Modern field-based agricultural practices have developed a reputation in recent years for being unsustainable. They degrade the land, consume a ton of resources, destroy nearby ecosystems, and increase the chances of food-borne illnesses being spread to consumers. Hydroponic farming may be just the solution that modern populations need. Don’t believe it? Read on to find out about the many benefits of hydroponic farming over traditional field farming to discover the truth.
Field-based agricultural operations use a lot of water. In the United States, the agricultural sector uses between 80 and 90% of available ground and surface water. Experts believe that water shortages will become increasingly frequent in the future as climate change continues to disrupt local ecosystems and global water cycles. Many of the hydroponic systems sold at agron.io are designed to filter, purify, and reuse water, helping to reduce the impact of agriculture on local water supplies.
Currently, providing food for the world’s growing population requires using up 50% of the planet’s habitable land. Wild habitats are being destroyed as more land gets converted for agricultural uses, with potentially devastating effects. Deforestation contributes to rising greenhouse gas (GHG) levels, drives unprecedented levels of species loss, and brings human populations into closer contact with animals that could carry diseases, increasing rates of zoonotic transfer. Hydroponic growing could change all that.
Hydroponic systems allow farmers to grow more plants in smaller amounts of space. Since the plants don’t need to develop spreading root systems to get the nutrients required for their survival, they have smaller footprints. Hydroponic systems also lend themselves well to vertical farming, further improving the efficiency of indoor farms with smaller footprints.
Hydroponic farms produce crops faster than field farms. Depending on the plants, they can produce crops anywhere from 30 to 50% faster than their soil-grown counterparts. Water-hungry plants like tomatoes and leafy greens tend to respond the best to hydroponic growing, but just about all plants will grow larger and produce crops faster when farmers reduce environmental pressures and ensure that each plant receives optimal nutrients and light levels. That’s just what hydroponic farming allows.
Increase Crop Yields
Hydroponically grown plants also tend to produce higher yields per square foot of growing space. The plants are healthier and they receive carefully tailored nutrient solutions that encourage optimal crop setting. Plus, plants that can be harvested multiple times during a single growing season can continue to produce crops for longer if they aren’t subject to freezes and other environmental stresses.
Reduce Labor Requirements
Modern hydroponic systems can be automated to ensure the proper distribution of nutrients, light, and other requirements and reduce labor. There’s no need for tilling the soil, removing weeds, or applying herbicides, so most farmers can hire less help. Reduced labor costs will also help to offset the investment required to get started with hydroponic farming.
Eliminate Soil Erosion
Half the topsoil on the planet has been eroded by field farming in the past 150 years. Unfortunately, conventional agriculture almost always leads to soil compaction, nutrient degradation, destruction of soil structure, and, subsequently, topsoil erosion. Hydroponic systems are fully enclosed and require no soil at all. As more farmers make the switch to hydroponic growing, the world’s topsoil’s and the plants, animals, and microorganisms that rely on them for survival will all benefit, and so will people.
Produce Higher-Quality Crops
Fruits and vegetables are only as nutrient-dense as the plants that grow them. Hydroponic systems give farmers full control over what nutrients their plants get, making it easier to produce high-quality, nutrient-dense food. Plus, hydroponic farming can be performed just about anywhere during any season, making it easier for consumers to get access to fresh food from the areas where they live.
Traditional agriculture’s solution for providing fresh fruits and vegetables during the off-season is not sustainable. Farmers must pick the fruits or veggies before they’re fully ripe to ensure that they will be able to sustain long travel times as they navigate complex supply chains. Ripening produce that is picked early requires chemical processes like introducing ethylene gas for artificial ripening.
All of these factors reduce nutrient concentrations in conventionally farmed foods, especially during the off-season when they must travel longer distances before they reach stores. Hydroponic farming allows farmers to pick the produce when it is ripe and nutrient concentrations are at optimal levels and get it to consumers quickly before it spoils.
Reduce Reliance on Petrochemicals
Hydroponically grown crops are less prone to pest and disease issues, and they’re nearly immune to weeds. As a result, farmers can expect to need fewer synthetic pesticides and no herbicides. Hydroponic systems even reduce the need for synthetic nutrients. Farmers can tailor their nutrient solutions to their plants’ needs, and the plants can use those nutrients more efficiently.
There’s even better news when it comes to the environmental impacts of switching to hydroponic systems. Field-based farms inevitably release some of the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers used to support plant health into the surrounding ecosystems, contributing to problems like nitrification and increasing water and soil toxicity levels. Hydroponic farms typically feature closed-loop systems that do not release nutrients or petrochemicals into the surrounding environment.
Hydroponic farms are indoor operations, so they can be set up anywhere with access to the electrical grid or off-grid power and irrigation. Today, hydroponic farms are already starting to get established in the areas where food is needed the most: the nation’s cities. Growing food close to consumers gives people access to fresh produce year-round and reduces the need for relying on fragile and fossil-fuel dependent supply chains. Localizing food production will benefit farmers, customers, and the planet.
Embrace the Future
Hydroponic systems are the future of farming. Farmers who want to keep up with the changing times would do well to start investing in the infrastructure and equipment to transition their agricultural operations over now. It will require a large initial investment, but farmers who make the transition to hydroponic growing successfully will find that their money was well spent.