Here are the economic benefits of hydroponic farming, but starting out will cost you
- Hydroponic farming is fast becoming popular and might be worthwhile for entrepreneurs within the agricultural sector.
- Although expensive to start out, hydroponic farming has a lot of economic benefits when done correctly.
- Hydroponics requires products to be grown in a controlled environment, which means farmers grow throughout the year, harvest about four times annually, and provide products with the highest nutritional value.
With the Covid-19 pandemic having decimated various sectors, leaving many without jobs, some people have set their sights on entrepreneurship opportunities, and some of these include hydroponic farming.
“What exactly is hydronic farming”, you might ask? Well, imagine farming without soil, growing roots in different material to support them, and growing crop in nutrient-rich water, in an environment like a parking lot– that’s it, that’s the gist of hydroponics.
There’s a lot that goes into building a hydroponic system, but the core elements include fresh water, oxygen, root support (to hold the plant in place of the soil), nutrients, and light.
Although expensive to start – due to the expensive equipment needed – hydroponic farming has a lot of perks. It allows farmers to grow during any season, and anywhere in the world. Farmers also get to harvest about four times a year.
In hydroponics, plants are generally grown in a controlled environment as opposed to an open field, and farmers have a lot more control over the nutrients taken by your plants, according to Urban Agriculture Initiative CEO Brandon Martens.
“What that does from an economics perspective is to allow you to turn around from seed to harvest a lot faster than in field-based agriculture.
“The key financial benefits of hydroponic farming are that it is much faster than field-based farming and you get a lot more harvest in a 12-month period than you would under normal condition,” he said.
Vegetation grown in a controlled environment allows farmers to provide seasonal products to the market at any given time without worrying about harvest season.
Having a small amount of time between planting and harvest increases the nutritional value of your product, ensuring that you’re providing the best value for money.
Although procuring equipment and space for hydroponic farming can cost you close to R500,000 when starting, growing in a greenhouse or other marginalised spaces – such as rooftops or parking lots – can save you lots of money which would be needed to buy huge pieces of land.
Hydroponic farming also eliminates the cost of buying pest control or chemical weed killer since the environment is already controlled.
The future of Hydroponics
This form of farming is fast gaining popularity, but there is little chance of it taking over land-based farming.
“I do see it being popular. I do not think it would ever replace land-based agriculture. It may gain popularity for specialist crops where it’s appropriate.
“We can free up land-base farming for other products, and we can use hydroponics to grow on non-arable land. It brings marginalised land into production,” said Martens.
The different types of hydroponic systems – Wick System, Deep Water Culture, Nutritional Film Technique, Ebb and Flow, Aeroponics, and Drip System – allow farmers to grow certain products somewhat more efficiently.
The type of plants that thrive when grown hydroponically include lettuce, tomatoes, hops, hot pepper, cucumber, basil, animal fodder, and strawberries, to name a few.