Editorial Feature

An Introduction to Hydroponic Technology

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Hydroponics is a high-tech method of growing plants in water rich in mineral nutrients instead of soil.  Hydroponics is an ideal concept for today’s agriculture sector which struggles to find new fertile lands for crop productions and will enable crops to be grown in greenhouses or in multilevel buildings.

Types of Hydroponic Growing Systems

The various types of hydroponic growing systems currently available include:

Aeroponic System

Aeroponic systems require only air and some nutrients. The crops are suspended on a tray which contains water and nutrients at the bottom, with the roots hanging in the air. The roots are misted with the nutrient-rich water every few minutes and a timer controls the nutrient pump. This system can be used only for large commercial ventures as it is tough to set up and manage.

Drip System

The drip system is the most widely used type of hydroponic system. Nutrient-rich water is pumped via small tubes and drips on to the top of the plants, with a timer controlling the submersed pump. This system is ideal for smaller plants with undeveloped root systems.

Ebb and Flow System

In an ebb and flow system, a plant holding tray is temporarily flooded with nutrient-rich water which is then drained back into a reservoir. A timer controls a submersed pump to perform the tasks several times a day, with perlite or gravel used to provide the plants with a level of stability. This system is suitable for home use.

Nutrient Film Technique System

In a nutrient film technique system, plants are supported in small plastic baskets in a tray with their roots hanging into a nutrient solution. This system is designed to provide a constant flow of nutrient solution to the tray over the plant roots. The solution then drains off into a reservoir. This system is ideal for plants with large established root systems such as tomatoes and cucumbers.

Water Culture System

In a water culture system, a styrofoam platform containing nutrient-rich water holds the plants. An air pump supplies air to a bubbling stone that aids in the release of the nutrient solution and the supply of oxygen to the plant roots. This system can be only used for a few types of plants such as leaf lettuce for example.

Wick System

A wick system contains no moving parts, with growing mediums such as perlite or rockwool used in the tray. A nutrient solution is released into the tray via the wicks. The main advantage of this system is that it requires no pumps or timers.

The Benefits of Hydroponic Technology

The key benefits of hydroponic technology include:

  • Soil is not required
  • Water remains in the system and can be reused, thus saving water
  • Nutrition levels are controlled, thus reducing nutrition requirements and costs
  • The controlled hydroponic environment ensures that no pollution from the nutrients is released
  • Plants are healthier with high yields
  • The container is movable, thus pests and diseases can be easily controlled
  • Easy harvesting with shorter harvest time
  • Hydroponic plants are better for consumption
  • Plants have direct access to nutrients and do not need to develop extensive root systems
  • There is no damage due to pesticide

Sustainable Microfarms and The Future

Sustainable Microfarms have developed a hydroponic system called a Genesis Controller which can regulate nutrients, acidity and temperature of water. Plant growers do not have to be experts in growing any plant using this new system. The company aims to release the controller in 2014.

Hydroponic technologies will continue to evolve in the coming years as they are a necessity in today’s world.

References and Further Reading

 

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