As children, we’re taught that plants need soil, sunlight, and water to survive. Hydroponic growing flips that idea on its head, Proving that exceptional food can be grown in small spaces without the need for cultivating soil or using (harmful/excessive) fertilizers. Especially when it comes to urban farming and growth, we are seeing a shift towards increased hydroponic produce with the budding technology of smart gardens, container farms, etc.
How does hydroponic produce differ from the produce we find in the grocery store?
When it comes to growing and gardening, most people associate the volume produced with how much space or soil one can purchase. The produce we purchase from the grocery store has typically been grown in expansive quantities on huge growing operations where quality control is more difficult and growers must use other methods, such as chemicals and expensive watering, to ensure the soil and its crops remain healthy.
Hydroponic produce differs in that it is grown completely without the use of soil or large outdoor areas. Businesses and private homes can grow produce such as strawberries, tomatoes, and herbs, with fewer worries and oftentimes healthier outputs. Luckily, among the many labels you can find on produce in the grocery stores (think organic, non-GMO, and locally grown), more are appearing with the tag of hydroponics. Is it worth it to seek out these specific fruits and vegetables?
What are the benefits of hydroponic produce?
Commercially, hydroponic farms are making it easier and quicker to get freshly grown produce to the consumer’s plate. Due to not needing large areas of land and fertile soil, hydroponic farms can be created within any setting or building, which means they can be grown within dense city limits without too much difficulty.
Due to being grown indoors, hydroponic produce is protected from the weather, including wind and drought. More of the final crop is healthy and able to be sold. Plus, there are no restrictions due to the seasons as with traditional agriculture; crops can be grown year-round.
Another advantage of hydroponic produce is the quality of the fruits and vegetables. There are no insects, so pesticides and other chemicals are not needed. And because the environment can be better controlled, consumers can purchase hydroponic produce feeling comfortable that their food is of the highest quality and cleanest, crispest taste possible. The cucumbers, greens, and other favorites haven’t travelled hundreds of miles or even over international borders, losing their freshness and nutritious value, before reaching stores.
Are there any disadvantages of hydroponic farming?
There are no decreases in value, taste, or quality of produce grown in water compared to traditionally grown crops, however, fewer tests or classifications have been done to determine what, if any, the nutritional differences have been. More research and tests are being completed by reputable sources each year.
One obvious disadvantage to hydroponic farming is the required resources which can become much more expensive than growing outdoors. The need for electricity, and more elaborate technology to optimize and maintain environmental conditions in a container-based farm or farm room as part of buildings, all can impact the cost of purchasing hydroponically grown produce. Remember though, as organics and other growing methods have become popular, the cost, which began much higher, has levelled out to a more comparable level.
Does hydroponic produce taste any different than produce grown in soil?
Yes, the taste of produce grown hydroponically can differ, but remember that all our tastes and how we perceive what we eat differ subjectively. You may not enjoy cauliflower, but your siblings do. Therefore, it can be difficult to pinpoint how taste changes from one person to the next.
It is essential to point out, however, that there is no concrete proof that whether a plant has been rooted in soil or water changes the taste. Instead, other elements, such as the nutrients used to aid in hydroponic growth as opposed to herbicides used on large outdoor crops, can impact this difference.
While there is debate among farmers about which method delivers the best taste to the final product, the idea that soil can be altered to enhance taste has been grounded for centuries. For example, farmers know that alkaline (an increased pH level) of the soil can enhance the sweetness of the produce. However, the water solution that is used to grow produce hydroponically can also be treated with a higher pH level to aid in the sweetness of the crop. This can also be taken a step further in that precise pH levels can be tracked and altered far more accurately than in large outdoor soils and crops, meaning that produce that does well in alkaline environments can be nurtured even further in hydroponic farms.
While each person is different and their taste is subjective, quality can be measured based on a variety of factors, many of which we have been mentioned above. We know that hydroponic farming makes it easier and much faster for fresh produce to reach consumers because urban settings are the ideal location for growth. Where the future is unknown and current economic changes have altered how we perceive the food we eat, now is the best time for cities to research and invest in alternative, modern methods of serving their communities.
If you are interested in learning more about our initiative and how hydroponic produce is changing the way we look at urban farming in the 21st century, reach out for a conversation with a member of the Farmlyplace team today!
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)