Hydroponics - The Pros and Cons of Growing in Soilless Medium - Fitleaf
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Hydroponics – The Pros and Cons of Growing in Soilless Medium

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Home Growing, Hydroponics, Sustainability


Hydroponics is the practice of growing food with no soil involved. Hydroponic operations may bring food to places where it would be difficult to obtain. It may also assist in flaws of our current food system.

In 2018, the CDC and the FDA issued two safety alerts for Romaine Lettuce in seven months. Consumers across the United States were urged to avoid Romaine lettuce because of E. coli infection concerns. It took weeks for the FDA to announce that the agency found the source of the contamination. The advisory prompted many food stores, including Whole Foods to remove all Romaine lettuce from their shelves.

Bacteria assimilating E.Coli
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay;

Situations like these are scary for consumers. And not surprisingly, they’re also angry. People are frustrated about how little they know about the source of fresh produce they buy at grocery stores. Urban farming ventures are taking advantage of concerns about the safety of fresh food. Food miles also become relevant. Consumers desire to avoid fresh food that may have been grown with unfavorable conditions. In some cases, pesticide drift from near farms also pose a threat.

Hydroponics offers an answer and a solution to all these concerns. And it presents an opportunity for healthy and eco-conscious people to gain control over the source of their fresh food.

Indoor Hydroponics Operation
Photo by Harits Mustya Pratama on Unsplash

Let’s look at the pros and cons of hydroponics. We’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages that apply to urban farming companies catering to local consumers. Followed by those to home gardeners who are involved in hydroponics on a vastly smaller scale.


The Pros and Cons of Hydroponics for Urban Farms

Advantages

  • Urban farms create jobs in areas with limited or non-existent job opportunities.
  • Hydroponic growing offers training opportunities for young people in the community, providing skills they can be used in later life.
  • Community growing brings fresh food to “food deserts,” eliminating the excuse that area residents had for not eating healthier foods.
  • Growing hydroponically within the city, gives people access to locally grown food that doesn’t have to travel so far.
  • Food grown on urban farms is picked at the peak of freshness, so it’s higher in nutrition.
  • Urban farms lower the carbon footprint of food production. Because they use so water efficiently, hydroponic systems are far eco-friendlier. And the food doesn’t have to travel as far. The use of LED lights increases the energy-efficiency of hydroponic systems.
  • Government officials have instant access to information about hydroponic produce and its path from the controlled environment to the consumer.
  • Consumers have the assurance that there won’t be any problems with bacterial contamination. They can trust the source of the produce they buy.
  • Access to high-quality fresh, locally grown produce means that they don’t have to buy more than they can use. This ensures they’re not wasting food or throwing money away.
  • Hydroponics eliminates the need to use chemical pesticides and insecticides

Disadvantages

  • Urban agriculture doesn’t solve the problems of gang violence and crime in low-income neighborhoods but it’s a great start.
  • Businesses that want to establish urban farms in big cities have to go through lengthy applications. From the business license to the zoning permit, it may be a tedious proccess.
  • An urban agriculture venture isn’t likely to bring lots of jobs to the community in the short run. It is not until it establishes itself that results come in the long-run. 
  • It will take time for the company to create the conditions for growing conditons. Assembling a hydroponic system that can handle large scale food production will also require some effort.
  • The company will need to consider transportation and parking needs for the employees. There may be concerns regarding parking for workers; having an impact on the parking situation for people who live in the neighborhood. However, a good solution with be biking
  • There may be a high cost of installing a backup power system (like generators). This is necessary because damage of potential power failures would inflict significant losses.

Pros and Cons of Hydroponics for Home Growers

Positive Benefits of Hydroponic Gardening at Home

  • Hydroponics brings plants into the home, and the presence of plants improves air quality and overall health.
  • Hydroponics encourages people to take an interest in the origin of their food. It also gives them insight on what it takes to bring it to their tables.
  • Individuals who have hydroponics systems in their home have access to better quality, fresher, and more nutritious food.
  • When you have a hydroponic system at home, you’re able to pick fresh produce just before using it. There is then less chance that fresh vegetables will sit in your refrigerator because you forget about them.
  • Because you can pick fresh food when you need it, you’ll cut the cost of your weekly grocery bills. The money you save from buying fewer groceries can go towards clearing debts or in savings.
  • You’ll get a tremendous and invaluable sense of satisfaction from being able to be more self-sufficient.
  • Since you’re buying the seeds for your hydroponics system, you can be certain of their origin.
  • You can plant and harvest fruits and vegetables grown at your own standard. You are free of paying the premium that is standard for food products that bear the “certified organic” label. This label usually carries the charge to the consumer.
Lettuce in NFT hydroponics operation
Photo by Fitleaf

Negatives of Hydroponic Gardening at Home

  • The cost of purchasing equipment. Regardless of whether you buy kits like the Tower Garden, or buy the components to build your own. While building a system isn’t cheap, the process is educational and fun.
  • Unless you buy a kit that provides instructions, you’ll have a harder time assembling your system and getting it started.
  • If you buy a kit, you’ll eventually need to purchase replacement parts, additional accessories, and supplemental nutrients. You should factor these things into the total cost of buying and operating a hydroponics system at home.
  • No matter how energy-efficient your system manufacturer claims it is, there will be an extra load on your electrical system. A hydroponic system will increase your utility bill throughout the year. With this issue, eco-friendly alternatives arise, such as solar panels which should be implemented if possible.
  • Unless you buy a system that is fully automated, you’ll have to constantly monitor nutrient and water levels. You may also have to turn the lights on or off. Don’t expect to have a productive hydroponic garden unless you’re willing to put the effort in. Checking your plants every day is a must. Observing them will ensure that their growing conditions are acceptable.
  • Failing to add water when the reservoir needs it, may burn your motor out, and you may weaken or kill the plants. That would be a significant financial setback.
  • A power failure will alter the growing conditions in your hydroponic unit. An extended power failure will deprive your plants of light, water, and oxygen. That’s a recipe for their death.

Hydroponics is no different from traditional gardening in that you get what you put into it. Some of the most significant advantages include being able to grow what you want and when you want to grow it, not being tied to traditional gardening seasons, and not having to do as much maintenance as you would if you tried to grow your food in the ground. A well-maintained hydroponic garden will give you access to healthy and nutritious food at any time. You’ll never have to rush to the grocery store for something because you don’t have it on hand.

Home built NFT hydroponics operation
Photo by Fitleaf

Infographic describing the pros and cons of hydroponics


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