Hydroponics is a branch of farming which eliminates the use of soil. The term ‘hydroponics’ has been derived from ancient Greek, with hydros, meaning water and ponos, which is work.
The primary functions of the soil in agriculture are four-fold:
- Providing nutrients to the plant
- Directing water towards the roots
- Oxygenating the plant
- Anchoring the roots and stem
Hydroponics is the replication of the soil’s functions in a controlled environment. Bypassing soil not only gives the urban farmer more control over the process, but also does away with the usage of pesticides or a bout of disease in the plants.
Hydroponics has been in practice longer than one might imagine, used for both commercial purposes and by urban farmers. Hydroponics in India, however, is still in its evolving stage. For anyone interested in undertaking hydroponic farming in India, it is imperative to know the commonly followed hydroponic methods, and gauge what might work best with regard to the Indian environment and market.
Hydroponic Methods In India
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) for Hydroponics in India
The nutrient film technique is a method where a small stream of nutrient-rich water is directed through a trough, channel, or tube. The roots form a bed along the trough, while the plants grow upwards. NFT is the most commonly followed hydroponics method in India.
The trough is usually at an inclined angle, so that the water – pumped from the higher position of the system – is brought to the lower ends by gravity. Thus, during this movement, the nutrient-rich water forms a thin ‘film’ around the roots. To know more on how to design a NFT system, check out https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-an-NFT-Hydroponics-System/
Advantages of NFT Channels
- Particularly significant for India, NFT warrants for less use of water. There is only a thin film
of water flowing through the roots, while the actual plant is exposed to the outside air.
- NFT is easily manageable, also a plus for a country like India. It needs little labor and less
operational cost. The environment and other factors are also controllable
- The raw materials needed to build and deploy an NFT system are
available in the country. This adds to its feasibility as a suitable start for practicing
hydroponics in India.
- Lastly, since the farmer can control most factors, there is every chance for a high yield.
Disadvantages of NFT Channels
- Although operational cost is low, the investment or capital expenditure is not cheap.
- NFT is only wholly successful for growing short-statured plan
Deep Water Culture(DWC) for Hydroponics in India
Deep water culture is a hydroponic method where the roots of a plant are immersed in a solution of minerals and nutrients, which also induces growth. An air pump is added to aerate the growing plants. There are also other ways to introduce air which are generally followed. To know more on how to design an DWC system, check out https://www.instructables.com/id/My-Indoor-DWC-Hydroponics-System/
Advantages of Deep Water Culture
- The advantage of DWC is the same as that of NFT Channels. The only difference being that DWC has less capital expenditure.
Disadvantages of Deep Water Culture
- Those wanting to start hydroponics in India may keep in mind that DWC utilizes large amounts of water.
- Aeration is important to oxygenate the plants, but the process can be complex and tricky.
- Managing a DWC system requires much time and effort. It also lacks in providing space efficiency.
Aeroponics in India
As the name suggests, air plays a role in aeroponics. The set-up is based on providing an aerobic atmosphere. There are different systems, which essentially comprise a collection container at the bottom, with the roots of plants hanging downwards while the shoots grow leaning upwards or towards the side. The water is misted or sprayed consistently around the growing plants using high-pressure nozzles. To build an aeroponics system, check out https://www.greenandvibrant.com/aeroponic-plans
Advantages of Aeroponics
Always a perk of practicing hydroponics in India, aeroponic systems require less water.
Disadvantages of Aeroponics
- As simple as the set-up sounds, it is quite expensive to deploy.
- This many not be one of the most economically viable systems of hydroponic farming to try in India. Along with setting up, operational costs are also high.
Vertical Farming in India
Vertical farming, as one can imagine, plays to growing plants in a vertical manner, stacked in rows above each other. In a country like India where space constraints are a reality, vertical farming may be a boon.
The most important part of a vertical set-up, in addition to water which is systematically diverted to each level, is the light. With plants stacked above one another, the exposure of sunlight may be unequal. Hence, artificial lights in an indoor set up are preferred. To know more on vertical farming, check out, https://zipgrow.com/
Advantages of Vertical Farming
- It allows space to be used efficiently.
- Other methods suggested for practicing hydroponics in India pay less attention to volumes. Vertical farming is, by nature, a volumetric approach to hydroponics.
- It is also the simplest way to commence urban farming.
Disadvantages of Vertical Farming
- There is a high knowledge barrier in hydroponic farming or the vertical method, leading to the lack of one universally acceptable principle.
A-Frame for Hydroponics in India
A-frame farming is also called the pseudo vertical method. It is similar in theory to NFT, except that the plants are grown in a set-up with the pipes in an A-shaped rack. The incline helps with the needed gravitational force but limits the height of the frame. To build an A- frame system, check out https://thehomestead.guru/hydroponic-aframe/
Advantages of A-frame
- Low operational cost.
- Where height is less, the plant density increases per unit area
Disadvantages of A-frame
- Since its not a true vertical method, it does not reap all the benefits of either vertical farming or horizontal farming.
- The pipes used are typically round, and hence don’t oxygenate the plants as much as NFT.
Now, although the different advantages and points of concern for each individual method, there are still some more general, important, factors to take into consideration for the field of hydroponics in India. Agriculture in India is going to take a major shift from traditional farming techniques to Hydroponics and here it is why https://sustenance.co.in/problems-of-agriculture-and-advantages-of-hydroponics/
Factors affecting Hydroponic Farming in India
Hydroponics is still in a nascent stage in India. This can be a good thing, as there is room to experiment and learn, but it can also mean that there are fewer resources available.
Hydroponic methods require raw materials, and thankfully, most of them comfortably accessible here.
Most hydroponic techniques require careful assessment of the outside environment. Growing conditions in India are reasonably compatible, provided the necessary research has been undertaken.
Even though the natural environment may be suitable, there are steps to be taken to provide an ideal setting to grow plants. Sufficient space, timely labor, and proper heating/cooling systems need to be put in, which can be an expensive investment.
However, if all the necessary precautions are taken, hydroponic farming can be a real game-changer. It allows for good control over the process, eliminates using pesticide, and can provide a high yield of good quality.
After the hydroponic set-up is established and plants have grown, selling the crop can be explored. To determine an appropriate selling price, the market needs to be tracked properly.
Viable crops for hydroponics in India
Ideally, the plants chosen for hydroponics have a short life-cycle, with the yield growing within a month. This not only gives more produce but also leaves room and time for improvement if things don’t work according to plan. There are few crops which, by nature, better suited to be grown by hydroponic methods. On the plus side, most of these are also Indian staples-
- Herbs and micro-greens
- Green leafy vegetables: spinach, lettuce, etc
- Bell peppers
Getting started with hydroponic farming in India
The depth of information in this article has merely scratched the surface of hydroponics. For those who want to get a better, first-hand look at hydroponics in India can avail to some of these:
Visit hydroponic farms: There are few established hydroponic set-ups in India, and a visit may help with obtaining direct knowledge. You could check us out at https://sustenance.co.in/ for more details.
Resources: Books, videos, and even online courses are a good way to understand hydroponic science.
Trial and error: If sufficient knowledge on the subject has been gained, an attempt at hydroponics can be made. If it fails, the mistakes can be recorded and avoided next time.