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Introduction to Commercial Hydroponics
Hydroponics, simply defined, is the growing of plants in a water and fertilizer solution containing the necessary nutrients for plant growth. It is not a new science, with work being done by researchers as early as the 1600's. In the early 1930's, W.E Gericke, of the University of California, put laboratory experiments in plant nutrition on a commercial scale. In doing so, he termed these nutri-culture systems "hydroponics". The word was derived from two Greek words, hydro, meaning water, and ponos, meaning labor, or literally, water working.
Gericke's application of hydroponics soon proved itself by providing food for troops stationed on non-arable islands in the Pacific in the early 1940's. In 1945 the U.S. Air Force solved its problem of providing its personnel with fresh vegetables by practicing hydroponics on a large scale on the rocky islands normally incapable of producing such crops. With the development of plastics, hydroponics took another large step forward and is now a widely accepted method of producing certain specialty crops such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers. Other crops that can be grown by this method include herbs, foliage plants, and flowers. Most of the roses exported from Holland are grown hydroponically.
Advantages of Soilless Agriculture:
- Superior taste, quality, appearance, uniformity, and extended shelf life of hydroponic vegetables.
- No sterilization of growing media required and plant nutrition is easily and completely controlled within the nutrient tanks.
- No weeds, no cultivation, no soil borne diseases or insects. Allows for uniform water availability to plants.
- Closer plant spacing is possible and moveable plant channels allow greater production from equal areas for some crops.
- Less water is required and less fertilizer needed. Root zone heating, known to benefit tomatoes and cucumbers, is feasible and practical.
- Use of biological controls including beneficial insects and safe methods of insect control are possible in a controlled environment system.
Commercial hydroponics lends itself well to family operated greenhouse enterprises where with good management practices, it can be profitable supplying local markets with fresh produce on a year round basis. Markets for hydroponically grown produce have been easily established and demand far exceeds the supply. It is believed by many that Controlled Environment Agriculture and hydroponics is the answer to many of the difficulties associated with the production of outdoor specialty crops.
Want to learn more about commercial hydroponics? Our two day hydroponic grower training programs are the best way to learn from the experts.