Farming without the soil

in StemSocial2 months ago

There's no doubt that agriculture is pivotal in sustaining life globally and improving the economy of many nations. An average human can barely survive without food beyond a few days and food represents one of the things that are common to every living organism - humans, animals, plants, and even microbes.

I have always loved to farm because I am fascinated by the magic of the multiplication that goes on after planting. The science behind one seed turning into a sumptuous fruit or multiple seeds is incredible, and interesting too. But agriculture is not an easy task, you have so many tasks to do, you would have to clear your land, till the ground, plant, weed, fertilize, and eventually harvest. All these would have to be done on a very large piece of land for more yield. But what if you do not have large farmland, and you really want to farm?

Many people living in the urban area can barely find suitable lands for farming but that does not make them less dependent on food. Hence, the bulk of the food being eaten in urban areas is produced in rural areas where arable lands abound. Consequently, foods are usually very expensive in urban areas due to the cost of logistics.


By Kurt Kaiser - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87728384

As the population of the world keeps increasing, now known rural areas will gradually become urban and arable lands that use to be their characteristics would have been replaced with buildings or industries. This means that lesser lands would be available for farming as the population of humans increases. Scientists are already finding a solution to this problem with hydroponic farming.

Hydroponic farming is simply a type of horticulture that uses water as a method of growing plants, which means soil which is believed to be essential to plant growth, can be taken out of the picture, incredible right? This is possible by making use of nutrient-based water, thereby allowing you to avoid problems associated with soil-based farming.
How to set up a hydroponic farm

To design a hydroponic system, some elements are mandatory to ensure the success of your project. First, you will need fresh water with a balanced P.H level, since plants grow well with a P.H level of 6-6.5. Next, you will need a source of oxygen, typically, plants get oxygen from the soil, but since you are not using the soil here, you will need to make provision for that to aid respiration for the roots. You will also need to support the roots, the soil provides support for plants, therefore, to enable proper growth, you will need to create an avenue to support your plants.

The soil provides plants with nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and other nutrients required for healthy growth. All these nutrients are necessary for plants growth, which is why you will need to provide your hydroponic farm with them, you could buy the nutrients individually or get an already established nutrient mixture.

Finally, your farm will require light depending on the daily need of that plant based on its daily light integral (the required amount of light it needs). Because natural light is limited indoors, plants that are grown in a hydroponics system typically receive supplemental lighting. The lights are hung above the plants, and their brightness is controlled to mimic the natural cycles of daylight and darkness that plants need to grow.

Advantages that hydroponics have to offer

One major and interesting advantage of hydroponic farming is the absence of soil, I know this may be controversial for some, but let's be honest, the soil houses a lot of insects which turn to attack your plants, the soil is also an uncontrolled medium, because u can not tell the composition of the entire field which you want to farm on, you could analyze a little part of the land, but it can not account for hectares of land. With hydroponics, however, you get to know exactly what goes into your plant.

Since you control temperature and lighting that mimics day lengths, you have an extended growing season that allows you to grow your plants all year round. Another advantage of a hydroponic system is that you get the opportunity to set up your farm wherever you want it to be, you do not have to travel to the outskirts of a city to farm, the system also allows you to maximize space, grow your plants wherever you want, and get optimum yield from your farm since you have fewer pests. Lastly, you have absolutely no need for tractors.

Disadvantages of hydroponic farming

The technology of farming with this system is quite appealing, but it is a concern to many individuals who want to venture into this form of agriculture because of its cost. Yes, setting up a hydroponic system requires a lot of money since you have to make provision for a lot of things you can get naturally on the farmland.

Hydroponic systems are power-dependent, which makes them vulnerable to power outages because they depend on electricity to power the different components such as growth lights, water pumps, aerators, and fans. Your plants are more susceptible to waterborne diseases with hydroponics, since the medium for growth is basically water, and since the water circulates through the entire system, it is easier for infections to spread rapidly throughout your farm.

What kind of plants are best for hydroponic systems?

If you have set up your hydroponic system already, congratulations, you have done the chunk of the work, now it is time to figure out what to plant. Before you start with big projects, however, it is advisable to experiment with garden plants until one gets a good hang of the techniques.

Plants like lettuce, strawberries, bell peppers, herbs, spinach (and most other leafy greens) represent some of the most popular crops to be tried with a hydroponic system. This is because they are biologically durable, are easy to start, and completes their life cycle within a growing season. They are also easy to take care of in a hydroponic system, unlike some plants that are difficult to grow in a hydroponic system because of the space they take up.


By Narek75 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53495399

This does not mean that other plants can not be planted though, the problem is that they may not produce the desired yield. These plants include maize, vining type of crops, and root crops like potatoes, onions, garlic, and carrots. Trees fall into this category also because of the space they take up, since most hydroponic systems are indoors and set up at home, it is not practical to plant a tree that may outgrow the building.

Fina Words

If you are considering setting up a hydroponic system, consider the costs and go for a crop that will give you optimum yield. The technology behind this form of agriculture is exceptional and with great care, you will enjoy the rewards.

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Thanks for the informative post. I understand the appeal of such system for a few individuals, but I was wondering about its scalability. I'm guessing it requires a large amount of water, and water also becomes a scarce resource in some areas of the world. Would the other benefits outweigh this? Unless these systems are able to efficiently recycle the water, in which case the question is already answered.

Not in all cases would it require a large amount of water. I once read of a technology that extracts water from the air for the roots of the plant. Hence, the plants were grown in the air within the chamber. We will surely develop on the existing methods.

Nice. I agree, this is already a great technology, with even more promises with some additional research. Maybe it can also help bringing food to populations who need it the most. For that, it's probably a bit too costly for now.

With more research, I am sure the cost will come down greatly in the nearest future.

Hydroponics is amazing. I want to try it some time. I think it is a very good technique. I just need to research it and learn how to take care of the plants better.

Everyone might need to learn it in the nearest future when we are done destroying all the available arable lands

I think there are very portable packs you can purchase off platforms like amazon.

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