Soil-less farming or gardening for large or small scale agricultural practices and requirements has been made possible only by the development of Hydroponic agriculture, a type of Horticulture and a subset of Hydroculture.
It is a method of growing crop plants without the traditional use of any kind of soil. In hydroponic agriculture, the soil is replaced by mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent, with the roots either plainly exposed to the liquid or sometimes supported physically by an inert medium such as perlite, gravel, or other such substrates.
Hydroponic farming or hydroponic agriculture can play a vital role in changing the way that a plant growth and agriculture field develops further. The future of gardening and the entirety of agriculture in India and all around the world can be drastically affected positively with the increasing developments In the techniques of Hydroponic agriculture and farming.
What is Hydroponic agriculture or Hydroponic Farming?
Hydroponic agriculture is the science of soilless gardening. It basically involves growing healthy plants without the use of a traditional soil medium. Instead, Hydroponic farming involves the use of a nutrient medium like a mineral-rich water solution. A plant just needs some specific micro and macronutrients, a limited amount of water, and sufficient sunlight to grow.
Not only can plants grow without soil, they often grow a lot better with their roots in water instead. Targeted nutrient solution or medium is often made of fish excrement, duck manure, purchased chemical fertilizers, or artificial nutrient solutions. The roots are often embedded in gravel or another solid support medium for physical strength. These media are inert, but can often affect the root growth by causing changes in the rhizosphere pH, and root exudates due to the nutrient solutions can affect the rhizosphere biology.
Scope of hydroponic agriculture in India
One of the major advantages of Hydroponic Agriculture in India is that it enables the crops to grow in places where there is barren land, or even in laboratories or homes where gardening space isn’t available or suitable.
Since India faces a major problem with increasing population and subsequently decreasing arable land space for farming and agriculture, it can greatly benefit from the advancement and development of hydroponic agriculture and farming.
A general misconception among the Indian farming community is that staple crops and vegetables cannot be grown in absence of good soil, good water, and plenty of sunlight. This ideology needs to be changed because certainly, the farming trends across the globe are changing, and India is standing on the brink of adopting this valuable change. To adapt to the global agriculture environment, the farmers in India need to be empowered with the latest technologies in the field.
By all means, hydroponic farming in India is in its nascent stage. As a matter of fact, farming practices in India are largely traditional and any kind of change seems difficult. The current market for this type of hydroponic farming is only limited to metropolitan and cosmopolitan towns with a mere mention of tier-1 cities. Hydroponic Farming is under the innovation and creative technologies that are being adopted in India by the progressively thinking farmers. The extent of green units that are operational in India is only designed for growing microgreens. The plan to grow full-blown staple crops like rice, wheat, bajra, etc., via hydroponics is a far cry considering the current state of agriculture in India.
How to Start a Successful Hydroponic Farming Business?
To start a successful Hydroponic farming business, the first thing you need is an appropriate space to grow your plants. Hydroponic agriculture and farming can be done indoors in bedrooms, living rooms, and even in closets. Space depends on the scale of business that the grower is looking to invest in. Most hydroponic farms require a greenhouse, which can be built, rented, or purchased in different sizes. The cost of the greenhouse depends on what you have in mind on the size of the facility.
The main equipment and requirements for starting a hydroponic farming business are a hydroponics system, hydroponic nutrients, an inert hydroponics medium, a light source, time, and plants.
These differ from nutrients or fertilizers used for plants that grow in soil. One hydroponic material isn’t better than another. You just need to decide which one works best in your circumstance or best fits your gardening comfort level. These can be easily purchased from any local fertilizer or manure manufacturer or supplier.
These systems are available from a variety of commercial suppliers. Look for a system that fits your needs by doing an Internet search with the keywords “hydroponic kits” or “hydroponic systems.”
There are many options available in the market for the Hydroponic setup. LEDs, High-Pressure Sodium lights, Metal Halide, high-output fluorescents, and compact fluorescents can be used for hydroponic farming or agriculture. The spectrum of light is very important to keep in mind. Metal Halide seems to be the light source of choice among many gardeners. You can do a little bit of your own research and find out what suits you best according to your choice of produce, conditions, and location.
Types of plants that can be grown with Hydroponic agriculture
The types of plants that can be grown through Hydroponic agriculture depend on whether the gardening is done indoors or outdoors. Some crop plants require larger space to grow as compared to smaller crop plants.
Hydroponic agriculture supports the growth of vegetables like tomatoes, Lettuce, Cucumber, Kale, Spinach, Beans, Peppers, Capsicum, Radish, Ginger, Peppermint, and others
Chives and Basil can also be grown.
Other most profitable crops to grow in a Hydroponic Farm
Dill, Mint, Cannabis, strawberries, and cabbage.
Advantages of Hydroponic agriculture
The advantages of Hydroponic farming are: –
No soils needed
Make better use of space and location
Hydroponic agriculture saves water
Effective use of nutrients
pH control of solution to facilitate plant growth
Better growth rate in terms of yield and time
No weed growth or unwanted crops
Fewer pests and diseases without the use of insecticides and pesticides
Less use of herbicide
It saves labor and time
Relieves stress when used as a hobby
Disadvantages of Hydroponic farming
Some disadvantages of Hydroponic agriculture or hydroponic farming
Requires time and commitment to maintain and grow plants that are healthy and fresh
Experience, technical knowledge, and skilled labor is required
Organic debates about the crop plants being organic or not and ethical dilemmas around the world
Water and electricity risks in close proximity
System failure threats
Initial expenses for installation of the system, light source, etc.
Long return on investment scheme as growing plants takes time
The faster spread of diseases and pests if contracted.
Hydroponics is an amazing technique that can evolve the entire industry of agriculture and how Indian farmers work in today’s scenario. This advancement in agriculture techniques has been long overdue. Hydroponic agriculture and farming essentially use a no-soil technique to deliver fresh and healthy crop plants at cheaper prices and lesser costs. The use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides will be significantly reduced if the hydroponic agriculture technique is adopted as a standard all over the world. However, for a country like India where the agricultural practices are essentially still traditional, despite the development of newer technologies, it will most likely be another decade before the farmers become on par with Hydroponic agriculture in India.