Hydroponics, from Greek words meaning ‘water’ and ‘labor’ or ‘work’, is a system for growing plants without soil by utilizing a dissolved mineral nutrient solution. While hydroponics may seem high-tech to some, it is actually a very old method of growing plants. An early example of hydroponics is the hanging gardens of Babylon. Hydroponics can take the form of a rather complicated active system, but can also be a very simple passive system. The methods of hydroponic culture can be divided into two types, solution culture and substrate culture. In substrate culture, inert materials such as rockwool, clay pebbles, and sand are used, while solution culture systems utilize only the dissolved mineral nutrient solution. More specifics on these systems will be provided when we cover the How? of hydroponics. Next time we will explore the Why? of hydroponics and the benefits of this important method of growing.
As we just discussed, hydroponics is a method of growing plants using a mineral nutrient solution. Since hydroponics does not use natural soil, this growing method can be utilized almost anywhere- from rooftop greenhouses in New York, to Antarctica, and even the Moon! Often hydroponics is coupled with a controlled environment, either a greenhouse, growth chamber, or indoor grow room. This method of growing food, often called controlled environment agriculture (or CEA), is becoming an extremely important way to feed our growing population. Hydroponics and CEA can take place almost anywhere, making it possible for healthy fresh food to be produced where it otherwise would not grow. Other important benefits of hydroponics include the efficiency of the method; more food can be produced in a smaller area with less water needed, and the ability to control many aspects of production. Controlled environments allow for a clean growing area where pests and diseases can be excluded. Ultimately, hydroponics and CEA allow growers to produce a high quality, clean, and healthy crop. Stay tuned for more growing info as we dive into the How? of hydroponics.