Crops can be grown anywhere on earth at any time of the year, regardless of climatic conditions, availability of cultivable land, or soil quality with Hydroponic farming technic.
By Dechen Wangda
What if you could produce and grow everything you needed all year long in your own home?
Hydroponics, also called aquaculture, nutriculture, soilless culture, or tank farming, the cultivation of plants in nutrient-enriched water, with or without the mechanical support of an inert medium such as sand, gravel, or perlite.
A wide variety of vegetables and florist crops can be grown satisfactorily with hydroponic systems. Common crops include lettuces, spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, strawberries etc.
Humans are now up against a myriad of new demanding issues that are leading to dramatic change to our global lifestyles: climate change, hazardous infectious diseases, increasing urbanization, and the depletion of natural resource deposits. Hydroponic farming has a strong potential to mitigate the threats these issues pose to our agricultural system.
Our current agricultural system is up to a huge task: by 2050, we will need to increase food production by about 70% in order to meet the caloric needs of a global population of 9.8 billion people—68% of whom are projected to live in urban areas. The projections show that feeding a world population of 9 billion people in 2050 would require raising overall food production by some 70 percent. Production in the developing countries would need to almost double. This implies significant increases in the production of several key commodities.
Jimba Rabgyal, Sr. Agriculture Officer at National Centre for Organic Agriculture, Yusipang said that hydroponics farming has better place in future in revolutionizing how foods are grown in the country to meet the food requirements with minimal inputs. He said, “With technological advancement, we would be able to produce vegetables year round especially to meet the high demand from urban areas. Whereas, automation of hydroponics farm with machine learning algorithms to forecast crops yield, early detection of pest and diseases, robotic labors would come in play to produce enough food for all of us in the future.”
Crops grown indoors and hydroponically can be grown anywhere on the earth at any time of the year, regardless of weather conditions, availability of cultivable land, or soil quality. Hydroponic farming has the potential to provide fresh, locally produced vegetables for even in areas with extreme droughts and low soil quality.
Kinley Wangmo, owner of Bhutan hydroponic said, “Hydroponic farming is better than the traditional farming as it can be cultivated in a small area, saving 95% of water and its year round production”.
She further said, “Hydroponic farming has faster growth and can control diseases and pests as it’s cultivated in a protective environment”’
Growing crops in near optimal conditions using Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology is one of the biggest benefits of hydroponic farming unlike traditional farming which is labour extensive and yields are usually determined by the quality of soil but in the case of hydroponic, it entails minimal labour and it has nothing to do with soil since, it uses water.
The traditional farming needs timely weeding, making a bed for crops and takes longer growing days for crops but the hydroponic farming has faster growth for vegetables and eliminates these requirements.
“Usually lettuce which takes around 90-120 days to fully mature takes around 45 days with hydroponic farming while garlic which basically takes 90 days with traditional farming takes just 25-30 days with hydroponic farming “, she added.
Although hydroponic farming has numerous advantages, there are also some difficulties. Entering the hydroponic farming industry can be expensive due to remodeling of building or space to accommodate the hydroponic structures, initial material costs (such as LED lights, watering and feed systems, plant racks, seeds, controlled environment technology, etc.) and electricity to keep the farm operational.
“Hydroponic farming needs substantial initial investment firstly to set up the whole hydroponic system, installing and fitting pipes and bulbs”, she added. However, she said the advantage outweighs the disadvantage.
“Unlike traditional farming which needs constant weddings, digging and bedding hydroponic farming is far better,” she added.
Hydroponic systems have a number of advantages and disadvantages compared with cultivation in soil. The principal advantage is the saving of labour by automatic watering and fertilizing. Hydroponic systems can be set up indoors in places that would not normally be available for the growing of plants, such as in densely populated areas, and have even been studied as a potential method of crop production aboard spacecraft. Climate is not a factor, and hydroponic systems use dramatically less water compared with conventionally grown plants.
The plant also have less root and nutrient competition than those grown in soil, and they have significantly fewer pests, so individuals can be planted more closely together. The disadvantages are high installation costs and the need to test the solution frequently. There is a steep learning curve to hydroponics, and small errors can affect the whole crop. The systems are also very vulnerable to equipment failure or power outage, which can kill the plants within a few hours. Yields are about the same as for soil-grown crops.
“Yes our government have supported and addressed hydroponics farming in the 12th five year plan and also supported research on hydroponics crop production in the research centers in the country,” said Jimba Rabgyel, Sr. Agriculture Officer.
Although, hydroponics farming has many advantages Jimba Rabgyel would not recommend replacing our traditional farming system with hydroponics farming as traditional farming system is very sustainable in nature which is good for our future generation while hydroponics farming could be promoted in a designated location on commercial scale to supplement the shortages in crops and seasons.
Hydroponic crops are allowed to be certified as organic in many places, including in the United States. However, critics have pointed out that hydroponic plants lack interaction with a soil microbiome and have argued that soil health is a critical part of the organic farming movement.
Currently hydroponic farming is practiced in Gaselo, Bajo, Babesa and Hongtso.