With the growing world and its advancements, all domains of work and service are also gradually developing. The primary need of man being food and its source being agriculture needs to be dealt with too when we speak of developments.
Various new and advanced measures and techniques have been introduced to match the needs of the growing population and its never-ending needs.
Different techniques have developed among which vertical farming is a commendable one. It makes use of other sustainable and urbanely advanced systems, one of which is – Hydroponics.
Agriculture is the primary sector activity in India. The country needs to keep up with the growing pace of the rest of the world. With advancing technologies and systems of agriculture, India has also adopted them to sustainably and efficiently support the cultivation and production of food.
Let us look into greater details of the uses, benefits, and potential of hydroponics in India.
What is Hydroponic farming?
Hydroponics is a type of Hydroculture that is used to grow plants without the traditional way of using a soil medium. It is a method of advanced urban cultivation of crops that takes place in a controlled-environment agricultural system aimed at providing optimal conditions for plant growth and crop production.
The water solutions contain nutrients that are provided by the growers and are channeled to the roots of the plants. The roots directly absorb the nutrients from these solutions and gain food that they require for their growth.
Apart from using just water for supporting the plants, often substrate mediums are made use of. Common substrates include Rockwool, perlite, coco coir, gravel, etc.
Various kinds of crops and plants have been tried and tested to be grown with the use of Hydroponics. Fruits and flowers also grow considerably well using hydroponic techniques.
Some of the most commonly grown ones are – tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, radishes, beans, strawberries, blueberries, etc.
The nutrients that are missed into solutions with water are usually fertilizers, manures, artificial nutrients, and chemicals supporting plant growth, etc.
Hydroponic gardens are quick, efficient, and environment-friendly. They also result in stronger and increased amounts of crop yields.
Hydroponic techniques are used by growers in a greenhouse or indoor settings specified for cultivation. The conditions are controlled by man through machines that are set up.
Conditions specific to plant growth including – light, water, nutrition, oxygen, etc. are provided to the plants through regulated techniques and are altered according to the needs of the crops.
The main process by which plants convert nature’s energy into food, called Photosynthesis, is the primary focus. Plants require light, water, nutrition, and air for this process to take place.
Soil is not a necessary element required for photosynthesis. Plants absorb water and nutrients that are available in the soil. Hydroponics uses this theory and eliminates soil as a necessary medium and rather provides the plants directly with water and nutrients through regulated solvent supplies.
Thus, increasing the efficiency of agricultural methods and making them more sustainable and environment-friendly.
How does it work?
Gardens and greenhouses that utilize hydroponic systems create a controlled environment of agriculture where the growers control all the essential requirements needed by the plants.
Factors like light supply, pH level, temperature, nutrition concentration, etc. are all taken care of and manipulated by man to ensure correct growth and maturation of the plants.
In such highly monitored and optimal conditions, the growth rate of plants increases, and they are prepared to harvest quicker than when they are grown in soil using traditional methods.
Using this method of Hydroponics combined with Vertical farming is an efficient way of growing crops by stacking them in vertical rows and columns resembling the structure of buildings and skyscrapers.
As all the surrounding conditions are kept optimal and space available is better utilized, the crops produced are not only quickly ready for harvest but also they produce greater yields with better qualities as well.
Compared to when grown in the soil medium, crops are grown using Hydroponics in vertical farms produce almost 10 times more yield.
Growing plants in a controlled environment reduce risks of various physical influences that can affect plant growth. Plants which are grown indoors with specific surrounding become less vulnerable to pests and diseases which spread through the soil as the medium of soil is eliminated.
They are also protected from harsh weather conditions. With the prevention of such hindrances, crops grow faster and healthier in lesser time as well.
Is Hydroponic farming profitable in India?
With all the benefits which come with the technique of adopting Hydroponics in agriculture, including – greater yields, better quality crops, lesser damage by microbes and pests, healthier and organic growth, quicker production, and so on, Hydroponics seems like a good investment to make with long-term benefits to the firm as well as the market.
With all the environmental and other advantages in check, farming using proper hydroponic systems can be really profitable with all the research, equipment and setting up business kept in mind.
The initial costs of setting up hydroponic farms although might be expensive, but with all the growth and developments that it goes through, your investment would be profited well.
With the correct plan of the startup, the plot and cost of land, equipment expenses, readily available buyers in the market, the security of workforce, and production risks involved, you are able enough to begin this venture.
All in all, this method of advanced agriculture is a safe and long-term profit providing investment. The future holds a lot of development and scope for this sustainable domain of agriculture; it is thus a good option and a valuable one.
Hydroponics in India:
Over the years, India has also matched up with the development speed of other nations. It has been successful in keeping up its pace even in the agricultural sector with the introduction and investments in modern techniques of farming, including the soilless based Hydroponic system.
This form of the newer and advanced agricultural system has made its way to India and has been expanding since. The country has proper land resources that can support this technique as well.
Bangalore and Gurgaon are among the top places which have seen rapid growth of Hydroponics and continue investing and growing crops in this manner to help food production in the country.
Metropolitan cities of the country like Chennai and Mumbai are also important hubs of hydroponic farming. With this growing form of agriculture, industries have also come up with assistance to be provided to several firms undertaking this business.
Advantages of Hydroponic Farming:
The hydroponic system, as we know by now, is a very beneficial method of farming and has a lot of pros. Let us dig deeper and find out about these advantages in detail.
1. The technique of Hydroponic farming does not require soil. Roots grow in water mediums and derive nutrients from the minerals that are mixed in water.
In this way, soil resources are conserved and the land isn’t hampered. Also as less land is required, thus forests and other natural lands aren’t cleared for agricultural purposes. Therefore this way of agriculture also helps the environment’s soil resources.
2. As this way of growing crops does not include soil, it has been considered as a feasible option to grow crops in space by NASA to provide food for astronauts.
3. With indoor farming, and growth situations controlled and adjusted by man, this culture of growing crops can be carried out in places with insufficient land resources or with infertile land which does not support plant growth.
Regions prone to droughts are now able to set up greenhouses to facilitate indoor crop cultivation and can be more self-reliant.
4. Climate conditions including light, temperature, and humidity when manipulated based on the plant requirements; result in better support for their development and fruiting. Growers can produce food faster with such methods.
5. Hydroponic farms also conserve water. The regular farms which grow crops in soil have to provide their farms with enough irrigation and this is a lot of times very excessive and exploiting the water resources in nature.
Comparatively, hydroponic techniques make use of only 10 percent of the water that is required in traditional farming methods. The water in hydroponic farms is used efficiently and is also recycled and reused over and over again to reduce wastage.
6. Nutrients which are preferred by various varieties of plants are easily provided to the plants as it is done manually. In traditional soil-based mediums, these plants have to search for the nutrients in the soil.
Enough nutrients are made available for the plants through water solutions so that they do not have to face competition from other plants for food sources during growth.
7. As the plants grow indoors, there are lesser pests, insects, and microbes which may give rise to diseases in plants. Thus the use of chemical pesticides is also reduced leading to purer, healthier, and cleaner forms of agriculture and organic food products.
8. As light supply is also kept under control through the LED, UV lights, or artificial lights, the plants being grown through hydroponic systems can be provided with light for longer periods. This enhances the time spent by crops in photosynthesis and thus leads to rapid growth in production.
9. Hydroponic systems use machines and are carries out through automated systems. It thus needs less manual labor force. Labor intense activities like tilling the land, plowing, weed picking, etc. are also eliminated in these processes, hence reducing the cost of labor in farming.
10. This system also indirectly reduces the cost of transportation as indoor settlements can be made closer to markets, rather than depending on farms located in rural regions. It reduces the cost of transporting the finished product and also indirectly reduces the carbon footprint in the environment.
11. With Hydroponic systems in agriculture, cultivation of food becomes easy, safe, and quick and also increases in quantity. These factors make a nation more self-reliant and there are fewer needs to import food from other countries.
Disadvantages of Hydroponic farming:
With all the benefits of using hydroponic systems, we come to some disadvantages as well. They are as follows:
1. The conditions in hydroponics is totally under human controls and not like in nature where the plants can survive in the soil for longer and are more adaptable.
Therefore, slight changes or disturbances in the conditions make it harder for the plants to survive and they can die quicker in such an environment than in soil.
2. This system of advanced agriculture depends on water and electricity sources. Working with water along with electricity is a risky task as it makes the equipment more vulnerable to accidents as well as large-scale damages.
3. Making a hydroponic technique and setup work is a tough task and requires plenty of research as well as knowledge. In addition to this, the types of machinery that are used also require specific skills in the technical domain.
Setting up the soilless medium and providing it with water mixed with nutrients needs scientific knowledge and balance of elements.
4. As the entire system works on highly technological grounds and makes uses of machines that require a steady electricity supply, thus, in case of any power or energy supply failures, the complete production process can be hampered.
There must be a continuous and uninterrupted supply of electricity to prevent system failures and ultimately loss in production.
5. The cost of setting up a hydroponic technology is initially very high and it requires regular checks and maintenance to ensure proper working of all systems.
6. Due to high electricity needs, a lot of fossil fuels and energy resources in nature are used up to provide power to hydroponic plants.
These agricultural processes in turn also produce residue and often lead to pollution in the environment. Alternate sources of energy must be used to ensure a check on the over-exploitation and sustainability of natural resources.
As everything in nature has its positives and negatives, so does this technique of advanced agriculture. With all the given flipsides of Hydroponics, its benefits still tend to outgrow the flaws.
Thus, this system of hydroponic farming is a great long-term investment, is profitable, and also accounts for judicious use of environmental resources. All in all hydroponic farming is a sustainable way of agriculture which is to prosper even more in the coming future.