Hydroponic farming is a system of growing plants with minimal soil or no soil at all, instead utilizing nutrient solutions to aid healthy growth processes. Hydroponic farms are located in temperature-controlled indoor environments outfitted with special irrigation systems. They allow for the year-round cultivation of hydroponic vegetables and fruits and, when compared to traditional farming methods, have been shown to dramatically reduce water usage and environmental pollution.
The history of hydroponic gardening and farming methods started with Sir Francis Bacon's 1627 book Sylva Sylvarum. In this volume, Bacon pioneered the idea of growing plants without soil. This radical new concept was further developed and perfected over the next century by a series of botanists and scientists, one of whom — William Frederick Gericke of the University of California — coined the term "hydroponics" in 1937.
There are two styles of hydroponic farming. The solution culture utilizes only nutrient solutions to grow plants. With the medium culture, the plants are cultivated using a medium agent, such as gravel, perlite, rockwool, or sand. This static medium offers support to the plants, serving as a conduit through which nutrient solutions supply the roots with nourishment.
A typical hydroponic farm is located in a large greenhouse or in a light-controlled, enclosed environment. An essential piece of hydroponic farming equipment is a state-of-the-art irrigation system; these systems are key to the success of hydroponic agriculture. Proper irrigation techniques allow water and nutrients to be delivered to the plants and the run-off to be conserved for later use.
There are several distinct benefits of hydroponic farming. First and foremost, this method of cultivation drastically decreases water usage and conserves up to 90% of water used. Hydroponic plants have been shown to grow at a faster rate, allowing for a steady, abundant supply of crops and quick turnaround. Furthermore, hydroponic plants, which are not always organically grown, still utilize far less chemicals than more traditional modes of farming. They are also less prone to big infestations and little, if any, environmental pollution, attributable to the highly controlled atmosphere of the hydroponic farm.
Some disadvantages of hydroponic farming have also been identified. Among them, salmonella growth is a concern. The conditions within a hydroponic farm, principally humidity levels and the use of fertilizer, are perfect breeding grounds for salmonella. Wilting diseases such as verticillium wilt can also strike hydroponic plants due to the humid atmosphere or possible overwatering.