What is Hydroponic?
Hydroponics is an increasingly common method of growing plants that relies on a nutrient-rich solution with a water basis, rather than soil. Plant roots are instead supported by materials like peat moss, clay pellets, perlite, and rockwool.
Different Types of Hydroponic Systems
There are six separate types of hydroponic systems that you can use, which include the following:
1. Wick System Hydroponic Method
The wick system hydroponic method is by far the most basic sort of hydroponic system for growing plants, which implies that it may be used by almost anyone. Aerators, pumps, and electricity are not used in the wick system. In fact, it’s the only hydroponic system that doesn’t require the use of electricity. With the majority of wick systems, the plants are placed directly within an absorbent.
If you’re thinking about utilising a wick hydroponic system to produce plants, keep in mind that the system’s simplicity implies the plants won’t be able to get enough nutrients. As a result, the technique is suitable for little plants and herbs in the yard. In this arrangement, any plant that doesn’t require a lot of water would thrive.While this system is ideal for tiny plants, you should avoid growing peppers and tomatoes in it. These plants are classified as heavy-feeding plants, which means they require more nutrients than the wick system can offer. Another negative aspect of this growing system is that water and nutrients aren’t absorbed evenly, which could lead to the buildup of toxic.
2. Water Culture Hydroponic Method
Another simple sort of hydroponic method is a water culture system, which places the plant’s roots directly in the nutrient solution. While the wick method uses materials to create a barrier between the plants and the water, the water culture system does not. A diffuser or air stone releases the oxygen required by the plants into the water. Keep this in mind when you use this method.
The water culture method’s best feature is that the plant roots are placed directly into the nutrient system, allowing the nutrients to be easily absorbed by the plants. Plants produced in the water culture method develop quickly because they have direct access to nutrients and oxygen. The best thing about the water culture system is that it’s simple to set up and use.
3. Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain) Hydroponic Method
Another common hydroponic system that is mostly utilised by home gardeners is the ebb and flow system. The plants are placed in a large grow bed filled with a growing media such as rockwool or perlite in this technique. Following the careful planting of the plants, the grow bed will be inundated with a nutrient-rich solution until the water level reaches a couple of inches below the top layer of the soil.
The water pump that floods the grow bed has a timer built in, which turns it off after a set length of time. When this happens, the water in the grow bed will be emptied and returned to the pump. Growing practically all types of plants, including root crops like carrots and radishes, has been proven to be successful using the ebb and flow approach. It is, nonetheless, recommended.
4. Drip Systems Hydroponic Method
A drip system is a simple hydroponic system that can be rapidly adjusted for different sorts of plants, making it ideal for any grower who wants to change things up frequently. The fertiliser solution for a drip system is pumped into a tube that directs the solution to the plant’s root system. A drip emitter is located at the end of each tube and controls how much solution is dispensed.
You can make these systems as tiny or as huge as you desire. They can be both circulating and non-circulating. A circulating system will drip nearly all of the time. Any nutrients that are not used will be returned to the nutrient solution tank. Because the size and flow rate of this hydroponic system can be easily adjusted, it may be used to produce almost any plant.
If you choose to employ a circulating system, the biggest issue you’ll have is maintaining the variable nutrient and pH levels that occur when the solution is recirculated on a regular basis.
5. Nutrient Film Technology Hydroponic Method
The Nutrient Film Technology (N F T) system has a simple architecture, yet it is frequently utilised due to its ability to scale to a wide range of applications. The nutrition solution is deposited into a big reservoir when you utilise one of these systems. The solution is then injected through slanted channels, which allow the excess nutrients to return to the reservoir. The nutrient solution flows when it is injected into the channel.
When using this style of hydroponic system, net pots are highly suggested. Most of the time, the Nutrient Film Technology (N F T) system will not use a grow medium. Because the channels utilised with this system are narrow, it’s best to combine it with plants that have smaller roots. Even though this technique isn’t designed to handle huge plants, it does scale well, so you may use it with smaller plants.
6. Aeroponic Systems Hydroponic Method
Aeroponic systems are simple to understand but challenging to construct. The plants you want to cultivate will be suspended in air using this type of technology. Below the plants, there are a couple of mist nozzles. The nutritional solution will be sprayed onto the roots of each plant using these nozzles, which has shown to be a very effective hydroponic approach. The mist nozzles are directly linked to the spray gun.
In an Aeroponic system, you can grow practically any variety of plant as long as the reservoir is the proper size. If you want to grow larger plants, though, the reservoir will need to be very deep. Mist nozzles may not be able to reach all of the roots if this is not done. The plants in an Aeroponic system acquire all of the oxygen they require since they are floating in air.
How to find The Best Hydroponic Method for you?
To figure out which of these hydroponic systems is best suitable for you, you need first familiarise yourself with their features and evaluate your hydroponic requirements. If you’re a home grower, for example, and want to employ a simple system with minimal setup, the wick or water culture methods should definitely be considered. If you want to grow a wide range of plants, this is the place to go.
Reasons to choose Hydroponic over Soil
1. Hydroponic Saves Space
As previously said, hydroponics is a natural fit for vertical farming. Growing vertically is the quickest and most efficient way to raise your “acreage” by 3x, 5x, or even 10x, depending on how many layers you add to your vertical farm. Even if the operation is kept horizontal, hydroponics still wins in terms of space efficiency. Roots don’t have to extend out as much in search of nutrition as they do in other plants.
2. Hydroponic Saves Time
When it comes to time savings, hydroponics has two advantages. For starters, unlike soil farmers, hydroponic farmers do not have to deal with weeding, watering, or insect control, which we will discuss later. Second, plants have been demonstrated to grow 30 to 50% faster in water than they do in soil! This means you’ll be able to fit in more harvest cycles each year, increasing not only your productivity but also your profits.
3. Less Pests, Weeds and Diseases are Well Controlled
Soil gardening takes place in the open, with pests, weeds, and illnesses that are out of your control. Sure, they can be controlled, but wouldn’t it be much easier to simply pour some perlite into a container and be done with it? When you run your hydroponic farming system indoors, the environment is completely regulated, so pests and illness aren’t a concern.
4. Hydroponic Saves Money
Hydroponic farming systems not only demand fewer inputs (which we shall discuss later), but they also allow you to grow food all year. This translates to lower manufacturing costs as well as increased profitability. Remember that, in addition to hydroponically, growing vertically allows you to produce a far higher yield per square foot.
5. Hydroponic Saves Water
Despite the fact that water plays such an important role in sustaining the entire plant population of your system, hydroponic farming uses substantially less water than soil farming. As a result, hydroponics is a more realistic option for farming in arid climates or where high salinity in the soil has rendered the earth unfit for cultivation. Hydroponic gardening uses a lot of water.
6. Faster growing crops and plants
As previously stated, hydroponically produced plants develop substantially faster than soil-grown plants. This is because the plant’s roots are essentially bathed in nutrients, allowing them to absorb them quickly and directly. In a soil-based ecosystem, on the other hand, plant roots must invest energy scavenging far and wide for the necessary nutrients, leaving less energy available for growth.
7. Generate Higher Yields
Due to the ability to farm vertically and plant crops closer together in a hydroponic system, yields per square foot in a well-managed hydroponic system are significantly higher than in a soil-based farming system. Consider that because of climate-controlled surroundings, more harvest cycles can be conducted per year, and they can be run all year.
8. Hydroponic Builds hyper-local food systems
Hydroponics is an ideal choice for being the hub of a hyper-local food revolution because it is very effective and requires little space. Hydroponic, indoor vertical farms could help establish community, resilience against food insecurity, and economic prosperity in densely populated urban areas, food deserts, and other regions where people don’t have easy access to healthy food.
Benefits of Hydroponic Farming System
It is first necessary to consider the advantages of this method before we understand the commercial possibility of hydroponic farming. Listed below are few advantages the approach has over its traditional counterparts.
1. Wider Range of Farm Produce
In comparison to traditional farming, the number of fruits and vegetables that can be grown in a commercial hydroponic systems farm in the same space is significantly more. Farmers can cultivate various crops on the same field, such as basil, mint, cilantro, lettuce, kale, arugula, and practically any other herb or leafy green.
Farmers can use this aspect to increase their profit margins. They can identify which crops are in short supplies in a specific area and grow the appropriate crops to meet demand.
2. Upgraded Quality and Quantity
Until recently, farming was regarded as more of an art than a science, but hydroponics is changing that by making it into a pure science. At this time, the precision of the inputs and their relationship to the outputs have been thoroughly investigated.
Farmers will be able to produce higher levels of both quality and quantity in their yields as a result of their newfound hydroponic farming knowledge. In fact, the entire hydroponic system is set up in such a way that scaling is a breeze. As a result, farmers can significantly expand their farms without compromising the quality or quantity of their produce.
3. Reduced Reliance on Labour
Even today, farming is a labor-intensive occupation in many developing countries in Asia, South America, and Africa. Farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their labour force with each passing year, as farming is essentially a seasonal industry.
Traditional farming’s inconsistency inhibits a substantial percentage of the people from recognising it as a viable career option.
Hydroponic farming, on the other hand, takes very little manual labour to be successful. The only time when manual labour is used more heavily is during the initial setup procedure.Hydroponic farms are typically self-sufficient after all of the technologies are in place.
4. Improved Resource Management
Traditional farming has relied heavily on the management of numerous resources, particularly a region’s water supply. Apart from irrigation systems that draw water from neighbouring rivers and canals, there is a significant reliance on rainfall to water plants organically during the rainy season.
In this aspect, hydroponics distinguishes out from the competition since it helps to maximise the use of water in its operation. In reality, estimations show that a hydroponic farm uses only 10% of the water required in a regular farm. When the disparity of the requirement is so immense, it can have a great impact on the operations of a farm.
Farmers will no longer be looking to the skies for rain because their crops are well cared for and only a small amount of water is utilised.
5. It’s Painless to be Soil less
Hydroponics farming is based on the idea of functioning in a soil-free environment. This single issue has enormous implications for farmers. Taking care of the soil is a difficult undertaking that takes a lot of time and work. All of this energy may be diverted in a more productive way because hydroponics does not require any soil to be worked on.
This is also beneficial to plants because they are no longer susceptible to diseases that could be transferred through the use of soil as a growing medium. This has recently become a rising worry for farmers, since soil conditions around the world have deteriorated as a result of increased pollution and contaminants.
Factors to take into account while creating a commercial Hydroponic Farming System
1. The Perfect Spot
Although hydroponic farms can be set up in virtually any area on the earth, this does not mean that they should be set up just anywhere. Before establishing a farm, the size of the physical space as well as the geographical location should be carefully studied.
It’s always a good idea to keep the distance between the farm and the people who will eat the produce as short as possible. In the long run, this lowers storage and shipping expenses. Furthermore, the natural ecosystem of a region influences the equipment you’ll need to run your farm.
Locations with adequate lighting, for example, will necessitate fewer extra lighting systems, lowering farmer expenses in the long run.
2. All Parties Should Be Educated
Despite the fact that hydroponic systems have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, it’s important to keep in mind that this is still a relatively new farming approach. As a result, it’s critical to not only be knowledgeable about the procedures as a farmer, but also to educate all of the workers involved.
Hydroponic farming methods of high quality rely on well-educated hands working precisely for the farm’s well-being. There is already a lot of instructional material accessible on this topic, as well as a lot of companies that can help with the process of starting a farm. Utilizing these mediums is vital in establishing a commercial hydroponic space that can stand the test of time.
3. Effective Data Utilization
When a modern hydroponic systems farm is up and operating, the equipment and technology used tend to create a lot of data. In order to enhance the farm’s potential, all of the data being generated should be put to good use.
For example, if soil data is warning farmers about producing a certain type of food, the data will only be helpful if the farmer acts on the information and modifies his or her production on the ground.
4. Processes should be understood
With the advancement of hydroponic farming comes a plethora of ancillary technologies that can make the farmer’s life easier. Using artificial intelligence and robots, farmers can now almost automate every procedure under the sun.
Understanding and implementing each of these procedures, on the other hand, requires time and should not be rushed. To attain the best outcomes, every technique brought into a hydroponic farm should be thoroughly researched, monitored, and tested. Simply switching from one process to another might have a negative impact on the farm’s overall health.
What Equipment Does Hydroponic Farming Require?
1. Nutrient solutions for hydroponics
Gardening centres and nurseries sell hydroponic fertiliser solutions, which are made up of a mix of nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. Depending on the type of plants you’re trying to cultivate, the system you’re using, and the mediums you’re using (if any), different fertiliser solutions are employed.
2. Clay, perlite, vermiculite, sand and gravel
Gravel, clay, and sand are all inexpensive and readily available, but they’re heavy and don’t give the same level of water circulation as perlite and vermiculite, which are both more expensive and more effective.
Photosynthesis requires light for plants to function. High-intensity Discharge (HID) lights are utilised instead of natural light in locations where it is not available or abundant. For gardening, there are two primary types of lighting, each of which emits light from distinct portions of the spectrum.Metal Halides (MH) are employed with young plants and green, leafy plants to provide light from the blue end of the spectrum.
4. PH Testing Kit
Any good hydroponic system requires constant monitoring to keep PH levels in check. The PH value indicates how acidic or alkaline the growing environment is. It is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration. Depending on the plant and the medium used, it must be kept within a specified range. A PH testing kit, which can be found at any gardening supply store, can be used to determine the value.
Home Hydroponic Farming
It is generally advised that a medium be utilised when developing a home hydroponics system. This tends to favour the usage of an ebb and flow system or a wick system. While a wick system is incredibly cheap and simple to use, it’s hard to modify over time, and thus may produce poor results.
There is concern about whether the plants are receiving the proper balance of nutrients, and if they aren’t, adjusting the nutrient flow can be challenging. Because of this, many at-home hydroponic systems are of the ebb and flow kind.
To begin building your ebb and flow system, you first must obtain the required materials. A basic system will require:
- A plastic tray that can support the weight of the medium, plants, and water/nutrient solution.
- A support structure for the tray to be placed on (it can be as basic as a spare table
- Reservoir container (may be an aquarium, a plastic storage container, or a garbage can
- Pump capable of pumping 132 gallons per hour in an aquarium (500 litres per hour)
- Plant Containers- Ensure they have holes in the bottom to allow proper drainage
- Medium to Grow
- Tubing Drainage
- 24 hour timer
- Seeds or plant cuttings
- Nutrient solutions.
This system can be put up for as little as Rs.15000/- if you’re prepared to use certain resources you already have on hand.
Simply drop the cuttings or seeds into the plant containers, stabilise them with the chosen medium, place the containers into the plastic tray, and place it on the support structure to create your ebb and flow system.Three teaspoons of nutrition solution diluted in three litres of water should be added to the reservoir (11.36 liters). Set up your tubing to flow from the top tray to the reservoir, and then plug in your aquarium pump. The timer should be set so that the top tray floods twice a day as a result of the pump. You should have no issue growing your own hydroponics if you keep track of the PH levels every two weeks.
Plants You Can Grow At Home – Hydroponic Method
How much does a hydroponic farm set up cost?
- Small Level (Natural Lightings, Usage of PVC Pipes and Nutrient Solutions in small area) : from 1.5 Lakhs to 5 Lakhs
- Medium Scale: 10 Lakhs to 50 Lakhs
- Large Scale/Large Setup (In 1 Acre with Artificial Lights etc..)- 100 Lakhs to 150 Lakhs