Soilless Farming: A Better Way to Grow Food

When you think of the produce cultivated for concession food service operations, do you visualise vast fields, rows of tilled soil, with seedlings lined up along the summits of mounds? While this method is used to cultivate most of the world’s fruits and vegetables, other methods like hydroponics require far less space and even no soil at all. The roots of hydroponically grown plants are exposed to air, allowing them to absorb the oxygen the plants require for growth, while the leaves are exposed to light, facilitating the process of photosynthesis.

What Are Its Benefits?

Maximising Space

It saves a ton of room compared to traditional earth gardening. When this and vertical farming methods are used together, they can reduce the amount of land needed for crop production by as much as 99.99%.

Hydroponic plants have a smaller footprint since their roots don’t have to reach out as far to find water and nutrients. Meanwhile, its methods vary in how frequently or consistently they supply water and nutrients to the plant’s roots. Therefore, it is possible to grow more plants in a given area since the root systems of individual plants need not take up as much room. Likewise, it’s simple to understand how a hydroponic garden may be grown in considerably less space than a conventional one, especially when vertical stacking techniques are considered.

Water Conservation

Despite common belief, hydroponics (or the cultivation of plants in water) requires less water than the soil-based method. Hydroponic plant growth requires 98% less water than soil-based plant cultivation.

So, what use does this serve, exactly? According to a 2019 WHO report, just 71% of the global population has access to a reliable source of clean drinking water that is constantly monitored for safety. About half of the world’s population will reside in water-scarce regions by 2025. Hence, as the need for water conservation grows, agricultural irrigation will become more challenging and less economical.

Only roughly 1/10th of 1% of the water absorbed by a plant’s roots is utilised by the plant. As a result of evaporation and transpiration, the vast majority is eventually lost to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, in hydroponic farming, the water is recycled so that the plants only consume what they need, and the remainder goes back into the system.

Facilitates a Micro-Climate

A hydroponic greenhouse or other enclosure is all that’s needed to keep your garden enclosed. This allows the space to create protected microclimates free from many of the challenges faced by conventional farmers. Therefore, the plants are not at the mercy of pests and do not require a battery of pesticides.

Plants may be cultivated year-round in climate-controlled greenhouses, regardless of the season or weather outside. Additionally, the amount of natural sunlight is irrelevant when using artificial grow lights.

Produces Higher Yields

If you cultivate the right environment, your plants will get just what they need from the nutrients that will be in contact with their roots. In addition, year-round growth and quicker crop rotations are both possible due to microclimates. The sum of these factors produces far greater harvests than are possible with conventional farming. As such, some hydroponic greenhouses have shown to be highly productive, yielding almost 240 times as much as traditional agricultural methods.

Saves Time and Energy

Because it eliminates the need for traditional farming tasks like tilling, weeding, applying pesticides and herbicides, and harvesting, hydroponics reduces the workload of farm workers and requires fewer people to run efficiently. This not only reduces the time and effort needed to grow crops, but it also frees up valuable resources. One part-time worker may handle all aspects of running a tiny hydroponic greenhouse.

This farming method allows farmers to maximise their productivity by streamlining their cultivation processes. Closed water systems reuse the water that plants waste. Besides, farmers that have the option of growing inside an enclosed environment have greater control over environmental factors like temperature and lighting, leading to increased crop yields. Using vertical space and increased planting density is also possible with the right system design. Moreover, farms can be established with this method in areas with inadequate soil for conventional farming or restricted land area where conventional farms would be impossible.

Author:  Sylvia James