If the first “agricultural revolution” began when humans started growing crops in dirt, the second may just be when we started pulling them out from the dirt altogether.
We’re talking, of course, about hydroponics - the revolutionary, soil-free method of growing crops, vegetables, and that has set off a new wave of excitement in the agricultural industry.
One major reason for all the interest in hydroponics: most modern systems are designed to not just increase profits, but also reduce long-term costs as well. Whether it’s by conserving resources or removing traditionally time-consuming manual labor, there’s a lot for tomorrow’s growers to like about hydroponic technology.
Here’s a look at just a few major way hydroponics are helping growers to reduce long-term operating costs, and why it might just be time to get your grow operation set up with a hydroponic system.
1. Improve Water Efficiency
Typically, a grower working with plants in traditional dirt medium can expect to lose a significant portion of the water they spread over the plants to runoff. Not only can this lead to leaching and contamination of local water supplies, but it also represents a loss in operating profits that has traditionally been seen as unavoidable.
Because hydroponics eliminate the need for planting in the dirt or in the ground and utilize water itself as the main growing medium, these systems make it significantly easier for growers to reduce water runoff and boost water efficiency season after season. All water in your hydroponic system exists in a closed loop, meaning just about every drop is used to the fullest extent without being lost to gravity or other thirsty plants.
2. Maximize Profitable Space
One of the biggest complaints we hear from growers is that they struggle to find that balance between “too much wasted ground space” and “too little room for plants to thrive.” Add to that the usual unproductive space present in many traditional grow operations and it can be tough to achieve that sweet spot in terms of profits-per-square foot.
That’s why hydroponic systems - with their compact spacing and highly efficient use of horizontal ground space - can offer a major boost to the square-foot productivity within your greenhouse or high tunnel structure, By eliminating that wasteful space in favor of clean, condensed grow areas, growers stand to produce bigger and better harvests using the same amount of ground space.
3. Reduced Pests & Diseases
In almost every traditional grow operation, soil remains one of the principal vectors for pests, diseases, and other harmful pathogens to reach your plants. Whether it’s due to water runoff from an affected field elsewhere or simply the natural rhythm of soil health, in-ground growing will almost always expose plants to the risk of disease and pests - while hydroponics, on the other hand, may help do just the opposite.
A hydroponic system is a closed system, meaning there should be no easy entry or exit points for pests, diseases, molds, or other pathogens to even reach your plants in the first place.
As long as you and your growers are maintaining industry-standard cleaning and sanitation practices between plantings, your crops should remain pest-free significantly more easily than crops grown in the soil. That means serious savings on pest prevention, and a significantly reduced risk of loss due to disease or contamination.
4. No Weeding Needed
Pests and diseases aren’t the only invaders looking to take advantage of your growing crops. When planted in soil, weeds can creep into your crop beds faster than you can pull them out. That can eat up time, labor, and attention you may not otherwise have to spare.
Because hydroponic systems are soil-free and closed, weeds will have no chance to get settled in your crops in the first place. That means you can spend less time worrying about weeds and other organic invaders choking off your crops and more time making sure your harvest is as full and beautiful as possible.
5. Grow More Profitable Plants
When you choose to grow in the ground, often times that means choosing only those crops most likely to succeed in your area. Not all soil is right for growing grapes, for example, while climate conditions and temperatures may make it more difficult to bring up even basic crops in particularly cold or storm-prone areas.
Hydroponics, on the other hand, do not rely on exterior conditions to operate properly. That means that with the right hydroponic setup, you can set your sights on growing even more profitable crops than ever before, setting yourself up to increase that profit-per-square-foot and decrease wasted energy when it comes time to harvest.
6. Four Season Farming
For too long, growers have been shackled to the changing seasons and fluctuating weather when deciding when and where to grow their crops. In northern climates or areas likely to experience storms, that has traditionally meant limiting the growing season to spring and summer, or limiting what can be grown successfully in the autumn and winter seasons.
Because hydroponic systems allow for even control over temperature, nutrient levels, humidity, ventilation, and other factors every single day, growers who choose hydroponics do not have to limit their winter or autumn crops to only those likely to survive in cold weather. Go ahead and grow tomatoes in January - thanks to your hydro system, they might even come out juicier than ever before.
7. Achieve Bigger, More Reliable Harvests
While the ability to grow crops in the offseason and reduce the likelihood of losing crops to diseases or pests may represent their own savings to your bottom line, improving the size and quality of your harvest is also going to help raise your profits-per-square-foot even more.
Hydroponics allow growers to do just that, often boosting the reliability and quality of harvests thanks to superior nutrient and water delivery. When each plant has direct root access to everything it needs to grow and thrive, your greenhouse stands a much better chance of bringing up bigger and better harvests than you would otherwise be able to achieve in the soil.
8. Automate & Save Labor
One of the major drains on any grower’s budget is the sheer cost of labor needed to bring a crop bed from seed or sprout to harvest. This work can include everything from weeding and fighting off pests to simply monitoring and adjusting environmental controls to keep things at the optimal levels. By automating your hydroponic system, you stand to drastically reduce the amount of labor needed to achieve the same - or even better - results.
In a hydroponic system, everything from grow room temperature, to humidity levels and light levels, to nutrient levels and quality can be automated for ideal delivery even when you are miles from your greenhouse. That’s because automated systems can constantly monitor your grow space for changes in conditions and make corrections automatically, saving you the time and effort needed to monitor and respond to problems in your grow space.
Don’t Wait Till Spring - Start Growing In Hydroponics Today!
There’s never been a better or more exciting time for growers to get their feet wet (metaphorically) with hydroponics. Now, more than ever, growers are looking for solutions to problems that have plagued farmers for hundreds of years, and hydroponics may just be the best answer we’ve come up with so far.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your operating expenses, extend your grow season, and maximize profits in your greenhouse, get in touch and see just what we have to offer to get you set up with hydroponics. It may just be the best decision you make all year long.
Together, We Grow!