Increasing Relevance of Hydroponics
Among technologies that can potentially influence the future of agriculture and seed industry, hydroponics is one of the most exciting. The fact that hydroponics is prominently featuring in recent seed conferences in Netherlands is an indication of the potential and importance of the technology.
Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants by placing the roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil (soilless growth of plants and without conventional soil). It uses artificial means to support and nutrient solutions to provide the required nutrition to plants. (Picture shows salad greens grown by hydroponics.)ii Based on the way the solution is delivered, there are number of sub-types within the broad term of hydroponics iii . A synthesis of the pros and cons of hydroponics is summarized in the adjacent illustration Figure 1.
This technology becomes increasingly relevant given the food security issues raised by FAO. FAO estimates 60% increase in food production by 2050 compared to 2005. The three major resources for agriculture – land, water and labor are under increasing pressure from growing population and climate change. Only 5% of existing land can be expanded; mainly in Africa and Latin America. While 2 liters of water are often sufficient for daily drinking purposes, it takes about 3,000 liters to produce the daily food needs of a person. Urban population has already overtaken rural population and is expected to be twice that of rural population by 2050. The growth in cereal crop yields are slowing. There are other problems and uncertainties like climate change, natural disasters, bio-fueland post-harvest losses v .
While the hydroponics technology has been in existence for more than 50 years, the adoption and acceptance has been very low till date probably due to the high capital investment required, running costs and expertise neede vi . It forms a miniscule percentage (
It is known toproduce higher potato yields (up to 10-times higher), in shorter duration andat lesser cost than conventional growing methods. It is already successfullyused in many parts of the world – e.g. Korea, China and Central Andean regions– for more than 10 years. Performance of seed produced through aeroponics issame as the conventional seeds.
, manytechnologies such as LED lighting (with ability to offer tailored spectrums toinfluence plant growth) and solar powered pumps will be integrated intohydroponics making it more accessible to industry and farmers.
has provided 50% subsidy to farmers toadopt hydroponics for growing animal fodder.
Vignesh V. J. (Vignesh) is a Manager withInternational Development team at Sathguru Management Consultants withexpertise in grant writing, project conceptualization and implementing largeprojects in the international development space. He is very active in creatinglinkages with global funding bodies and creating large consortiums for projectimplementation. Vignesh has over 7.5 years of experience workingacross geographies such as – Zambia, Mozambique and Ghana in Africa and PapuaNew Guinea in the pacific islands. Vignesh brings his academicexcellence in MBA from IIM Indore and a graduate degree in MechanicalEngineering from IIT Madras.