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Hydroponics Part II: Going Soilless

Posted: 10:33AM September 16th, 2014 | Comments

 

Submitted by Hailey Morey

Hydroponics has been around for centuries, but recently hydroponics is starting to become recognized as a mainstream type of farming method. Part 1 gave you insight into the background of hydroponics and types of hydroponic systems. Part 2 will dive into reasons for practicing hydroponics.

 

What motivated large hydroponic operations?

Eden Farms out of Indiana states on their website:

“Hydroponics is a year-round, space effective, soil-less means which allows for a much more sterile and controlled growing environment that limits insects, micro- organisms, disease and weather issues”

Farmers using hydroponics will no longer have to worry about crop failure caused by diseases, insects, or any other uncontrollable outside forces. Hydroponics allows single crops to be grown on a massive scale without the need for crop rotation or pesticide usage because it is in a controlled environment.

 

Eden Farms in Indiana

 

Why is Hydroponics right for you?

  • Hydroponic farming creates ideal growing conditions for crops to grow 365 days a year and for multiple growing cycles allowing for maximum harvest yield.
  • A small hydroponic system is perfect for anyone with limited space
  • Folks who have a little more room can try growing on larger scales
  • Investing in hydroponics is great for regions that have unfavorable growing conditions such as desert or harsh winters. That means places where certain types of food couldn’t grow in the past, can now grow using hydroponics. It is a simple concept, if the crop gets the exact amount of nutrients and water - it can be as healthy as possible.

 

But, there always has to be a catch!

The initial start up costs can be a little bit frightening at first, as with any new project, because you will need to purchase lighting, holding containers, pumps, timers, and nutrient solutions off the bat. Further, although a hydroponic system does not take up much space, it does need some room to breath. And lastly, all crops are dependent on a caretaker and since crops are living, there is an additional time commitment on your end. But all these considerations do not differ much from other growing techniques. Show your investment, confidence, and try a new and rewarding experience with low-risk hydroponics.

 

Both Eden Farms and Growing Power are ambitious examples that hydroponics can be produced on the mass scale. Eden Farms surprisingly started its business after being the winning bid for a greenhouse on eBay. In 2005, Randy Butts, founded Eden Farms and originally focused on growing basil and limited distribution locally, but the demand became so big that Watercress and Arugula were added to the menu. Eden Farms teamed up with major distributors in the area - including Indianapolis Fruit and Caito Foods - to supply and deliver produce to individual customers via a refrigerated truck. Eden Farms strives to grow the freshest, crispest, and greenest crops around to ensure their herbs are better than any others you might find in a grocery store. Located right outside Jamestown, Indiana, you can order products from Eden Farms directly from there website found here.

 

Growing Power originally located out of Milwaukee, WI is now celebrating 20 years of farming fresh and sustainable food. This organization got its start by providing employment opportunities for teens in need of work. Growing Power became so popular that it has expanded across the country and now sells its products to numerous restaurants and grocery stores in the Midwest. It thrives because it has a team of dedicated employees and hard-working volunteers. Growing Power gardens outside and also practices Aquaponics - a method with many similarities to hydroponics. Aquaponics is a commercial farming technique to grow produce and raise fish indoors in highly regulated tanks.

 

Growing Power in Milwaukee

 

How does Aquaponics work?

The water from the fish holding tank is transported out so bacteria can break down the fish waste into nitrogen. This nutrient-rich water is then used to feed crops in adjacent tubs. The nitrogen-rich water –caused by the by-product of raising fish- helps maximize the growth and development of plants. Any water not soaked up by the roots is cycled back into the fish tanks for reuse. Plants grown via aquaponics do not use soil and help conserve water. More about Growing Power can be found here.

 

Snapshot of Aquaponics

 

Maintaining plant nutrition while conserving water and soil will greatly help mitigate water consumption and soil run off. Even though the start-up costs can be high the benefits do outweigh the setbacks. Keep an eye out - hydroponics and aquaponics are transforming the farming community. 

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