What are the advantages of hydroponics and is hydroponics suitable for me?
This is a good question! Especially if you want to get closer to this method of hydroponics.
Together we look at the big picture. The advantages and the disadvantages of hydroponics.
Therefore, this article is perfect for you! Especially if you want to know if hydroponics is for you!
Advantages of hydroponics
1 No need for soil
Growing plants without soil sounds like science fiction, but it has long been a reality.
As early as 1938, hydroponic vegetables were grown in the Pacific Ocean on Walker Island.1
Although the island is rocky and barren, it was possible to provide fresh vegetables for the U.S. troops stationed there.
The example points to the multiple possibilities for food production when soil is replaced by water as a limiting factor.
The elimination of soil in crop production forms the basis of the following advantages. New potentials are created and old problems of conventional agriculture are solved.
2 flexible location
Growing plants in water makes it possible to grow plants that are independent of soil conditions and other environmental factors.
In hydroponics, therefore, plants can grow and thrive in any conceivable location – provided the right equipment and know-how are available.
NASA also recognized this and has been researching hydroponic vegetable production for decades for long stays on the moon, Mars and in space.
A look back at our planet reveals an equally exciting development:
The flexible location of hydroponic systems makes hydroponics attractive in urban spaces and in warm/dry regions of the world. So it is not surprising that hydroponic farms are springing up in India and the Emirates
3 Vertical Farming & Indoor Gardening
In the course of the growing world population and globalization, agricultural areas are becoming smaller and transport distances to the end consumer longer.
In the debate about space-saving and sustainable agriculture, vertical farming and indoor gardening are promising concepts.
Vertical farming or vertical agriculture is the hydroponic mass production of crop products in multi-story buildings in cities.8
Indoor gardening, on the other hand, is the growing of plants in the end user’s home.
In hydroponic systems, plants are planted close together and on top of each other. This increases the yield per square meter tenfold.9
4 rapid growth & higher yields
A key advantage of hydroponic plant growing is the high growth rate.
There is often talk of a 30-50% higher growth rate. According to commercial operations, hydroponic plants even grow twice as fast (100% growth rate).10
How is this possible?
Plants in hydroponic systems take less time to grow because the roots are free to develop and the roots have access to nutrients at all times.11
Furthermore, commercial hydroponics controls all environmental factors, such as light, temperature, nutrients, and humidity.
5 hydroponics saves a lot of water
“In hydroponics, plants grow in water. Doesn’t that use a lot of water?”
No, quite the opposite!
Efficient hydroponic systems allow water savings of up to 90% or more.12 13
Water is efficiently delivered to the plant in a hydroponic system. Only natural evaporation occurs through the leaves.
In contrast, when grown in soil, much unused water seeps into the soil.
The oft-cited study “Comparison of Land, Water, and Energy Requirements of Lettuce Grown Using Hydroponic vs. Conventional Agriculture Methods” demonstrates the immense water savings:
It compares conventional lettuce growing in Arizona with hydroponic lettuce growing in terms of water use, among other factors.
The comparison of the two yields shows that hydroponically grown lettuce requires only 8% of the amount of water used in conventional growing.14
6 Efficient use of nutrients or nutrient savings
You are probably familiar with the efficient use of fertilizers or nutrients in agriculture at least since the debate about elevated nitrate levels in groundwater.
Hydroponics brings you a lot closer to the efficient use of nutrients.
The nutrients in the nutrient solution can be optimally controlled and adjusted to the plant.
Depending on the hydroponic system, 55 to 85% of fertilizer is saved compared to fertilization in conventional agriculture.15
In addition, there is no nitrate leaching into the groundwater and soils are not overfertilized.
7 no pesticides, insecticides & herbicides.
Diseases and pests are the enemies of every gardener.
With hydroponics without insecticides.
The use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides usually protects the crop. However, negative effects on the ecosystem are usually unavoidable. In addition, pesticides are ingested through food and cause harm to humans.16
In commercial hydroponics, crops are usually raised in a sterile environment. This reduces disease pressure and eliminates the need for pesticides.
This is similar for hobby gardeners who place their hydroponic system in their own living spaces.
8 control of the pH-value
The pH is critical to nutrient availability.
In hydroponics, nutrients are dissolved in water. Therefore, a simple and quick measurement as well as adjustment is possible.
A simple pH meter is sufficient for this purpose. This measures the pH value of the nutrient solution and thus enables fine adjustment and constant control.
9 production at the end user
In chapters 2 and 3, food production in cities was touched upon.
Vertical or urban farming uses hydroponics to produce vegetables, herbs and fruits locally in cities.
The food is produced locally at the consumer and does not have to be transported for long distances.
This relieves agricultural land use and regional and global transport. The CO2 produced during transport is saved.17
In addition to environmental and economic benefits, the produce is also fresher.
As you already know, plants grow much faster in hydroponic systems.
Compared with conventional growing systems, hydroponic systems are therefore 100 to 250 percent more productive.18
11 easy to get started – even without a green thumb
If you’re fretting about why your plants aren’t growing properly, hydroponics may be right up your alley.
Plants in hydroponics require comparatively little care and attention.
The plants are always supplied with water, nutrients and light. So it is easily possible to go on vacation for two weeks without all the plants drying up in the end.
Furthermore, beginners can quickly start enjoying hydroponic plants with a homemade or purchased hydroponic system.
12 harvest all year round
Indoor hydroponic systems are independent of the season and weather.
Hydroponic vegetables can be grown and harvested all year round. For example, you can harvest tomatoes and lettuce all year round. If you do it right, a head of lettuce will be ready to harvest every week.
13 efficient use of space
A major advantage is the small area needed for hydroponics.
hydroponics uses space efficiently
Comparing usable space to conventional agriculture, hydroponic farms require just 1/5 of the space.19
This major advantage is what makes urban farming possible. From an ecological perspective, more former farmland can be returned to nature.
14 No weeds
No weeds will make many gardeners’ hearts beat faster.
Where there is no soil, there can be no weeds. Annoying weeding is therefore a thing of the past. You determine yourself which seeds are implemented in the system.
Surely you have already asked yourself whether vegetables and fruits from hydroponics taste good.
The answer is yes!
Because of the optimal supply of light, water and nutrients, the plant can reach its genetic potential. This is also noticeable in the taste.
However, taste is always subjective.
Thus, it cannot be conclusively judged whether hydroponic vegetables taste better than conventional vegetables.
A pilot study shows that the test persons do not perceive any differences between conventionally and hydroponically grown lettuce.
Disadvantages & challenges Of Hydroponics
16 knowledge and experience
As with any new method or technique, knowledge and experience are required.
While hydroponics is a relatively simple method at its core, large and complex hydroponic systems require increased expertise.
Learn the basics of hydroponics beforehand and start your first experiments!
The deeper you get into the subject, the more efficient and productive your systems will be.
17 acquisition costs
Especially on a commercial scale, the initial costs are relatively high. A lot of equipment, such as lamps, pumps and containers have to be bought.
However, for hobby gardening, the costs are manageable. Small smart indoor systems can be purchased or home-built from a few materials, such as a deep water culture.
Once the system is in place, the cost is only energy and nutrients.
18 Return On Investment
There are many start-ups trying to produce food in cities with hydroponics. The biggest challenge is the long return on investment.
It takes time until the food sold exceeds the value of the initial costs – similar to a solar plant.
19 technical problems & risks
In the more sophisticated hydroponic systems, there are air and water pumps and other technical components.
Even though the risk of a technical failure or power outage is usually low, you still need to be aware of it.
For example, if the water pump fails in an NFT system, the roots can dry out within a few hours. The plant is thus dead and no longer usable.
20 spread of diseases and pests
Diseases and pests are rare in indoor systems.
However, if an infestation does occur, it spreads very quickly because the roots are usually suspended in the same nutrient solution and the plants are positioned close together.
Therefore, it is important to be prepared for this, especially for commercial growers. For example, ladybugs are used to remove the pests naturally.
As an amateur gardener and novice, you do not have to deal with this at first.
21 energy demand
This disadvantage mainly affects indoor hydroponic systems.
In order to develop the genetic potential of the plant, optimal lighting of the plants is essential. Not long ago, energy-intensive sodium vapor lamps were used.
Now, much more energy-efficient LED lamps illuminate the plants.
If the trend continues to generate energy from renewable sources, the energy consumption would be justifiable from an ecological perspective. In addition, research gives hope for even more economical LED lamps.