Hydroponic Farming

Hydroponics is a form of agriculture where the plants grow in sand, gravel or liquid with added nutrients. The main component to hydroponics is that all of the growing is done without any soil.

There are five well-known methods to hydroponics, all with their own benefits and setbacks.

Ebb & Flow (Flood and Drain)

Ebb and Flow

This method uses reservoirs to hold nutrient solutions. Above the reservoir is a tray that holds nutrients during flooding and a pump in the reservoir takes the nutrients up to the tray. 

 

Pros

Cons

Can reuse nutrient solution

Possible height restrictions

Easy to build and maintain

Salts and minerals can build up causing nutrient deficiency

System cost is low

 

Deep Water Culture (DWC)

This method uses a main reservoir that holds a bulk of the nutrient solution and an attached number of buckets. The solution makes its way through the buckets and each bucket is topped with a holed-lid that the plants will grow through.

Pros

Cons

Great for water-loving plants

Plants can be prone to root diseases

Fewer plants can result in larger yield

Roots could grow too large and clog irrigation channels

Reuses water

Requires monitoring of pH levels

Nutrient Film Technique

Nutrient Film Technique

The method has long grow chambers, sometimes made out of PVC pipe. At evenly spread locations along the pipe, there are holes or baskets that hold the plants. The roots of the plants hang down in the hole and a shallow stream of water runs along the root’s tips. 

 

Pros

Cons

Building cost is low

pH levels need to be monitored

Keeps water from going stagnant

May need a chiller

Water can be reused

If the pump breaks, plants will die quickly

Allows for many plants to be grown

Plants with short roots will need to be top fed until the roots grow long enough

Aeroponics

Aeroponic plants

Considered the most advanced method of hydroponics, aeroponics uses mostly mist to help the plants grow. Plants can be suspended in a closed or semi-closed environment. The environment would be split into two levels with the roots occupying the lower level and the canopy in the upper level. 

 
 

Pros

Cons

Water can be reused

High pH fluctuations

Accelerated growth

Prone to root disease

Increased nutrient absorption

Roots need to be watered more often for shorter periods of time

Can have many plant sites

Sprayer can clog easier

Drip System

A drip system is considered a simpler form of hydroponics that many people can handle. A reservoir holds a nutrient solution that runs through a main water line. The main water line breaks off into smaller water lines that lead directly to the base of the plant. 

Pros

Cons

Build cost is low

Can clog easily

Water can be reused

Can be time consuming to set up

Constant water movement means less chance of salt build up

Slower absorption rate

Beware the Bills
While hydroponics can be an efficient way to grow plants in a controlled and monitored environment, the constant use of electricity and water could be reflected in the monthly energy bill.