What is Hydroponics?
A subset of hydroculture, hydroponics is the practice of growing plants without the use of soil. Instead, they are grown using a nutrient solution or medium such as perlite or gravel. Plants have direct access to water and nutrients. This means that plants are not forced to develop extensive root systems to allow them to find the nutrients they need. Nutrients surface from fish waste, manure or other natural nutrients- providing crops with natural food.
Recently, the practice has proven to be a more efficient approach to growing because of its ability to produce an average of 30% more yield than traditional farming. This is because plants have a much shorter harvest time because they are grown in controlled environments. These controlled environments use technologies to monitor and control conditions such as light, water and oxygen levels. Cities for example, could benefit from this because it would allow plant production in areas where soil, air and in some cases- water, is too polluted for traditional farming.
Generally, hydroponics consist of lighting, water and growing medium. As I have researched the technology, I discovered the technology has many variating systems, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. There are four basic methods of hydroponic gardening: active, passive, recovery and non-recovery. Also, there are six basic hydroponic systems. Althougth different, each system feeds plants are fed water (hydro) through a delivery system. Systems include drip (recovery/ non-recovery), wick, water culture and aquaponics, ebb and flow, nutrient film technique (NFT) and aeroponics.
Drip Growing System
Undoubtably, this is one of the more common systems. It involves the recirculation of excess nutrient solution which is gathered in a reservoir. A timer is used to control a submersed pump which drips nutrient solution onto the base of each plant using a small drip line.
This is one of the more simple systems. It involves no moving parts and can use a variety of growing media. The nutrient solution is released onto the growing tray and delivered to the roots through a wick.
Water Culture and Aquaponic Systems
Containers holding the plants are placed inside a floating styrofoam platform, through which the roots are suspended directly into nutrient water.
Aquaponics is a form of water culture which involves the use of fish. The fish produce waste, which becomes nutrients for the plants. The plants then purify the water, which gets recycled back to the fish in a continous cycle.
Ebb and Flow System
An Ebb and Flow system utlizes a submerged pump connected to a timer. This controls the temporary flooding of the root zone's grow tray with a nutrient solution which drains back into the reservoir. This systems grow tray can use a variety of growing media such as rocks, gravel, or granular rockwool.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
This system involves a continous flow of nutrients, eliminating the need for a timer. A pump is used to force the nutrient solution over the plant roots onto a grow tray. The overflow then drains into a resevoir. Generally, plants are grown in small plots, with their roots suspended in the nutrient solution without any growing medium, other than air.
Often referred to as Fogponics, the Aeroponic system does not suspend roots in water. Instead, they hang in the air, where they are misted with a nutrient-rich growing solution.
Over the next few weeks, I will continue to explore hydroponic technologies and how they can potentially be implemented in my design. I will do this by researching the advantages and disadvantages of the different systems discussed, then use these insights for exploration in my design.