Maybe you haven’t heard about hydroponics before. It has been used centuries ago, in the Floating Gardens of China and Hanging Gardens of Babylon but its only recently, in the last 100 years or so, begun to get the close attention it deserves. Its impact could last lifetimes. Hydroponics is the growing of crops, not with the traditional methods of using soil, but through nutrient and mineral filled solutions in a water solvent. To begin with, this field of study likely grew in a small lab, with trial batches being produced to determine whether it is even possible to grow plants without soil in a traditional crop farm. It is possible. We know this now and what a step forward that is. Taking this science and applying it on an industrial scale, however, is a whole different step with whole new set of challenges – but thanks to some pioneers in the field, we are on the right track.
Before we look at the efforts to take the industrial application step, let’s be clear on some of the undeniable benefits of hydroponics:
- Not bound by location or availability of large amounts of space, so need for mass deforestation
- No longer bound by the seasons and can be carried out all year round
- Requires 20 times less water than traditional soil-based farms
- The sterile environment of a hydroponic farm doesn’t need fertilisers
- Conservation of water becomes far more integral to the farming cycle, with water being re-used throughout the farm
- Modern technology enables constant monitoring of crop growth and farming
- No soil required means less testing and management of large volumes of soil, including no weeding, no soil improvement, fertilising
- Harvesting is more accessible through better organised crops
Of course, as with most things, there are disadvantages such as more technology resource being required, close and constant attention to crop cycles needed and the risk of waterborne disease infiltrating and affecting crops rapidly. However, if means can be found to address these disadvantages, the full potential of hydroponics can be realised and maintained at global scales.
One company taking on the big step is Phytoponics, based in Wales, UK. They have created patent pending technology, a Deep Water Culture that houses the crops and automatically provides all the necessary nutrients to the crops. This all enables rapid deployability and a huge return on investment through reduced installation costs, increased productivity and longer productive lives of the crops. Importantly, this solution also tackles the need for deforestation, which is destroying our planet at alarming speeds.
By finding a practical alternative to traditional soil based farming, a key contributor to the larger climate crisis, and transforming this hydroponic science into a scalable solution, Phytoponics presents itself as the epitome of change needed to lessen the burden on our planet. Tying in with SDG 15 Life on Land, Phytoponics is taking a huge step to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of land as per the goal targets.
Much respect and admiration for these pioneers transforming a science into an industrial scale solution. It is hard to look to the future and not envisage what a world would look like if we had more alternate, sustainable solutions to the costly traditional methods we have today. These alternate sustainable solutions, like that of Phytoponics, will do nothing but good for tackling other related problems like world hunger and living through an increasingly harsh environment – so we should celebrate them.