Traditional soil-based farming has many problems.
- Farmland is getting increasingly fragmented [as families expand, successive generations own less land per person].
- Land is also getting infertile due to the heavy use of fertilizers, and climate change is having its own adverse effets.
- Soilless farming, on the other hand, uses just 10% of water as compared to the traditional method.
- There is no drainage of water or fertilizers into the ground, and all the nutrients are re-circulated within the system.
- Soilless farming gives a higher yield as all the parameters such as pH nutrient concentration and water temperature are controlled within the required levels. The produce in soilless farming is also more uniform.
Hydroponics & Aquaponics:
- “Hydroponics [providing crops synthetic nutrients in the right quantity and combination for the highest yield] is very technical and scientific and requires a very high investment. It is more suitable for urban areas and rich farmers who can afford to employ skilled manpower.
- Aquaponics, where fish and vegetables are grown together, is a more organic method; after the initial training, a farmer can work it out on his own. The cost of inputs could be reduced drastically with innovation.
- These technologies require minimal use of nutrients and no pesticides, thereby reducing input costs and giving pesticide-free produce, which has a premium in the market in terms of pricing as well as demand.
- The technologies also reduce the incidence of crop failures due to drought, thanks to the minimal use of water and inspect or pest attack due to the use of protected growing environment such as shade net, greenhouse, etc.
Advantages of Hydroponics:
- The greatest advantage of hydroponics or aquaponics is vertical farming — utilising scarce land in cities to get a greater higher yield per square feet. Although the cost of setting up a vertical farm is high, the selling of vegetables in retail makes the venture attractive. Urban farms also have a smaller carbon footprint as produce is grown locally, avoiding transportation.
- Using hydrophonics, we can now grow all types of vegetables, like coloured peppers, tomatoes, exotic leafy vegetables, broccoli and Chinese cabbage.
- In hydroponic farming, crops are given synthetic nutrients calculated to meet their requirement.
- In aquaponics, fish and plants are grown together with the single input of fish feed. Fish are reared in tanks and the water is circulated to vegetable roots. All other nutrients required for plant growth are provided by the fish excreta
- Vertical farming: utilising scarce land in cities to get a greater higher yield per sq ft
- Eco-friendly: Urban farms have a smaller carbon footprint as produce is grown locally.