How to Use Hydroponics for Sustainable Home Food Production

Did you know that it’s possible to produce sustainable fruit and vegetables at home using hydroponics. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in water, without soil. It can be used to produce food crops more intensively in smaller footprints, with less waste, and with less pest and disease damage. In this article, we will explore how hydroponics can be used to sustainably and cost-effectively produce food crops like fruit and vegetables at home for family consumption.

Hydroponic Rail system in media

Introduction To Hydroponics

Hydroponics is a sustainable water solution to produce food crops without using soil. By growing plants in water, we can reduce the amount of space needed for food production, and also reduce the amount of waste generated. This is because there is no soil involved (which would otherwise need to be improved with compost and fertilisers after each harvest).

Hydroponic systems are also less likely to be affected by pests and diseases because you have greater control over the process and can do so indoors, making them a more sustainable way to produce food

How Hydroponics Works

In a hydroponic system, the plants are grown in water instead of soil. The roots of the plants are suspended in nutrient-rich water, which provides all the nutrients that the plants need to grow. This is why hydroponics is sometimes referred to as “liquid farming”.

Types Of Hydroponic Systems

There are many different types of hydroponic systems, but the two most common ones are soil-less or ebb and flow systems. Soil-less systems involve growing the plants in an inert medium, such as perlite or vermiculite, which does not provide any nutrients to the plants. The water is enriched with all the necessary nutrients before being applied to the plants. In ebb and flow systems, the nutrient-rich water is periodically flooded over the plants before being drained away again.

Plants can also be free floating, on boards with the roots in solution, or they can be growing in media such as scourier or clay balls.

free floating hydroponics

Hydroponics can also be indoors and artificially lit, which at first sounds potentially wasteful however if it is powered by renewable energy sources such as solar or wind, the net effect is carbon capture. Artificially lit hydroponics gives growers advantage that they can grow their crops even during night, potentially allowing for faster cropping. This is also a very useful way to ‘use’ and ‘store’ excess energy renewable energy in the form of food production!

More conventional large scale hydroponics uses sunlight, or partial sunlight under shade cloths or in greenhouses to provide more control and shelter for the plants.

Advantages Of Sustainable Hydroponics

Hydroponic systems have many advantages over conventional methods of growing food crops, including:

  • The ability to produce more food in smaller spaces
  • Less waste
  • Fewer pests or diseases
  • Quicker turnover between crops
  • Faster cropping

Less effort to produce crops, drawing a parallel to no dig organic farming.

How To Set Up A Hydroponic System In Your Home

If you’re interested in setting up a hydroponic system in your home, there are many different types to choose from. You can buy a hydroponics kit or build your own system, depending on your budget and level of expertise. There are also many tutorials online that will show you how to set up an awesome hydroponics system in your home or garden.

Tips For Maintaining A Healthy Hydroponic Garden

To get the most out of your hydroponic garden, it is important to maintain healthy plants. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t overcrowd your plants – this will reduce air circulation and could lead to disease or pest problems
  • Keep an eye on the pH levels of your nutrient solution and adjust as necessary
  • Regularly change the water in your system – this will prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria and algae
  • Keep an eye on the temperature of your nutrient solution and adjust as necessary.
  • Use a water filter or bacteria impregnated filtration media to remove impurities from your nutrient solution.

Recipe Ideas For Delicious, Homegrown Hydroponic Vegetables

If you’re growing your own vegetables in a hydroponic system, there are lots of delicious recipes that you can make with them. Here are just a few examples:

  • Hydroponic lettuce salad – this is one of the simplest and tastiest salads that you can make at home. You will need to start by harvesting some fresh lettuce leaves from your garden
  • Tomato and mozzarella salad – this is a classic Italian dish that is perfect for using fresh, homegrown tomatoes
  • Hydroponic beetroot soup – this hearty soup is perfect for winter evenings. It’s made with roasted beetroot, potatoes, and leeks, all cooked in chicken or vegetable stock.

Taking Sustainability To The Next Level With Advanced Hydroponics; Aquaponics

An advanced form of hydroponics is called aquaponics.

Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines fish farming with hydroponics. The waste produced by the farmed fish, in the form of solid and liquid wastes, is broken down into nitrates to provide nutrients for vegetable crops growing above the water. After filtering out suspended solids and removing ammonia from the water, it is then recirculated back to the fish tanks again.

carp aquaponics system

This sustainable food production method is even more sustainable because:

  • The waste produced by farmed fish provides nutrients for vegetable crops growing above the water, without the need for fertilisers or pesticides.
  • Aquaponics can produce both protein and vegetables in one sustainable system.
  • The water is sustainably recirculated between the fish tanks and the hydroponic vegetable garden in a closed system reducing waste and allowing for a more efficient use of resources.

Fish poo sludge can be removed from the settling tank and used as an ultra rich soil booster for your regular Veggie Garden

Conclusion

Hydroponics is an incredibly sustainable way to produce food crops, and with a little bit of effort, you can set up a system that will provide you with fresh fruit and vegetables all year round!

Author Bio:

Ken

Ken

Ken is a retired engineer, beekeeper and avid gardener. He writes about permaculture, sustainability and self sufficiency on his blog SkyPerma, which journals his progress becoming more sustainable in the SkyGarden, a 100 square meter rooftop garden right in the heart of the Adelaide city which hosts over 500 plants and 5 established beehives. Ken has the goal of establishing his own permaculture acreage in the Adelaide Hills, and other than gardening his hobbies include cycling, cooking and writing. For more tips on sustainability and permaculture, check out his website www.skyperma.com