Hydroponic farming is changing the agricultural industry. It is among the most recent technological advances in the farming sector. Growing crops using hydroponics is becoming more well-known as the demand for local and fresh food has increased, particularly in urban areas.
The idea of hydroponics seems to suggest that it is a viable option. The value of the hydroponics market is projected to increase to $17.9 billion by 2026. Moreover, it offers faster-growing plants and better yields. Who could ask for more?
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a scientific method for cultivating plants without soil, using mineral nutrients in water-based solvents. The principle behind hydroponics is to eliminate any barriers between plants, water, oxygen, and nutrients to ensure proper development.
The nutrients used in hydroponic systems may be sourced from various sources, such as (but not only) from the excrement of fish and duck manure or purchased chemical fertilizers.
Hydroponics offers a variety of advantages that include better growth of plants compared to traditional farming. Sometimes up to 25% faster plant growth. The plants in a hydroponics system can also produce as much as 30 percent more food than those in typical growth mediums such as soil.
Another advantage is that a hydroponic system requires less water than conventional farming. Again, it is because of an enclosed system. This means there is less water loss.
Hydroponic systems require you to spend time setting it up first. Once you have set it up, it is essential to check the water nutrients levels frequently. Someday it will become automated, but at first, it will require your attentiveness.
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Equipment Involved With Hydroponics
The best method to figure out the cost to make a hydroponic farm, you will need to understand the equipment to be used in the hydroponic system. There are numerous hydroponic farming systems available. You can choose one that suits your requirements and fits your budget. The basic requirements are:
- Hydroponics farming system
- Hydroponic nutrients
- Inert medium
- Source of light
Hydroponic Farming System
In hydroponics, there are two kinds of systems of culture:
- The solution (or liquid) culture – The plant grows right within the hydroponic solution.
- Aggregate culture – It uses a medium such as gravel or sand, and the roots expand within the media.
There are many different hydroponic systems to select based on your financial budget, how big you would like to expand, and the area to set up a hydroponic farm.
Here’s a listing of different hydroponic systems available:
- Deepwater culture
- Nutrient film technique
- Drip system
- Ebb and the Flow (flood as well as drain)
1. Deepwater Culture
A deep water hydroponic culture system is called the reservoir method. It’s one of the simplest methods to grow plants hydroponically. It is an ideal choice for those who are new to the field of hydroponics.
In this setup, plant roots remain suspended within the solution of nutrients, and the air compressor supplies oxygen to the nutrient solution in order to protect the plant roots from drowning.
The main benefit of this method is that there aren’t any parts that can get blocked. However, you must ensure that light does not enter through the sealed part in the process. If the light does get into the system, it can trigger algae to develop, which can cause massive damage to the crop and system.
2. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Utilizing the nutrient film technique, it is possible to ensure a continuous flow of nutrients is pumped over the plant’s roots. The solution is held at an angle, so that gravity’s force ensures it is flowing. The system is effective because the plants take in more oxygen through the air than the nutrients in the solution. As a result, it causes a faster expansion rate in the plants.
3. Drip System
A drip system for hydroponic farming allows for a steady flow of nutrients to the plant medium.
The system has the disadvantage of frequent obstruction. This is because particles from the nutrients get accumulated, which releases the solution for nutrients. However, it’s not expensive.
Wicking requires a substance, like cotton, surrounded by a growing medium. The portion not in the growth medium gets put in the nutrient solution. This solution gets wicked into the root of your plants.
This is among the most straightforward methods for hydroponics and will help you save money as it’s one of the most affordable methods.
In aeroponics, roots are suspended in the air, and then misting is done with nutrient solution. You can use a tiny spray nozzle or water pond fogger for misting.
6. Ebb & Flow
The ebb and flow method is often referred to as a flood and drain system for hydroponic gardening. This method lets you fill the space where you cultivate plants by introducing the nutrient solution at specific intervals.
The nutrient solution slowly is drained back into the reservoir. The process repeats over and over and is controlled by a timer that is connected to the pump.
The nutrient solution you receive comprises a mix of secondary, primary, and micronutrients designed explicitly for hydroponics. They are not the same as those commonly used in fertilizers to help plants grow on soil. Some minerals you may see in a hydroponic system include calcium, nitrate-nitrogen, phosphorous, potash, magnesium, boron iron, and zinc.
The inert medium provides the space for your plants to thrive. Inert means that the material won’t dissolve quickly. This is a way to supply nutrients to the plant.
The most effective medium to grow for you is dependent on the system you use. Each of them should be able to work with NFT and drip systems. You just need to watch out for the medium to become too sloppy.
Aeroponics and deepwater culture systems don’t require much of a media. Ebb and flow systems work best with mediums that don’t float. That is why you should stay clear of vermiculite or perlite. Instead, you require a medium that can absorb moisture quickly for a wick system.
Source of Light
If you are cultivating your plants in hydroponically-controlled outdoors, it is possible that you don’t require lights. However, if your system is indoor, you will require an energy source that can provide one of the vital elements to help grow.
A few of the most popular light options available are:
- High-pressure sodium bulbs
- High-output fluorescents
- Compact fluorescents
It is possible to grow almost everything you would like hydroponically. However, certain plants work better in a solution-based system, while others would be better in individual systems.
This table will give you an idea of which system is suitable for particular plants.
Also read – What is Algal Fertilizer?
How Much Does It Cost to Make a Hydroponic Farm?
Many expenses come with hydroponic farming. To be honest, the initial cost for starting is significantly more than traditional farming methods. But, compared with other indoor farming methods, the expense of hydroponics is weighed against its potential to make a profit.
When starting hydroponic farming, there are several cost to make a hydroponic farm involved, that you need to think about. Here are some of the costs you should consider in your business plan –
The most significant expense is for the physical construction. You require a minimum area of an acre to construct the greenhouse. You may use existing structures, which allow you to transform the warehouse or any other unutilized facilities. If the design is not built as a greenhouse, you will have to somehow provide light to your plants. This is the second significant cost.
If you have built a structure that you can use, you will also require an inside farming structure. It includes the towers or trays you will use to plant seeds and pump systems to provide nutrients.
A lot of indoor hydroponic farming systems rely on grow lights. This is a costly method of powering your farm. First, you will need to purchase the lights for your operation, which can be pretty expensive depending on the size of your business. After that, you must be paying to run these lights all day and throughout the seasons. It consumes lots of electricity which, in turn, leads to the higher use of fossil fuels.
The amount you grow will determine the amount you’ll need to utilize your lighting. However, you should expect to use your lighting for at least 6-8 hours.
Unless you plan an insignificant operation where you can run the whole process yourself, you will likely incur some labor costs. Indeed it is usually the most expensive ongoing cost for a hydroponic farm. As per an estimate, you could expect to pay 25 to 30 full-time employees for every 1 acre of hydroponic farm. So make sure to consider the local labor costs and the associated benefits when planning the budget for your hydroponic farming business.
In the end, you will need to plan for the ongoing costs of your farm. This includes cultivation medium, nutrients for plants, seeds, fertilizers, and everything else you need to ensure that your farm is growing. In addition, if you are planning to pack your products inside your house, you should make sure to consider shipping and packaging costs. Finally, make sure to research the prices for all the equipment required for hydroponic farming.
Cost to Make a Hydroponic Farm – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is hydroponic farming expensive?
Yes. Instead, we must say it is cost-effective. You need to understand that it will require some initial capital investment. However, once you have it up and running, you will experience faster plant growth and higher plant productivity than traditional farming.
Why is hydroponics bad?
One issue that can pop up in hydroponic farming can be the development of harmful algae growing in the waters. In certain instances, the algae may bloom and die so rapidly that it may infringe upon the root systems of plants, which can suffocate them, rendering the plants more susceptible to pathogens.
Why is hydroponic farming so expensive?
One of the primary concerns is the expense of establishing the hydroponic farm. It will require physical structure, pumps, tanks, control systems, running expenses like electricity charges, and labor costs to run the system. This will easily cost some amount for each square foot of space for growing. Therefore, running the hydroponic farming system costs more than traditional farming.