There are various advantages to hydroponics that can help solve problems without the use of excessive water or space and can produce fruits and vegetables of higher nutrient content and lesser growth periods than traditional farming. It is a highly evolving mode of farming and is set to become a primary mode of agriculture in the future. There are various types of hydroponic farms that involve the growth of plants without soil and by using a mixture of nutrients and water in which the roots are submerged. Hydroponic farming has proven to be extremely profitable and does not require extremely high initial investments as compared to traditional farming.
The type of hydroponic farm and greenhouse that can be set up is based on various external factors such as the cost and budget of the framer, the type of plant that is to be grown, the area available for the set-up of the hydroponic farm etc. These external factors will be the main driving force of hydroponic farming.
The 6 types of hydroponic farms:
- Deep water culture:
This is the simplest and easiest way for farmers to practice hydroponic farming. A deep-water culture consists of a reservoir filled with a mixture of water and the appropriate nutrients for that specific plant. The plants are suspended over this reservoir using a net pod and the roots are submerged in this reservoir. This gives the plants a constant source of water and adequate nutrients.
To provide oxygen to the plant roots an air pump can be added in the tank or there can be a minor gap between the base of the plant and the reservoir. This will help to avoid the plant roots drowning. This system is the most inexpensive and low-cost mode of hydroponic farming as only the most basic components are needed for a successful farming. However, this method cannot be used for larger plants with a long growing period.
- Wicking system:
The wicking system is an extremely basic system of hydroponic farming where the plants are suspended in a growing medium. Below this is a reservoir of water and nutrient solution. The nutrients are transported to the plant using a wick, that is, a piece of felt or a rope. The wick transports the water and nutrients when they are ready to be absorbed by the roots.
This works for small plants as there is no air pump or filtration system in place. It can be explored by beginners who are not extremely well versed in hydroponic farming. This system is considered to be a mode of ‘passive hydroponics’ as it does nor require any water pumps or filters.
- Ebb and Flow:
The ebb and flow system refers to a method of hydroponic farming where the roots of the plants are flooded with the nutrient solution and water mixture in a periodic cycle. This system does not expose the plant roots to moisture continuously and is hence preferred in certain situations. Since this is a recirculating system, the use of water and energy is extremely efficient.
This is a less common practice as it may not suit all types of plants and is not as flexible as needed. The cycle and frequency of flooding is dependent on the type of plant, growth cycle for the specific plant, air temperature, water testing, evaporation rate etc.
This system also requires an extremely high monitoring process to analyze the amount of nutrient absorption by the plant and maintenance of the nutrient and PH levels in the mixture. If the system is not monitored properly, it may oversaturate or dry out the plant roots. External environmental factors must also be constantly monitored.
- Nutrient Film Technique:
This refers to a type of hydroponic farming where plants are grown in a channel with net pots. The water and nutrient solution are mixed in a large reservoir containing an air filter and pump. However, the roots are not submerged in the mixture. The water pump pushes the water through the channel in periodic cycles.
This provides a thin layer of water and nutrients to the roots which are not completely submerged. The excess mixture is reused at the end of the system. This is a low waste recirculating system that ensures the plant roots are not suffocated. However, the plant roots may grow beyond a certain limit and intertwine with each other along the channel.
- Drip system:
The drip system refers to a mode of hydroponic farming where the plants are suspended in net pots over a thin layer of water and nutrient solution mixture. This is similar to the NFT system as the plants are held in a different channel.
A pump constantly moves the water across the channel to increase the nutrient absorption and the left-over solution flows back into the reservoir to be used again. The pH levels and nutrient levels have to be regularly checked as the entire solution may not be effectively recycled at all points.
These systems offer high control over the schedule of feeding for the plant roots and can be inexpensive yet highly effective for commercial hydroponic farming.
Aeroponic systems refers to the system where the plants and their roots are suspended in air. The reservoir has a misting system that sprays fine droplets of water and nutrients over the roots of the plants. The misting can be done non-stop or at a predetermined cycle.
These misting cycles are shorter than the ebb and flow models as the water droplets provide a smaller amount of nutrients as compared to the flooding system.
This method prevents oversaturation or droning of the plant roots and gives room for the roots to breathe naturally with a higher exposure to oxygen. This system is among the most high-tech methods of hydroponic farming and is generally much more expensive than the other methods. These systems are extremely easy to maintain and monitor, however, a failure in the misting pump may damage the plants extremely quickly.
These are the 6 main types of hydroponic farming techniques that can be adapted on various different scales of operations (domestic to commercial) that depend of the expertise and time commitment of the farmers. It is best to seek out professional guidance to understand which is the most suited type of hydroponic faming for the particular plant.