Is Hydroponic Farming Sustainable
Food sustainability is a broad term used to evaluate whether a certain farming method meets the farmer’s needs and augment the possibility of prospective generations benefiting from their predecessors’ farming practices. Before venturing into any farming method, you must carefully consider how the methods benefit you. You must ascertain whether the investment is worthwhile and if you can rely solely on it for a livelihood. Let’s discuss what hydroponic farming is, the different methods, and how you can optimize the farming techniques to maximize income.
What is hydroponic farming?
Hydroponic farming is a cultivation category where you can use water and nutrient solutions instead of utilizing soil as a medium of growth for your crops. Notably, there are different options you can choose from, including;
- Deep Water Cultivation (DWC)
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
- Ebb and Flow System
- Drip Systems
The methods listed above have different merits on cost and other production factors. However, you should note a few advantages.
Hydroponics helps you save on space
When practicing hydroponics, your main goal is to reduce the space that your hydroponics setup utilizes. Many forms of hydroponics use nutrient solution and water as the growing medium. The customized setup ensures that your crops are held closely together, thus reducing the extra space that other farmers who use organic farming methods encounter. Consequently, hydroponics will help you save extra cash.
Produces higher yields
Using this method, you gain the advantages of determining how much yields you acquire from your hydroponic system. The only factor you have to consider is the nutrient components that your plant needs. Many plants are nutrient specific, for instance, tomatoes. Similarly, to maximize the quality of the yields, you must concisely supplement an NPK solution, in the case of tomatoes. Most gardening shops will offer you remedies on what to follow when setting up the hydroponics structure.
Requires less labor
Many methods used in hydroponics will need a little amount of labor input. You can do it single-handedly or with a little support from your friend or family, especially during planting. Let’s compare this aspect to other organic methods of farming. Given the little time and effort you spend on starting and running any hydroponics structure, it is better and less expensive.
Eliminates the need for pesticides
Hydroponics are mainly built indoors. Hence, you can seal off the entire structure for rodents and other pests to reduce intrusion. Likewise, when you use water and nutrient solution as a medium of growth, you eliminate the possibility of pests thriving in the hydroponic setup.
Reduces the supply Chain
This factor arises from the attribute of pest control mentioned above. Moreover, you do not need countless chemicals to run your indoor farm. You can source for distributors within your environment since most food you grow in indoor farms is highly perishable. This method will not need you to package your products since they will be soilless, spotlessly clean, and ready for consumption.
Which are the most sustainable hydroponics farming methods?
There are different indoor farming methods, but the question is, which method equals the amount of money and time you invest. Besides, the question of sustainability does not only count in the case of indoor farming but matters to all business endeavors that you engage in. For the methods of hydroponics listed below, we will assess whether they are cost-effective, promote crop rotation, and embrace diversity.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
This method has been crowned as the most sustainable indoor farming plan you can use. It incorporates thin films embedded in the plant’s roots. The thin films will help you channel the nutrient solution over the roots while keeping them dry and free of unwanted moisture.
The aspect you will find unique to this indoor farming method is that the upper part of the plant is not entirely submerged into water. You want the plant’s stalk and leaves to receive as much light and oxygen as possible so that they can flourish. To effectively run the NFT indoor farming method, you only need a submersible fountain, a nutrient solution, different sizes of tubes, and a container that will act as your grow bed.
The cost you are likely to incur in this method depends on the crop you plant. It is recommended that you plant vegetables such as Kales since their seedlings have sizeable roots, which will help you save you the trouble of buying uncountable net pots. The structure is entirely portable and can be built at any point in and out of your house.
Ebb and Flow
This method subjects the crops to a controlled flooding and drainage procedure. Note this indoor farming method needs you to use a suspended grow bed along with the ebb and flow system. The ebb and flow method’s starting cost is slightly expensive and labor-intensive since you have to serve the plants with nutrients in flooding intervals.
Subsequently, you will need equipment and material, including testing gadgets, reservoirs, lighting, and nutrient solutions. In addition, you will need a timed growing medium to help you gauge the time needed to flood and drain the structure until your crops are fully-grown. Note that interruption of the intervals due to water and power outages has a detrimental effect on the success of your ebb and flow farming approach.
Wicking is an automatic method of hydroponics that stands out is cost-effective and reduces the need for labor and machines. You can apply the wicking method if you use limited amounts of water and nutrient solution.
In this approach, you will achieve water and nutrient solution uptake through capillary action – where water flow is gradual and happens on the opposite side of gravity by utilizing a narrow space. Therefore, you only need to wick the fabric with conduits the size of biro pen tubes.
The conduits will help draw water and solution from the growing medium and later release it gradually on the surface of the crop, depending on the rate of uptake. Thus, the method is sustainable for any farmer starting up and is used wholesomely on a small scale. Ensure you are aware that the method is only applicable partially to seedlings.
Deep Water Culture System (DWC)
The DWC is a sustainable indoor farming option that you could use to grow different crops. This method is suitable for commercial use if you seek to be a food producer. Mostly, if you inquire about the hydroponics method of farming, the explanation cannot go without mentioning DWC.
The proliferation of yields depends on the following factors listed below;
- Cleaning and filtering the water and nutrient system regularly
- Changing the water to ensure that the roots absorb oxygen-rich water
- Performing a regular pH test and checking the EC levels on the grow bed.
- Ensuring that the indoor structure is sealed off ensures that pests and rodents do not tamper with the crops.
- How you utilize crop rotation in the hydroponic system ensures you reap maximum benefits.
What is the performance of the hydroponic system?
Hydroponic systems are among the most effective cultivation methods of all time. Compared to other methods, the in-house farming method gives you a 50-60% quick growth advantage in contrast to organic farming methods.
In addition, most farmers will choose it since it reduces the cost and space you would use during farming. Besides, you can grow your crops anywhere, even on your apartment’s balcony, since the in-house farming method is soilless.
Furthermore, farmers who use the NFT method report a 20% reduction in space and surplus harvest compared to when they used the organic farming method.
Can people around learn about the Hydroponic method of farming?
One of the most commonly asked questions about hydroponic cultivation is easy to learn. The answer to this question is that the hydroponics structure is one of the beginners’ most easy farming methods.
In addition, the methods used are common among different hydroponics approaches. The basic aspects you have to keep in mind are using the nutrient solution and effective circulation of oxygen and water within the structure.
Indeed, you can teach the different methods of hydroponics to children and other relatives so that they can chip in when needed.
How do you know if your hydroponics structure is sustainable?
Firstly, ensure you research the starting cost of each hydroponics method, keeping in mind the equipment and material needed.
Second, account for the cost of seeds and prospective buyers of your harvest. Research on the buying price of each unit and consider other factors of production.
Third, ascertain that the yields are in-line with the expectations. If they are not, take note of what caused the changes and eradicate them.