Hydroponic farming – the growth of produce without soil and over 80% less water than traditional farming – is nothing new. In fact, it dates back all the way to the posthumous publication of a Francis Bacon book in 1627, which sparked a widespread interest in hydroculture as a whole. Having said that, hydroponics is becoming more popular now than ever.
Some of its growing popularity can be attributed to the maturation of technologies which provision the convenient and efficient practice of hydroponic farming. However, the true causality is far more abstract in nature.
Agriculture is, of course, our oldest industry. It provides our most precious resource and represents around a third of our global GDP. By 2050 it will be supporting a population of almost 10 billion people. But this unrivalled demand, wrapped up with globalisation in the one-click next-day era, is taking a serious toll on our climate
Vast deforestation for farmland and the livestock production line polluting our air are just two consequences of an overstretched industry which many would argue is burning the candle at both ends. Today, there’s a good chance that something on your dinner plate travelled thousands of miles to get there. Tomorrow, it may have only travelled 50 metres.
Hydroponics is the promise of faster, fresher food anywhere in the world. Whether it is happening in an old converted shipping container at the back of a restaurant or right in the produce aisle at your local supermarket, hydroponics is providing the opportunity to sustainably grow natural crops right within touching distance. Artificially controlled environments can be manipulated at will to provide ideal growing conditions for a variety of produce that may otherwise only exist seasonally.
Most importantly, hydroponics is being elevated to the Industry 4.0 level. IoT devices allow remote activity and monitoring. AI & ML are able to independently modulate the environment your crops grow in to maximise yields. Principles of automation are being introduced to enable a hands-off/low-maintenance approach. Even blockchain provenance with nutritional information and guarantee of source is being explored in the hydroponics world.
EquiNordic, in conjunction with technology partner Turret Labs, has already begun its hydroponics journey, focusing its development through the Industry 4.0 lens to bring cutting edge capabilities to the sector. The product, Farm enRoll , is currently testing a containerised approach using proprietary ebb & flow and nutrient delivery techniques. It will also feature IoT integration for remote telemetry monitoring of germination, among other advanced concepts. Stay tuned to our LinkedIn and www.EquiNordic.com for more details.
Perhaps the next time you scan your veg you will find it was placed on the shelf in front of you only an hour ago from a hydroponic facility less than a mile away. Technology is no stranger on the farm, but its true convergence with agriculture and the immense potential of that partnership may only just have begun.