Hydroponics is an engineered way of cultivating plants that uses a soil-less growth medium (or just water) and an optimized nutrient solution in order to deliver the calculated resources that a crop requires. Because of this, plants are theoretically able to uptake the maximum amount of nutrients that they can, in the most efficient way that they can, to subsequently achieve their best possible health and fastest growth.
US research on hydroponics began to develop in the mid-1800s, as botanists and plant nutritionists sought to determine methods of quickly producing healthy food without relying on the weather or access to soil. Over time, improvements in the composition of growth mediums and nutrient cultures, as well as in the understanding of what plants are best grown hydroponically, have led to hydroponics being applied to large-scale agriculture. Today, hydroponic farming has gained popularity as a result of the successes of scientists and commercial growing operations. These groups have worked to position the technology as a possible solution for feeding the ever-growing global population of consumers, as well as for addressing the environmental issues caused by conventional agriculture.
CEA is a technology-based approach toward food production. The aim of CEA is to provide protection and maintain optimal growing conditions throughout the development of the crop. Production takes place within an enclosed growing structure such as greenhouse or building. Plants are usually grown using hydroponic or aeroponic methods to supply the proper amounts of water and nutrients to the root zone. CEA optimizes the use of resources such as water, energy, lighting, space, capital and labor.
A February 2011 article in Science Illustrated states:
"In commercial agriculture, CEA can increase efficiency, reduce pests and diseases and save resources...Replicating a conventional farm with computers and LED lights is expensive but proves cost-efficient in the long run by producing up to 20 times as much high-end, pesticide-free produce as a similar size plot of soil. Fourteen thousand square feet of closely monitored plants produce 15 million seedlings annually at the solar-powered factory. Such factories will be necessary to meet urban demand for quality fruits and vegetables."
Many commercial hydroponic operations have gone out of business as a result of violating a few simple rules:
Indoor growing is expensive. Start-up and operating costs are significant. Although your yield per square foot is greater than field grown crops, if your margins are small, the risks are great.
One thing you don't want to do in this business is say "no" to a customer! Customer loyalty is vital to your continued success. Market demand is volatile. Today your customer wants 10 lbs. and tomorrow 20 lbs. and the next day none, etc. Survival in todays food market requires that you grow more than enough to satisify potential market demand.
No matter the size of your grow operation, it is best to commence operations with one or two products, establish your market and then expand your product line. Too many products limits your initial market size which means the loss of one customer can be detrimental to your profit line.
Successfully navigating the pitfalls associated with indoor growing is vital to your success. We've been there and with very little guidance and assisstance managed to survive and become very successful. Experience and knowledge that we pass on to our clients.
There is no commercially recognized category for hydroponically grown food. Organic produce is grown in soil. Hydroponic produce is grown in water or a soilless medium such as coconut coir. Because it is not prone to the various potential infestations resulting from soil-grown food, we simply call it "Beyond Organics!"
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