With the global movement towards an industrial economy, less and less agricultural space is left for the growing of vegetables, fruits, trees, plants, and flowers. But technology has created methods of growing all that that you like within your own small spaces. Over the years, a number of systems have been developed to shield the plants from outdoor problems and hydroponics is becoming widely adopted. Hydroponics is quickly gaining popularity in places where traditional farming simply isn’t an option such as in large cities where there is a little access to agriculturally viable land.
Let’s begin this with what actually hydroponics is? Hydroponics is the art of growing plants without soil. Instead of soil plants are grown in a growing medium like Rockwool, perlite, coconut fibers, and gravel. Plants are among the few organisms that can synthesize all the required metabolites from inorganic ions, water and CO2 using the energy captured from Sun. So, Hydroponics is a method of growing plants that take advantage of this fact by providing all nutrients, in their inorganic form, in a liquid solution with or without solid media. Hydroponics systems have been utilized as one of the standard methods of plant biology research and are also used in commercial production of several crops using lettuce and tomato.
With new technology comes new capabilities when we began to mass produce Full spectrum LED lights, we didn’t realize but they had a major leap in our food production capabilities. Now we can grow most major crops, fruits, and vegetables indoors. Our full spectrum lights mimic the sunlight and the indoor environment makes sure your plants are never stressed. Besides, we literally brought the green herbs and plants indoors. But for years, the hydroponics industry has been focused on enthusiasts and professional growers and most people have not witnessed the awesomeness of growing greens indoors. Step in portable hydroponic garden systems. Since LED units can be made of any imaginable size, there are innovative companies that make it possible for the average person to keep beautiful plants indoors. These portable gardens are becoming more and more automated and you usually have to just look at your plants once a month to get everything running smoothly. Forget breaking your back in your backyard garden. Portable hydroponics brings greens inside your home.
Portable hydroponics usually has three parts –
- Full spectrum LED lights – These are the heart of the system. The full spectrum LEDs are what make growing indoor garden possible. These lights have all the wavelengths that a plant needs to thrive. They mimic sunlight and your plants don’t complain.
- Water reservoir – Hydroponics works on the principle of no soil. All the nutrients are delivered to the plant directly by dissolving them in water. Every portable hydroponics system has a built-in reservoir where you can add water and a set amount of liquid fertilizer.
- Soil medium – Vermiculite, rock wool, coir or foam. This is the place where your seeds grow and the roots extend. This is usually submerged in water or has water periodically fed to it. Your roots are mostly always dipped in water and keep getting nutrition for the plant.
THE BASICS OF HYDROPONICS
With the knowledge of hydroponics, you can grow anything like plants, food crops, flowers in a liquid medium without the use of soil. These crops can be grown indoors year-round, regardless of the outdoor environment, so long as the need of crops is met. Hydroponics systems and variation allow a greater amount of flexibility for growers. For those who may have limited growing space, plants can be moved as needed and seedling production can be done somewhere else. With plants grown indoors, there is no pause for seasonability. These systems are engineered to provide the proper amount of nutrients at exactly right time resulting in higher yields and better plant quality.
The grower controls the nutrients, the growth cycle, and the water. Variability is much less in such a controlled environment, leading to less waste and less cost. Although these systems depend on water and water-based solutions to function properly, they use only about one-twentieth of the amount of water used in traditional gardening or farming.
TYPES OF HYDROPONICS SYSTEMS
- WICK GROWING SYSTEM: This is considered the most basic type of system.It is a passive system which means it has no moving parts. Nutrients move from the reservoir to plants roots by a wick or string. Plants can be housed in a variety of growing mediums some of which are coconut coir, perlite or vermiculite. Due to their simplicity, these systems are a great option for growing smaller plants. The drawback with this system is that they can be inefficient if not set up properly, plant growth will be hampered.
- WATER CULTURE GROWING SYSTEM: These are technically the most simple ones to use. Plants roots are suspended, often in net pots held by Styrofoam platform, directly in nutrient solution. An air pump is used with an air stone to pump oxygen into water. Proper aeration of water is of prime importance in this technique because the roots remain submerged all the time.
- NUTRIENT FILM TECHNIQUE GROWING SYSTEM: This is the most commonly thought system with commercial production but also with home growers. Plants are grown in channels that have a thin layer of the nutrient solution flowing through the base and constantly running along the bottom of the channel. The roots are wet, but not submerged. When the solution reaches the end of the channel, it drops back into the main reservoir and is sent back to the beginning of the system again making it a recirculating system. This kind of recirculating system is great because it produces less waste. However, it relies on heavy use of pumps and any mechanical failure can be proved fatal for plant growth.
- EBB AND FLOW GROWING SYSTEM: It works by flooding the plant roots with nutrient solution temporarily.After a period of time, the solution is allowed to drain back into the reservoir. Controlled by a submerged pump with timer, this process of flooding occurs several times a day. While this method is using energy and water efficiently, plant roots can dry out quickly if environmental conditions are off or if the schedule falters due to mechanical failure.
- DRIP GROWING SYSTEM: These are one of the most widely used systems in the world. They are simple to operate on a large scale, making it ideal for commercial growers. Controlled by a timer, a pump releases nutrient solution onto the base of each plant via drip lines. In a recovery drip system, the excess nutrient solution is collected and reused. This setup is more sustainable; however, pH and nutrient strength levels may vary and must be monitored.
- AEROPONIC GROWING SYSTEM: This is the most technical system; however, the theory of aeroponics is quite simple. These systems operate primarily with plant roots hanging in the air, while some can use a growing medium. A timer is used to control the nutrient pump, ensuring that the plants are misted with the nutrient solution every few minutes. Unlike other systems, these systems expose plant roots to a lot more oxygen. The materials to make these type of systems can be costly somewhat as compared to others.
BENEFITS OF INDOOR HYDROPONICS
- REDUCE INDOOR POLLUTION: Plants have an amazing potential of detoxifying the air. Indoor plants help in removing chemical toxins present in the air. These remove pollutants by absorbing harmful gases through their leaves and roots. They produce oxygen which helps in an enhanced level of oxygen & therefore improved air quality inside the building. The ability of an indoor plant to remove harmful chemical moving in the air is an example of phytoremediation.
- GET FRESH FRUITS WITH ZERO WORRIES: Adulteration is a common thing with the fruits and food crops. With the increase in industrialization, the use of pesticides and other chemicals in growing fruits have increased a lot, which in turn is becoming a problem to human health causing lots of diseases. But with the invention of hydroponics, this worry has been set to zero as now you can get fresh fruits within your home without too many efforts.
- TURN EYEBALL AND GAIN COMPLIMENTS: Apart from being an excellent way to grow plants, fruits, and flowers, it has also become a symbol of interior decoration. With people from elite class to middle class are gaining the benefit of fresh fruits, food crops and beautiful interior designs using hydroponics.
HOW DO YOU WISH TO BUILD A GARDEN?
Here are some smart options for you-
- SMALL AQUAPONIC UNITS: It is symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment.
A simple aquaponic system can be built using an old fish tank, a box, some rocks, plants, and a pump. Take an old plastic storage box, drill two holes on one side. One for the pump to go through, one as an overflow valve. Along one side drill a series of holes to drain water back to the tank. Make a grow bed. A grow bed is something where plants can be grown, fine rocks can be a solution to make grow bed. Then simply placed the container on the top of the tank at an angle to allow drain holes to be flown back into the tank and the pump and overflow near to the top. This is the simplest thing tried.
- AUTOMATED HYDROPONICS: The hydroponics system was automated using microcontrollers and sensors to keep human intervention at a minimum. An Internet Of Things (IoT) network was created to improve reliability and allow remote monitoring and control if needed. The user is only required to plant a seedling and set initial parameters. Once done, the system is able to maintain the parameters and promote healthy plant growth.
- GO THE NATURAL WAY: Plant in a pot. This usually a little hassle because you need to take care of the plant, keep them outdoors in sunlight every day. This all efforts can be avoided using modern LED systems that are used in hydroponics.