A sustainable future with hydropoincs
It is no surprise to anyone within the farming and growing community that over the past few years, growing conditions have become increasingly challenging and presented a number of new obstacles to overcome. These changes have come about rapidly and with strong influence, forcing farmers to adapt quickly to new growing techniques or suffer through another year of lower than average harvests.
Recently, while in a local grocery store, I happened to come across a sign in the fresh herbs section. This sign read, “We apologize for the recent price increase affecting a select number of our fresh herbs and vegetables. Unseasonable temperatures and strong storm patterns have resulted in below average harvests and caused a shortage in supply. We hope to have a solution for you in the very near future.” It goes without saying that a sign such as this is not good for any party involved. No matter whether you are a farmer, grocery store manager or consumer, a small harvest sparks a chain reaction that offers no positive outcome for anyone.
With an increasing number of farmers facing similar challenges, more and more farms have embraced hydroponics. The sign I saw mentioned that they hoped to have a solution to this problem in the near future. While I cannot be certain, it is highly likely that this solution was simply looking to another supplier that was experiencing more favorable growing conditions at the time. While this is common practice for grocery stores or restaurants that face a similar dilemma, it is not a viable solution. This temporary solution only addresses the issue of demand, if we are going to survive these new growing challenges as a society, we need to support a sustainable solution that is much longer term, and that solution is hydroponics.
Hydroponics offers farmers a versatile, sustainable solution that can significantly improve our current harvest struggles. Not only are hydroponic systems a solution to our current growing challenges, but they may also play a major role in shaping a sustainable future. Hydroponic systems require up to 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods, and with long standing drought throughout a majority of the South and sections of California, water consumption is a major concern within the U.S. With hydroponics, these farmers affected by drought are able to produce crops, such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, basil, parsley and more, without placing additional stress on an already depleted water supply.
Aside from decreased water consumption, hydroponics also offers a solution to our increasingly city-dwelling society. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau, 80.7 percent of Americans live in what are defined as urban areas. With a staggering number of people living in urban areas, urban agriculture is quickly on the rise, and hydroponics has played a vital role. As a society, we are moving out of the countryside and into cities, and to do so, we are taking what was once essential farmland and building over it, leaving ourselves less land for cultivation than ever. Hydroponics offers a solution to this trend as well, enabling farmers to produce crops up to 50 percent faster year-round, all while requiring minimal growing space. Some hydroponic systems, such as our HydroCycle Vertical Aeroponic Systems, can grow up to 220 plants in less than 23 square feet. Hydroponic systems are most successful when used within a controlled environment, such as a greenhouse or high tunnel, however, these systems can also be successful when used in a basement, garage or even a spare bedroom. Essentially, any environment with a stable temperature will allow for success with a hydroponic system, which makes them ideal for use within our highly populated cities.
While there is not a way to change the growing conditions we face today, there is a sustainable way to address them. No matter the type of system or the variety of crop produced in it, as more farmers adopt various means of hydroponic crop production, we as a society are given the chance enjoy fresh, locally grown produce in a sustainable manner. It is my belief that hydroponic crop production holds a very important place in our future, and the sooner that we embrace it as a solution to our current growing trends, the more prepared we will be for any challenges the future may hold.