture?
Though it’s unlikely that hydroponic gardening is ever going to completely do away with conventional farming and traditional agriculture, hydroponics will continue to get better, more efficient, and become more of an alternative to folks that wouldn’t have been able to farm their own food otherwise.
In that way, hydroponics really is one of the faces of agriculture going forward.
This technology could reshape urban farming and have a huge impact on the developed world while also making it possible to grow food in areas that simply wouldn’t have been able to sustain “old-school” farming as we know it today.
Things are already very exciting when it comes to the hydroponic system of gardening right now, but the next few decades should be filled with even bigger breakthroughs and developments that could change the way we feed our world forever!