Isn’t that crazy? I hadn’t heard of this until recently, but apparently it’s been done since 600 BC in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Nowadays there’s more of a purpose for growing plants hydroponically in the lab or greenhouse, instead of traditionally out in the fields.
By the year 2050 it’s estimated there will be 10 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet (3 billion more mouths to feed than right now). Obviously there’s limited arable land/space in the right weather conditions. Many people are worried that traditional farming eventually won’t be able to support this exponential rise in the world population!
But scientists have solutions. One of them is hydroponic farming, which means you can grow YEAR-ROUND, indoors. Weather doesn’t matter, and you won’t run out of space.
Why won’t you run out of space indoors?
Because some of these farming plants also do what’s called VERTICAL farming. One plant called Aerofarms has up to 12 shelves (30 ft. high!) and workers have to get on platform lifts to get to the tallest rows. (That would freak me out just a little…)
So, that’s cool and all, but HOW do you grow plants without soil? Don’t they need nutrients? How do they not end up wilting like flowers in a vase?
Well, it’s not just water these plants are floating in. There are minerals and nutrients in the water, from sources like…fish poop or duck poop. I know maybe that sounds gross, until you think about it for two seconds and remember that manure is used to fertilize soil anyway.
The evidence goes all the way back to 1929, when UC Berkeley professor William Gericke grew hydroponic tomato plants 25 feet tall, yet the university banned him from using their greenhouses because they were so skeptical about what he was doing. In fact, they hired other scientists to disprove the claim…only for them to conclude that hydroponically growing plants is ALSO better because the plants get only as much water as they need (no flooding!).
That probably sounds kind of obvious, but I want to point out exactly why plants NEED water but can also get over-watered: without water, plants can’t transport/eat NUTRIENTS. Too much water, and they are blocked from taking in oxygen.
Because hydroponic farming gives plants the PERFECT amount of water, it’s kind of like giving your kids the PERFECT upbringing. 😉 Of course these plants are going to be superior to the naturally imperfect conditions on the farm.
Studies show that hydroponic plants end up MORE NUTRITIOUS in the end both because conditions are perfect…and also more nutritious because plants don’t like being grown this way.
As you guys know, I am not one to be shy about farming related controversies and issues. So I know one issue some of my farmer friends might have with this is: will this REPLACE traditional farming? Are robots going to take over farming jobs? What will happen to the farmers and the fields, will they be replaced by a boring sad-looking laboratory?
Signs seem to point to, “NOT FOR A LONG TIME”!!
Hydroponic farming, vertical farming, etc. are still pretty small markets, even though these methods have been around for 1000s of years.