Soilless agriculture (hydroponics) has a key role to provide demand security. Soilless agriculture allows harvesting regardless of season or natural disasters, such as flood and drought. Whether agricultural foods are grown using soilless or soil methods, all plants need fundamental nutrients to grow. In that case, water is a critical factor in the growth process, nutrients, light and air are also major complements.
Why soilless agriculture?
-Soilless agriculture allows feeding high populations in limited land.
-Lower energy costs and less water consumption compared to conventional agriculture.
-Less labor cost due to the help of technology.
-Less greenhouse emission.
-Profit gained from the unit area, soilless greenhouse agriculture model is approximately 50 times more profitable than conventional agriculture models (Denizbank). Especially, vertical farming allows to better usage of land.
There are several ways to grow plants without soil. Plants are grown by hydroponics method. With hydroponics method, the plant grows without soil itself but obtains needed nutrients from the water.
Most successful and commonly used hydroponic systems:
NFT Hydroponics System
In Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), plants are planted on a container placed with a slight slope. Nutrient water is pumped and the water circulates.
NFT systems recirculate. Nutrient pump constantly flows. In NFT method it is crucial that water keeps flowing and in case of a failure of movement of water, whole plants soon after start to show drought problems.
Conventional Hydroponics Grow System
The most conventional hydroponics grow method is to replace the soil with other possible inert substitutes. The two best-known small rocks in conventional hydroponics are clay pebbles and rock-wool. Rock-wool has better absorption properties and clay pebbles drain very well. Conventional hydro systems are either recirculating or drain-to-waste.
All soilless agricultural methods have the same requirements, such as providing water and nutrients to the plant roots and light in a convenient temperature environment. Soilless agricultural facilities look like laboratory and the main reason is that growers have to observe plants growing process and control the system so as not to cause any failure of mass plant death.
Economic benefits (higher profitability and less land use), environmental benefits (no fertilizer used and less water consumption) outweigh conventional agriculture. However, although soilless agricultural foods have the same quality without chemical intervention, soilless agricultural foods are not qualified as organic agricultural food.
Denizbank. “Turkey’s Future Lies in Agriculture”. Greenhouse Soilless Agriculture.
Kahteem, Jeroen. ”What Are The Top 5 Hydroponic Techniques”. Garden Culture Magazine. April 11, 2016.
Vyas, Kashyap. “13 Vertical Farming Innovations That Could Revolutionize Agriculture”. Interesting Engineering. July 4, 2018.