Farming is the most challenging task to meet the demand for food around the globe. There are various challenges which traditional farming is facing nowadays like an unexpected change of weather, scarcity of water, polluted land and lack of skilled labour. There are various approaches adopted to make the best of the products and various researches are done. Farmers are looking for various advanced and sophisticated technologies and also various fertilizers for proper yield.
All these approaches adopted may help farmers to obtain more yields but what about the food safety? There are other farming techniques also to improvise yield quality and quantity. Hydroponic farming technique is one of these techniques to serve the growing demand for food with the population on the rise.
Current scenario of farming in India
Farming and agricultural practices are the primary occupation for most people in our country. It is the most important sector for the Indian economy which accounts for 18% of India’s GDP and provides livelihood to approx 50% of the country’s population.
India is identified by a vast spread of farmlands and tilled grounds. But currently, the country is facing a reduction in growing areas due to scarcity of water and loss of quality of the soil. The traditional agricultural practices in India have been water and labour-intensive which does not makes it sustainable and this makes the people makeshift agriculture to other jobs.
To make these agricultural practices more sustainable, hydroponic farming can be the future of farming in India. Let us discuss Hydroponic Farming, how it works and its advantages and limitations.
What is Hydroponic Farming?
The science of growing plants without the use of soil and solely relying on the water which is enriched with essential nutrients required for plant growth is known as Hydroponic method. It is the method which can make farming a sustainable practice and makes it to shift towards healthier options due to hues and cries about the unchecked use of harmful fertilizers and chemicals that can cause serious health issues.
Shifting of agricultural practices to soil-less option not only makes it sustainable but also makes it possible in confined spaces, and even makes it vertical which cuts down the use of excess land. It also reduces the growth of weeds, pests and parasites that usually destroys the crops.
How does Hydroponic Farming work?
This no soil and the water-based agricultural system uses recycled materials like trays, PVC pipes etc. These materials are filled with nutrient-rich water with continuous flow and the plant is placed above to dip in the nutrient-rich water. Nutrients are supplied in the form of a solution with water which depends on the type of plant being grown and the most essential nutrients to be provided. As there is no use of soil hence, no question of pests and thus, the use of pesticides and herbicides can be reduced.
The source of nutrients for Hydroponic farming can be from fish excrement, duck manure and others. These sources are also a step towards sustainability. Hydroponic plants also provide responses about the level of nutrient content in the water supplied. If the nutrient content in water supplied is too less than the leaves of the plant become yellow while if the leaves turn brown or may it looks burnt and curdled than the nutrient content in water is high.
The nutrients provided to the plants are categorized as primary, secondary and micronutrients which are essential to the particular plant.
- Primary nutrients consists of nitrogen, potassium and magnesium.
- Secondary nutrients consists of calcium, sulphur and phosphorus
- Micronutrients include iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum and boron.
Types of Hydroponic Farms
There are basically two different methods of Hydroponic farming i.e. Static solution culture and Continuous-flow solution culture.
- Static solution culture: This is the static system in which the nutrient medium is contained inside the closed container. A hole is cut out in the cap which allows the plant to suspend from the top and its root touches the nutrient medium. The nutrient solution is being changed everyone in a while. To detect the concentration of nutrients an electrical conductivity meter is provided.
- Continuous-flow solution culture: It is the most adopted method among all the hydroponic farms. In this nutrient medium continuously flowing about the roots of the plants from a reservoir. This provides various other facilities like one can adjust the temperature, humidity, pH and nutrient level and also enables us to closer monitoring of the growth.
Advantages of Hydroponic Farming
- Continuous supply of nutrients: Hydroponic method of farming ensure the abundant supply of nutrients to the plants, round the clock which makes them grow 50% more efficiently.
- Availability of the crop: Hydroponic method ensures the availability of the freshly harvested crops through-out the year compared to seasonal crops.
- Eco-friendly: The water used to provide nutrients can be easily recycled for further supply and hence, there is no wastage. For considering 1kg of tomato, they require 400L of water by conventional agriculture whereas only 70L water is required if cultivated through Hydroponic method.
- Less use of chemicals: As there is no soil used for growth hence there is no chance of pests and parasites which means the no use of pesticides and insecticides. This makes the crop healthier.
- Limited space farming: Cultivable land is a major challenge for farmers nowadays. Hydroponic farming is the best-suited technique which yields better using very limited space. This can also be practised vertically and also can be indoor farming.
- Labour and time saver: Hydroponic farming does not require intensive work besides spending fewer works on tilling, watering, cultivating and fumigating weeds and pests.
Some of the limitations of Hydroponic Farming
- Risk of fast spread of disease: In Hydroponic farming, plants are grown in a closed system using the same flow of water for many plants. So, the infections from any diseased plant can easily reach to others due to the same water reservoir.
- System failure threats: The whole systems of Hydroponic farms are organized by using electricity. So, if there are no preliminary actions for a power outage, the whole system will stop working and the plants may dry out.
- Water and electricity risk: Most part of the Hydroponic farm functions is dependent on water and electricity. So, there should be proper precautions taken to deal with the water systems and electric equipments.
- Requires knowledge and experience: There are various types of equipments used which requires specific expertise for them.
Best suited plants for Hydroponic Farming
Almost all kind of plants can be grown using this revolutionary technology. But the plants which are tolerant to the moisture and having considerably small size are the best choices and they can respond really well and thrive in Hydroponic farming. Tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberry, lettuce and leafy greens are the best-suited plants and work wonderfully in this water-driven farming system.
Hydroponic Farming: sustainability is here
We discussed what is Hydroponic farming and the various advantages that make it more sustainable than conventional farming practices. Hydroponic technology can produce the best of freshly farmed vegetables all year. The vegetables produced require very less amount of water for growth and they are pesticide-free. The price of the produce is also much lower than organic produce. Although it is a sophisticated farming method it can ensure the safe production of plants and requires very less use of land too.
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B.Tech student at National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management