Hydroponics 101

Hydroponics 101 | Farm Culture

Why This High-Yield Growing System Offers Hope for the Future

So you’ve heard the term ‘hydroponics’ but aren’t sure about what it actually means. How does a hydroponic garden work, and what are the benefits of growing food this way? 

It turns out that this modern method of plant production is transforming how we source our food, and it offers the world hope for a more sustainable future.  

Keep reading to learn what hydroponics is all about and how you can get on board with this innovative way to grow food. 

What is Hydroponic Gardening?

Understanding hydroponics starts with breaking down the name. ‘Hydro’ is Greek for water, while ‘ponos’ translates to work. Put them together, and hydroponics is a growing system where water (not soil) supports plant growth. 

This means that hydroponic plants receive all the nutrients they need to thrive through a solution of water mixed with liquid fertilizer. Sometimes they are suspended directly in the water, though systems often use a growing substrate to support the plant roots.  

Most hydroponic systems are designed for indoor use so growers can control every variable, from light exposure to air temperatures. This allows for year-round growing while using a fraction of the water and fertilizer necessary for traditional farming. 

While the startup costs for a hydroponics setup can be higher than soil-based farming, a well-established system will quickly make up for it by producing plants that reach maturity faster and offer larger, more consistent yields.

The Problem with Modern Agriculture

Hydroponic gardening at home has a lot of appeal, but this water-based growing system may offer even more value when we consider its potential to transform modern agriculture on a global scale. 

Currently, our food system is in dire straits. American farms are losing topsoil at a rate ten times faster than nature can replenish it. And this number skyrockets to 40 times faster in China and India. 

US farmers also apply more than a billion pounds of pesticides to their fields each year, which kill critical pollinators. These synthetic compounds often wind up in water systems where they damage natural ecosystems and decimate aquatic life. 

Despite these efforts to max-out food production, we’re still not on track to generate yields large enough to feed everyone. Current estimates show that we’ll need to raise our food production by approximately 70% to have any hope of feeding the anticipated 9.1 billion people that will populate the planet by 2050. 

Can Hydroponic Farming Feed the World?

So what’s the solution? Solving the planet’s reliance on unsustainable agricultural practices needs to be multi-faceted, but it’s increasingly clear that hydroponic growing systems should play a role.  

To start, hydroponic farming puts the planet’s scarce resources to better use by requiring fewer inputs. It uses up to 90% less water than traditional agriculture, pesticides are a non-issue, and most high-tech hydroponic systems rely on sensors to dictate precisely how much fertilizer to use. 

Hydroponic growers can also better predict their overall yields and produce exactly as much food as the market can handle, so there’s less distribution waste. With conventional farming, growers often need to waste whole harvests by leaving them in the field because bumper crops in other parts of the world cut into their profitability.  

Likewise, our growing human population means less space for traditional farm fields, and that people are living further away from their food supply. Unlike traditional agriculture, hydroponic farms can be established anywhere. That makes it possible to grow greens in urban centers so their populations can increase their access to fresh, nutrient-rich produce that didn’t travel across the country to reach them. 

From an energy standpoint, hydroponics systems are increasingly powered by renewable energy technology that further improves their environmental impact. That’s a benefit you don’t get with diesel-hungry John Deere tractors on traditional farms. 

Growing food hydroponically also makes sense in the age of climate change. Weather patterns are becoming more erratic worldwide, challenging farmers to count on actually harvesting the crops they cultivate. Hydroponic systems eliminate the wildcard of weather by bringing the growing process indoors where hailstorms or scorching heat won’t affect potential yields. 

The Future of Food is Hydroponic

Hydroponic farming has a ways to go before feeding the world. To date, the global hydroponics market is valued at around $8.1 billion, compared to the $5 trillion valuation of the agricultural industry as a whole. 

Things are starting to pick up steam though, as the hydroponic market is expected to grow by a CAGR of 12% through 2025 and the following years. 

No matter the size of the role it plays in the long run, it’s clear that this water-based food production offers hope for the future in ways that traditional farming systems do not.  

Join the Hydroponics Movement with a Grow Pad Mini 

Inspired? You don’t need to start a second career as a farmer to take part in hydroponics. It’s possible to grow hydroponic plants at home and benefit from easy access to fresh herbs and greens for the dinner table—all while knowing you’re raising plants in a way that prioritizes the future of our food system.  

The Grow Pad Mini is a small-scale hydroponic garden that grows herbs, flowers, and even lettuce and tomatoes, all without soil. It takes up as much space as a potted plant and boasts an elegant design that matches any décor.   

This self-contained system requires minimal maintenance from you—just plant seeds, water occasionally, and harvest fresh herbs whenever you want to use them. It’s the perfect way to dip your toes into growing your own food. Join in on one of the most significant movements of modern agriculture today!