• Willem

Hydroponics (or hydro-farming), a brief overview

Updated: Mar 29

Several people from the community have asked us this question: What is hydroponics and why not just acquire a piece of land and grow your greens there?

In this post we will address this and many other related topics to give our customers a better view of hydroponics, why we love it and several of the benefits of hydro-farming.

We will also address some myths and misconceptions that exist around hydro farming.

For purposes of this post, hydroponics and hydro-farming are synonymous and are used interchangeably.


What is hydroponics?

In short, Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a water based, nutrient rich solution.


Hydroponics does not use soil.


Once people realise that we grow our pesticide free, crunchy fresh, bursting with flavour and nutrient dense vegetables in a soil-less environment there are usually several questions that follow.

  • How do you grow stuff without soil, how does that work?

  • Don’t you need sunlight?

  • Is soil-less veg as nutritious as soil-based veg?

  • What about the taste?

Let's dive into more detail around each of these topics to help you understand how hydro-farming deliver’s quality greens.





How does hydro-farming work?


The first thing to understand is that hydro-farming or hydroponics is a broad term that, at a high level only states growing food without soil.

Within this broad field, there are 6 different methods of growing vegetables, each method serves a specific purpose to achieve the best results depending on the crop you grow.


These methods are:

  • Wick

The nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium from the reservoir with a wick.

  • Water Culture

The platform that holds the plants floats directly on the nutrient solution.

  • Ebb and Flow

The Ebb and Flow system works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into a reservoir.

  • Drip (recovery or non-recovery)

Nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant by a small drip line.

  • N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)

N.F.T. systems have a constant flow of nutrient solution, the nutrients flow over the roots of the plans.

  • Aeroponic

The roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient solution.


At Nourishing Hub, we are using a combination of horizontal and vertical N.F.T systems as well as aeroponic systems.


A basic illustration of our vertical N.F.T. system



A basic illustration of our horizontal N.F.T. system



Don’t you need sunlight?


The short answer is: NO, if you invest in quality light sources.


It all depends on the amount of energy you make available to the plants for photosynthesis, too much and you will burn the plant, too little and the plant will grow slowly or not at all.

Just like in nature, if you grow something in the shade (low energy) you have less sunlight available compared to growing plants in direct sunlight (high energy).


Moving to indoor hydro-farming, not all light bulbs or tubes are created equal. For example, if you were thinking of growing your head of lettuce in your bedroom with your current bedroom light you will have a tough time growing a quality head of lettuce, there is simply not enough energy emitted for the plant to thrive. On the flip side, if you grow your head of lettuce under a spotlight used at your local football club you will probably burn it to a crisp as there is too much energy available.


At Nourishing Hub, we use the perfect balance light-to-crop ratio to make sure we get the most out of our crops without stressing them too much. We do not take anything for granted and we always investigate/research detail before we make a decision on any one aspect of farming.


Below is an example we researched to illustrate the difference in yield using a lower energy light source vs our trusted high energy light source

High energy crop


Low energy crop



Similarities

  • These are seeds from the same batch, Rocket

  • The seeds were planted at the same time in two different trays

  • They were fed the same nutrients and volume of water

  • Both trays were watered at the same time

  • The distance to the light source was the same

  • Air flow was the same

  • Both trays were left for 7 days


Differences

  • The only variable/difference in the test was the high vs low energy light source

Because there was enough energy available, the High energy crop was bursting with flavour, the Low Energy crop – not so much.


In a future post we will discuss in more detail the effect different light types (high noon lighting, late summer lighting) have on related crop types like root veg, leafy veg and fruit baring veg.


At Nourishing Hub, we have done extensive research into the effect of lights on crop yield and taste to make sure you get the best tasting greens possible.





Is soil-less veg as nutritious as soil-based veg?


Short answer: YES, absolutely, it all depends on the quality of nutrients introduced.


The first thing to know about conventional farming and nutrients is that, just because you grow in soil does not mean your plants get all the nutrients they need.

Farmers go to great lengths to re-fertilise their fields after each harvest. Most farmland, especially in established systems like Europe and America/Canada, have either depleted all the naturally occurring minerals and nutrients due to over farming or the soil quality is poor, both these scenarios require a lot of nutrients to be re-introduced to grow healthy looking crops.


The advantage hydro-farming has over conventional farming is that with hydro-farming we have much greater control over our nutrient concentrations.


At Nourishing Hub we measure our nutrient solutions twice a week to ensure nutrient levels are not too high or too low. This level or control is just not achievable with conventional farming.


Another advantage of hydro-farming and nutrients over that of conventional soil-based farming is that with hydro-farming plants do not have to spend energy pushing roots to expand and look for nutrients, that energy is instead converted into plant growth and this is another reason why hydro-farmed crops can achieve better crop yields.





What about the taste?


Without fail, all the people that tasted Nourishing Hub's crunchy fresh and bursting with flavour greens noted that the taste was amazing. This is due to the two key factors that influence taste and which we provide in abundance:

  1. Enough high energy light and

  2. Enough high quality nutrients


If both these elements are supplied in ample quantities plants will grow and develop a natural full-bodied taste regardless if that plant is grown indoors or outdoors.


Nourishing Hub uses both high energy light sources as well as quality nutrients to grow our plants all year round regardless of season.


In addition to the topics discussed above we also highlight various other benefits of hydro-farming to our customers. Some of these are:

  • No pesticides or herbicides

  • Massive Water savings

  • All our waste is 100% compostable

  • We grow 4 to 5 times as much crops per square meter than soil-based farming


Please follow us on Facebook where you will find lots more posts and information around the benefits of slow hydro-farming.


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