CATS: ‘Leaps’-‘n’-‘bounds’ growing: Hydroponics

Number 26 in the Clean Air Technologies Series.

I once visited a farm in California’s central coast region replete with aqua- or hydroponic growing practices. “Hydroponics” (also known as “aquaponics”) is a buzzword term that deals with growing plants in containers that can be suspended vertically (one atop another), that through feed lines, are fed steady supplies of water and nutrients. On the farm I visited all hydroponic growing was ensconced in what is referred to as a “controlled-environment” enclosure, the most common being a hothouse or greenhouse.

“There are two types of hydroponic systems: run-to-waste and recirculating, said Michael Christian, president of American Hydroponics,” I wrote in the June 2004 Vegetable Growers News article: “Hydroponics gives farmers more control in growing system.”

“‘In a run-to-waste system, the excess nutrient not used by the plant goes to waste,’ Christian said. ‘In a recirculating system, the excess nutrient is re-circulated back into a nutrient reservoir. In both systems, a balanced nutrient is delivered to plant roots that are either growing in an inert medium or in water,’” I wrote in citing Christian.1

Hydroponic growing technique
Hydroponic growing technique

Not only does this type of growing take up less space compared to conventional growing practices, but there appears to be greater efficiencies in terms of resources used, which offers the potential of making such a system of growing more cost effective for the grower.

The real beauty of hydroponic growing is applicability to anywhere water flows. And that has direct environmental implications.

For example, in traditional farming operations during harvesting and plowing, soil has a tendency to be disturbed and, by virtue of this, dust is created. To help keep fugitive dusts and/or other particles down during these operations, such could be limited to windless days, which is perhaps the most common method employed.

Also, because water delivery to hydroponic growing systems is regulated and precise, there is virtually no loss due to evaporation.

Hydroponics is an amazing (in my opinion) growing platform that can produce abundant and quality yields, with efficient use of resources, at reasonable cost and sans environmental harm.

Incidentally, on the farm I toured, harmful plant pests were controlled using beneficial insects. No need for pesticide use here, which can also contaminate air through pesticide drift.

If you ask me, hydroponics is one very productive growing means.

Notes:

  1. Alan Kandel, “Hydroponics gives farmers more control in growing system,” Vegetable Growers News, Great American Publishing Inc., June 2004, pp. 15 & 21.

Image above: NASA/Kennedy Space Center

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