Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil. It is a great way to cultivate plants indoors. If you are one of those people who love the concept of having fresh home-grown veggies and herbs at their fingertips, this is the perfect guide for you.
In this article, you’ll learn everything from setting up a basic hydroponic system to much more complex techniques. In addition, you’ll also come to know about the different types of hydroponics, the pros and cons of the vertical hydroponic system in particular.
What Is Vertical Hydroponics?
Vertical hydroponics combines two of the most cutting-edge farming methods: vertical farming and hydroponic gardening. The concept of it demands overlaying plant surfaces on top of each other to increase cultivation.
Hydroponics enables plants to grow in a soilless medium with the help of water providing a nutritional and balanced diet. It is also a great space-saving way to cultivate by laying out the surface using tall structures—hence the name vertical hydroponics. The design helps to build an on-farm structure in a vertical direction rather than a traditional horizontal setup.
The vertical hydroponic system has immensely changed the concept of modern farming. Not having ample ground surface to set up for your planting requirements is a common issue for people who are keen to grow their organic plants.
The hydroponic system, also referred to as the modern farming concept, was developed as a solution to overcome this challenge. The technique is much more complex than traditional farming; in fact, it takes some effort. There are many systems and kits as discussed in Bitponics.com for beginners to start their indoor gardening journey as well.
What Can You Grow in Vertical Hydroponics?
A vertical hydroponic plant can accommodate almost any fruit or vegetable that one can name—other than root plants. This is the only limitation, as root plants cannot be cultivated with a soilless setup. Other than this, it’s possible to grow most leafy plants and crops in a vertical hydroponic farm.
Many hybrid and experimental plants are also being developed with the support of R&D technologies such as cucumber, broccoli, strawberries, and tomatoes. Some of the examples of root plants that cannot be grown using a hydroponic vertical system are potatoes, garlic, onions, or beets—mostly root plants as mentioned.
We have prepared a list of plants and herbs that are commonly grown using vertical hydroponics, and they are:
- Butter lettuce
Over 50 species of peppers, leafy greens, and micro herbs are cultivated in vertical hydroponic plants all over the world regularly.
Advantages of the Vertical Hydroponic System
Following are the benefits of a vertical hydroponic system:
Soil entails one-fourth of the earth and is the greatest resource to grow plants and crops. Nonetheless, climate changes have been so drastic in the past decade that they have led to deterioration in farming soil. This is creating a danger to food protection.
Therefore, there is a dire need for an alternative system, new procedures, and processes to meet the food demands of the growing population. Vertical hydroponics has been developed as one of those innovative approaches that are formulated to grow plants and crops efficiently.
It is a fantastic approach that saves space and addresses concerns about efficient energy uses. Vertical hydroponics technology uses artificial lighting with light-emitting diodes (LED) that offer advantages of a narrow light spectrum. It enables you to use small spaces for efficient cultivation—including indoor house spaces.
Moreover, the solution ensures that there are more nutrients than traditionally grown plants. This is due to the process of cultivating the roots of the plants, which are not extended, enabling those plants to be more nutrient-rich. In other words, it is a great solution to grow plants and crops in a close and limited space.
A vertical hydroponic system can be set up anywhere, including urban areas. Many urban areas have empty lots, which have great potential for a hydroponic system. As a result, plants and crops can be easily channeled to local markets and restaurants without the hassle of transport and a complicated channel of distribution.
It also contributes to reducing food waste and greenhouse gasses. It allows fresh and organic produce to be.
Minimal Use of Herbicides and Pesticides
Since the entire system is properly controlled given that it is an indoor setup, it offers a regulated environment in terms of pests. This means that you no longer have to overdose on herbicides and pesticides because they are already being eliminated. It has an additional upside on top of the existing ones—it provides food security in terms of health and nutritional value.
Less Water Consumption
A traditional system of growing plants and crops requires a considerable amount of water, whereas a vertical hydroponic system is known to use minimal amounts. The difference in water usage is significant between the two systems.
For example, reports show that 70 percent of water is typically used for a conventional cultivation system (globally, this is the amount of fresh water used for agriculture). Hence, the hydroponic system is comparably a befitting approach for cultivating plants and crops, particularly when our resources are all limited.
As mentioned, a vertical hydroponic setup allows you to grow plants and crops indoors, allowing you to control temperature and many other environmental factors. This results in a significant increase in crop yield since the crops can continue to grow throughout the year.
Disadvantages of the Vertical Hydroponic System
Let’s now look at some of the downsides of running a vertical hydroponic system.
There is an ongoing dispute whether vertical hydroponics should be given organic licensing or not. This is because vertical hydroponics does not support organic cultivation. Since it follows a soilless concept to grow the produce, it can lead to a harmful effect on the overall food system. Some of the advantages of soilless systems are stated below in comparison to soil-grown plants and crops:
- Pathogen-free starts with the use of layers or surfaces without soils which makes it easier to control the organisms in comparison to soil-based pathogens.
- Growth and yield are no longer dependent on the quality of the soil of the cultivated area.
- The growth of the plants and crops are better controlled through the nutrient solution.
- The nutritional solutions can be reused, making the most efficient use of resources possible.
Limited Crop Variety
It can only cultivate and grow leafy plants. It is not possible to harvest fruits because of the high intensity and various temperature requirements. Vertical hydroponics has its limitations, such as the fact that growing anything other than leafy plants cannot be achieved using this system. Due to its shortcomings, it can never replace a conventional cultivation system.
Setting up a vertical hydroponic system can be costly, requiring expensive equipment. Having that said, vertical hydroponics can cultivate plants at a faster rate than traditional ways, so most of the initial investment is usually recouped quickly.
This is a complex system, likely to face multiple technical hurdles in the process of cultivation. However, to avoid such challenges, it is vital to gather knowledge about the technical details. Leakages and electrical failures are some of the common challenges, but those can be addressed if there are proper technical regulations in place.
Functions of a Vertical Hydroponics System
The prime concept that should be considered with vertical hydroponics is that it is not typical farming. In a conventional approach, harvesting seeds in the soil can take huge amounts of space, which makes it difficult to protect those crops and plants from pests and pollutants.
Vertical hydroponics is done vertically in indoor spaces. The plants are stacked up on top of each other and the fertilizer and water are run through the system. This technique allows farms to fill 80 percent less space than conventional farming approaches. Another perk of growing in vertical hydroponics is being able to set up in miniature greenhouses, which eliminates contamination from outside pollutants.
Vertical hydroponics allows for the temperature to be properly regulated. This enables you to create a harvest cycle of 28 days on average. As a result, it can produce 40 times more than conventional farming methods.
How Does a Vertical Hydroponic Farm Work?
In vertical hydroponic methods, plants are cultivated in water, meaning that essential nutrients are absorbed into the roots of plants through the water distribution. Therefore, access to nutrients is available instantly for the growth of plants and crops.
Structure of a Vertical Hydroponic Greenhouse
The cutting-edge technology designed for vertical hydroponics farming is known as “Eden Green’s Technology.” This modern technology is utilized for multiple research purposes. Eden Green’s greenhouse is created with roofs made of polyethylene and walls of polycarbonate.
This structure stands out for its design and functions. It is fast and cost-effective to make and its size can be easily customized for future purposes. The amount of water used for irrigation is significantly lower. It also has a good ventilation system to make sure that the plants and crops are not deprived of air. The advanced propagation system prevents all the outside pollutants and pests from entering the greenhouse too. It is the most efficient way to grow good quality plants and crops.
Setting Up Vertical hydroponics
A wonderful way to start your hydroponics is by using a DIY technique and expanding as you go. You will need to research the type of growing medium that is best for the hydroponic system you will be growing plants in.
Your plan will only be successful if you follow the right steps and invest your time in gathering information before proceeding. You’ll need the following items to start your hydroponics system.
Many containers can be used to grow plants. Some of the common options include plastic bins and old buckets with lids. There are no restrictions for containers—as long as it has a lid, you are good to go. You can even use recyclable items such as old jars, glass containers, bottles, etc.
Growing mediums will depend on the design of the particular water reservoir for the vertical hydroponic. Usually, mediums that are lighter in weight tend to do the job better as they allow ventilation of oxygen from the air easier than heavier ones.
Some examples of rich nutritional growing mediums are clay pellets, rock wool and coco coir. You are also free to use media made particularly for vertical hydroponics such as growing stones or clay pebbles.
Nutrients play a key role in the quality of your plants. There are many nutrients available to purchase based on what you want to grow. However, if you are a beginner at this, we suggest buying dry nutrient powders to start with. They are cheap and readily available.
Pumps help circulate water supply throughout the containers. This prevents air pockets from forming and creates problems in the system. Generally, they are reasonably priced but note that the price will vary depending on the size of your space. You may require more pumps if your setup is larger.
Timers are a great tool to help you keep track of your cultivation time and crop yield. However, they are optional. They are useful for people who like to automate certain tasks, such as switching the pumps on and off or adding nutrients.
Seed Life Cycle in a Vertical Hydroponic Greenhouse
The seed life cycle in this case starts from where the seedlings are sowed in the water. They are allowed their time to grow, nourish, and mature. After the seeds have been placed and budded properly, they are transferred into the hydroponic tower. This is where numerous plants are piled up over one another, allowing for them to grow quicker and in a much smaller space.
The roots of the plants begin to form by taking in all the nutrient-filled water. Environmental factors like temperature and light are also properly regulated to maintain the quality of the crop yield.
Vertical Hydroponic Farms on a Large Scale
A vertical hydroponics system has the advantage of growing plants in an indoor space, which makes it easier to supply smaller demands such as families and communities nearby. For larger demands, it becomes challenging to cater to a large number of people with limitations on quantity, particular in urban areas.
Fulfilling larger requirements is not an easy task through a vertical hydroponic system. Fresh vegetables grown utilizing hydroponics methods is currently being supplied to feed three million people worldwide. Moreover, the entire system is creating more employment opportunities in urban areas, improving the lifestyle of the people living in those communities.
Conventional farming is the main reason behind the rise of ancient civilizations. It has permitted people to settle in permanent locations while feeding large portions of the population. Due to the traditional system that was innovated hundreds of years ago, life has become somewhat easier for people to manage daily.
Sadly, conventional methods have now hit the ceiling and are no longer beneficial to us or the earth. We are taking up more space than we have. Therefore, we must consider other avenues such as vertical hydroponics to continue the supply of crops.
It is not just beneficial for the planet; it can also facilitate consistency in farming methods to ensure the well-being of farmers. If more people consider this soilless technique to feed the population, it can address all the unresolved issues around food supply, demand, land, environment, etc.
Is vertical farming the same as hydroponics?
Vertical farming and hydroponics are two different concepts, but they can be complementary. Vertical farming is a type of agriculture that uses stackable layers to grow crops in a controlled environment. This type of farming is beneficial because it takes up less space, which is important for crowded cities, and it also produces crops all year round. Hydroponics is a type of agriculture where crops are grown in water and without soil. This type of agriculture is beneficial because it uses less water and it can be done in any climate.
Is vertical or horizontal hydroponics better?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Vertical hydroponics can be more efficient because it takes up less space, but horizontal hydroponics can be more efficient because it uses less water. Ultimately, the best type of hydroponics will depend on the specific situation.
Is aquaponics vertical farming?
Aquaponics is a type of agriculture where crops are grown in water and with fish. The fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish. Aquaponics can be thought of as a hybrid between vertical farming and hydroponics, because it combines the benefits of both concepts.
With unlimited merits and upsides, vertical hydroponics also comes with many hurdles and challenges. Still, it facilitates massive opportunities to start a more reliable and harmless future in the world of farming. However, we must state that vertical hydroponics is great for certain leafy plants but not a fully-functional substitute for conventional farming techniques.
To sum it up, it is a feasible approach and a good alternative for urban areas. Technological advancements and new vertical hydroponic techniques are being developed all the time. This means that we can be on the lookout for further advancements for better hydroponic systems.