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Hydroponic Farming

Eugene Kwon

In order for a person to survive, they need to eat; they need to consume nutrients everyday. This might seem very obvious but many are not aware of the process of how their delicious meals arrive on the table. Many probably never wondered where or how these crops are cultivated as well as the environmental impacts of them. Such questions might not have arisen as vegetables and fruits are compiled abundantly in many supermarkets. However, it is important to think about the negative effects of the modern day food production system as it heavily contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and many other pollutants. In fact, about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food production. For instance, the nitrous dioxide used in fertilizers, carbon dioxide from cutting down trees to expand farm lands, and methane produced by the cattle’s digestive system all relate to climate change. Also, since because a lot of crops can be only raised in certain environments, countries heavily rely on aerospace or maritime transportation. This process adds on to the negative environmental effects as global aviation produces approximately 1 billion tons of CO2 annually and maritime transportation is responsible for more than 15% of nitrogen oxide pollution. However, there might be a possible solution to this seemingly unsolvable crisis.

The concept of “hydroponic farming” was first introduced in 1937 by an American scientist, Dr. W.E. Greicke. Hydroponics is a technique of growing crops in a water based solution rather than soil. Such a water based solution can include aggregate substrate, vermiculite, coconut coir, or perlite. The idea is that a plant will use less energy in finding nutrients in soil when its roots can be exposed directly to water and the nutrients. Many factors such as the temperate and pH balance can be easily controlled to perfectly suit the needs of the plant.

Then what are the main positive effects of hydroponic farming?

1. Eliminates use of pesticides:

Unlike traditional farming, hydroponic farming takes place indoors and the environment is fully artificially controlled to best foster the growth of the crops. Additionally, because there are no soils included, the possibility of many soil borne diseases are automatically eliminated,

2. Uses less water:

Only in California, farming uses 40% of the state’s water and a lot of the water is lost due to evaporation and poor irrigation. However, the water used in hydroponic farming is constantly reused and recirculated through the pipes of the hydroponic farms.

3. Maximizes space and does not rely on the surrounding environment:

Conventional farming requires a lot of land. This results in certain countries not being able to produce their own crops and import it from elsewhere. This increases the use of transportation which contributes to the burning of fossil fuels. Also, cutting down forests in order to maximize farming land produces a large amount of CO2 emissions. However, hydroponic farms can be placed anywhere as they can grow vertically and can be placed in dense areas.

Then what is stopping countries from implementing hydroponic farming?

1. High set up cost:

Setting up a hydroponic cost is very expensive as it requires the installation of many components such as a water treatment plant, nutrient tank, lighting, air pump, reservoir, temperature controller, EC, acidity control, and plumbing systems. For an area of 1000 square meters, the total cost would be roughly 1 million dollars.

2. Constant reliance on electricity:

Hydroponic farms heavily rely on electricity in many aspects. For example, temperature control and automatic irrigation are all powered by electricity. If there is a power outage, the entire system is at a risk of failing and all the crops might get ruined.

3. High level maintenance:

Because many different systems work together to smoothly carry out hydroponic farming, each system must be precise and need to be highly vigilant. One error in the system might result in the failure of the total harvest.

Although hydroponic farms have a lot of flaws, it is nevertheless an innovative idea that must be developed by scientists to become more implementable. With the growing climate crisis and various pollution around the world, it is absolutely necessary to develop a new method of agriculture. The present day conventional farming method is not only inefficient but it contributes to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Search for new methods of agriculture needs to receive more attention by both the government and the people.

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