Hydroponic farming is an urban system of farming that allows you to grow crops without the use of soil as a growing medium. This system greatly conserves water and brings about high and good quality yield.
Crops grown under the hydroponic systems are of high quality compared to other systems of crop propagation methods. This is because the parameters necessary for healthy plant growth are made available under the hydroponic system.
This system helps to conserve planting resources such as water, nutrient, planting space and others. Before we delve into the construction guide, I deem it compulsory to share some materials and terms you should be familiar with; they are:
- Planting medium: This serves the same purpose as the soil, this is where the plants are held and supported to bring about good growth. Vermiculite, small basket, and Coconut Fiber are the common planting mediums used.
- Nutrient solution: A nutrient solution is made to supply the necessary nutrients required for plant growth. Basically, is any form of liquid fertilizer required to supply the primary nutrients elements for plant growth.
- Submerged pump: This is used to pump and supply the nutrient solution to the growing medium for plant growth to take place.
- Air pump and air stones: These are used to supply air into the air stones. The air stones provide bubbles in the nutrient solution, thereby supplying oxygen to the plant roots.
- Reservoir: This is where the nutrient solution is housed.
You would observe that the aforementioned materials are meant to imitate the natural conditions to facilitate crop growth. Yes! They do just that even better with high accuracy than other planting systems.
Hydroponic Farming System Designs
Just like how conventional farming has its systems, so also hydroponic farming has its system. All are aimed at providing quality and profitable yield during harvesting.
1. Wick System
The wick system is one of the simplest forms of hydroponic farming systems. Vermiculite or Coconut Fiber can be used as growing mediums.
As seen in the picture above, the nutrient solution is always prepared in a reservoir and transported to the growing medium so as to reach the plant roots with the aid of a wick.
The wick, usually placed in the nutrient solution, draws the nutrient solution to the growing medium to reach the plant roots.
2. Water Culture
The water system is another simple and common type of hydroponic. This system can be used to cultivate any water-loving vegetables like cucumber and lettuce.
It is very cheap to design and less technical. In water culture, the plant is made to float directly on the nutrients solution with the aid of a Styrofoam, which holds the plant firmly.
An air pump is installed to supply air to the air stones that bubble the nutrient solution and supply oxygen to the roots of the plants.
3. Ebb & Flow Or Flood And Drain System
Looking at the picture above closely, you would observe that the system is designed to temporarily flood the growing medium with the nutrient solution and then drain the nutrient solution back into the reservoir.
This action is normally carried out with a submerged pump that is connected to a timer. The timer regulates the operation of the pump; when the timer turns the pump on, the nutrient solution is pumped into the growing medium and when the timer is turned off, the pump goes off and the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir.
The timer is set to come on several times a day, depending on the size and type of plants, temperature and humidity and the type of growing medium used.
It is advisable to use an absorbent growing medium such as vermiculite or coconut fiber to help retain water and nutrient to avoid drying out of the plant root when the pump goes off.
4. Drip Systems: Recovery And Non-Recovery
This is the most widely used hydroponic system in the world. It is simple and easy to use. It also operates with a submerged pump and a timer.
In this system, the nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir and dropped in the root zone of the plant in the growing medium using drip lines.
In a Recovery Drip System, the excess nutrient solution that runs off is collected back to the reservoir for re-use and doesn’t really require timer for the nutrient solution regulation.
The Non-Recovery System does not collect the runoff, this requires a timer to control the supply of the nutrient solution so that the supply cycles can be adjusted to ensure the plants get enough nutrient solution and the runoff is kept to a minimum.
5. Nutrient Film Technique
This system is simpler and cost-effective; it allows the optimum use of the nutrient solution as it is highly utilized.
In this system, there is a constant flow of nutrient solution; this eliminates the need for a timer to control the operation of the submersible pump. The nutrient solution is pumped into the growing medium (usually a tube) and flows over the roots of the plants; it later drains back into the reservoir.
There is usually no growing medium used other than air but the crop is supported by a small plastic basket which makes the roots dangle in the nutrient solution. This saves the expense of replacing the growing medium after every crop.
Hydroponic system is inexpensive as it can be done using cheap or household tools; it can be done in any location provided the growth requirements are met. The beauty of this system is, are multiple planting seasons owing to the fact that all conditions to facilitate all-year production are readily available.
It must be made known that these systems require constant observation to ascertain the performance of the materials used. These hydroponic systems are best used for light and small plants like vegetables. Large plants may need an effective support system or structure to make them fit for this system.
Lastly, in a situation, whereby the land or space available for farming is limited but the demand for food is increasing, why not consider hydroponic farming?
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