What do people want when buying produce?
According to a recent survey, most people want three things from their produce:
- Must be nutritious
- Free from harmful agrichemicals
- Produced in a way that avoids any negative impact on the environment
Hydroponic farming is the best way to produce the highest quality, nutritious produce in any type of climate. It is a method of farming that is used to overcome global food and water shortages.
What is hydroponic farming?
It is an ancient method of farming that is best described as growing plants with nutrients and water without soil. In weather controlled greenhouses, water and nutrients are delivered to the root system. Seeds are planted in a soil-like substance, such as “rockwool”, which has excellent water holding capacity to encourage plant growth.
Because of the ideal growing conditions, plants are able to grow robust and rapidly regardless of the season outside. Hydroponic farming provides for reliable, predictable, and repeatable, safe food production all year round.
How is hydroponic farming different from traditional or organic farming?
Traditional farming takes place in a field that has been cultivated and planted. Crops may be planted and harvested several times a year. Many times harmful pesticides are used to fight insects and many use fertilizers are used which are made of a variety of chemicals which many find undesirable. These farms are subject to the potential interaction of people and wild animals with the plants while they are in the field.
Organic growing is a rigid method of farming which is regulated to prevent harmful pesticides and fertilizers in the growth of produce. Great care is used to encourage the soil to interact with the plant to grow naturally, without harmful agrichemicals. Toxic farm animal waste, pollution through water run-off and dangerous insecticides from nearby farms are avoided and managed to keep the organic produce from being influenced by these non-organic processes.
Both traditional and organic farming use the soil to grow their plants. Organic and inorganic fertilizers can be used to stimulate the growth of the plant depending on the type of farming. Hydroponic farming uses nutrients that are similar to those created in the complex relationship between soil and fertilizers and uses water as a host to provide the roots of hydroponically grown plants with needed nutrients to grow.
Are plants produced hydroponically considered organic?
In a word, no because organic growing procedures for organic deal mainly with the interaction between the plant and the soil and hydroponically grown produce does not use soil. It is really not an apple to apple comparison. Many people may not fully understand the rigid requirements for organic farming and believe that the difference between organic and traditional produce is the lack of agrichemicals in organic produce. Hydroponic lettuce, such as all Francis & Thatcher Farms greens, doesn’t use any pesticides or harmful agrichemicals. In that sense we are just like organic greens. We also use up to 90% less water than either traditional or organically grown produce as we recycle much of the water we use.
Our greenhouses are environmentally controlled which means we can grow high quality, fresh greens year round in any climate with much less land that it takes to grow the same produce in traditional or organic farming. Hydroponic farming reduces the need for clearcutting land and destroying the natural habitats of animals.
Our workers use gloves in all stages of plant growth from seeding to growing to harvest. When a package is opened for the first time after it leaves our farm it is the first time human hands have ever touched the product. There is very little chance of interaction with animals, birds or even humans which may not always be the case with traditional and organic farming.
Are there some advantages to growing greens and produce hydroponically?
We don’t want to get too technical, but for those who really want to know just some of the advantages we believe hydroponic farming offers beyond growing fresh, nutrient dense, year-round local greens and produce, please feel free to read some of the advantages:
- Exact nutrition provides for a better cell structure in the plant resulting in a longer shelf life after harvest. Any nutrient deficiencies can easily be detected and corrected with a high degree of control and responsiveness.
- Fertilizer usage is usually much lower than with soil growing.
- The use of an enclosed greenhouse environment enables Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies to be applied. IPM involves the deliberate introduction of natural insect predators into the greenhouse to prey on common pests such as aphids and whitefly. The use of IPM strategies is a modern, environmentally friendly alternative to using agrichemicals and it will form an integral part of greenhouse systems in the future.
- The level of control and predictability experienced with hydroponic growing allows future harvests to be planned and achieved with a high level of accuracy. With soil growing, storms or inclement weather can interrupt or terminate a crop or harvesting schedule.
- Water usage is much lower than soil based growing methods.
- Hydroponic waste water (run off), which contains valuable water & nutrients is able to be collected, filtered, treated and recycled.
- Under hot conditions the better water availability to roots can reduce water stress on plants. This provides for less stress related diseases, higher yields and longer plant life.
- Hydroponic systems can be installed on cheap infertile land or waste land as well as inside buildings or on top of buildings. Because of the isolation of the system from any soil or ground water the risk of crop contamination from heavy metals or toxins in the soil is eliminated. Expensive soil remediation is not required when using a hydroponic system and wasteland that would otherwise sit dormant can now be utilized beneficially for food production.
- All growing media, nutrients and equipment are able to be assured as sterile before use. Incoming water is able to be filtered, treated and laboratory tested. All inputs are carefully monitored to ensure the growing environment and crop is clean and food safe.
- Weeds are substantially reduced or eliminated when using a hydroponic system.
- A wide variety of airborne pests can be shielded from the growing area through the use of horticultural mesh, textiles and modern greenhouse technology.
- An ever changing global climate is no obstacle to successful growing. Hydroponic crops are almost always grown under cover in a greenhouse or glasshouse, which enables an ideal climate to be promoted. The greenhouse environment can be heated, cooled, humidified or dehumidified using energy efficient technology. The crop cover eliminates rain and wind damage and the crop remains dry so that associated fungal problems from wet foliage is avoided.
- Hydroponic growing methods combined with a good greenhouse growing environment will significantly reduce plant stress and provide for a very healthy crop. This significantly reduces the need to use agrichemicals or organic sprays.