Indoor farming is an evolving concept with strong possibilities of becoming a probable future. Also, known as vertical farming, it is being triggered by the lack of agricultural space in cities along with the increasing demands for food worldwide. Old factories and unused warehouses are being converted into vertical farms where food and greens are produced in stacks arranged layer after layer. Not just factories but even homes are not out of the purview of such vertical farms. Since the space requirement is quite less and the growth conditions can be tweaked according to the requirement of more people are trying to create their very own vegetable gardens.
Using hydroponics for growing plants
Hydroponics is just one of the ways adopted to create this green patch in cities. Soil, one of the most important requirements for the growth of plants, is replaced by nutrient-enriched water. Similarly, sunlight is also replaced by UV rays and LEDs to enhance and speed up the growth of plants. Farming indoors makes the plants grow faster than the traditional methods they grow in a controlled environment and receive sunlight and other necessary conditions all the time instead of only during the daytime. Hydroponics and other methods of farming also make use of less water. The unused water is routed through the system and reused instead more than once. Such vertical farming devices can be used anywhere under any circumstances to keep producing food. The packages for hydroponics come prepared with all the things needed and the instructions on the outside.
In vertical farming, it is possible to grow practically anything and everything. For instance, baby greens, herbs, and edible flowers can be easily grown with the help of hydroponics. These are also very cost-effective because they can be grown fast and fetch a good price in the market. Root vegetables, however, are best grown in the traditional method for some more time. Those grown indoors allow a certain amount of control over the nutritional element as well. For instance, if LEDs are used for the growth of plants, they can be turned upside down and kept close to the plant because the LEDs do not give off heat and hence encourage growth without causing any harm. Therefore, through indoor farming, it is quite possible to produce the same amount of food such as in traditional farming only on lesser land.
Indoor farming also promises fewer occupational hazards in comparison to traditional farming techniques. The method of hydroponics, for instance, does not involve the usage of any heavy equipment, or the exposure to chemicals. These are harmful not only to the environment but also to the farmers.
Another interesting thing about indoor farming is the growth of organic seeds, fruits, and vegetables. The produce is hardly affected by insects and pests so there is no need for any pesticide. Also, since the growth conditions remain static all through the day there is no need for fertilisers to enhance the growth. Hydroponics, therefore, lies to rest any controversy regarding the availability of quality seeds and vegetables as well as concerns of pesticide affected produce.
Types of hydroponic systems
The hydroponic system of farming is available in six different varieties. Some of these are more effective depending on the kind of fruits and vegetables being produced and the amount of area devoted to such growth.
Nutrient Film Technique:
In this type of hydroponics, the solution filled water is fluid into channels which are supplied to different kinds of plants in varied proportions. The channels are a little sloped in order to allow the solution to flow through the channels and into the hydroponics reservoir. The nutrient water flows over the dangling roots of the plants providing the required nutrition on the way. This is a continuous process which goes on all through the day. In this system, the growth medium is not often used to hold the plant in place. The nutrient film technique is typically suited for plants that have small roots. Leafy greens grow best in this technique.
Deep water culture:
This is yet another technique in hydroponics. In the deep-water culture, the roots of the plant receive air directly while they are suspended in the nutrition solution. A diffuser or a stone is used for providing the oxygen supply. Plants grow extremely well and at a surprising rate in this system because they receive an abundant supply of oxygen while being placed inside the nutrients. Plants that have big roots respond well to the system. The big roots grow really fast and you can see a good production of fruits as well.
This method is very simple and does not require aerators pumps or electricity. In this type of hydroponics, the plant is placed on perlite or vermiculite with a nylon wick that connects it to the nutrient solution. This method is suited best for plants that do not require a lot of water. This is because the wick does not supply a lot of nutrients to the plant.
Flood and brain system:
In this system, the plants are placed in a large bed filled with the nutrition liquid. Hydrogen is present which does not let the water rise above the required level of the glow medium. It prevents the solution from overflowing. A timer is used to control the amount of solution. When the required amount of solution fills up, the timer automatically shuts down the pump so that the water goes back leaving the grow bed completely drained. The flood and drain system is suitable for all kinds of plants especially those with a larger root system.
Indoor farming is still very new and research is on to find out how this can be finetuned even more to prevent further wastage of products or energy and yet enhance the production of the vegetables. Hydroponics and other methods of indoor farming promise more variety, less hassle and a source of fresh, crunchy vegetables some of which can be picked right before lunch right from your own garden.