Commercial Hydroponic Farming at It’s Best
Commercial hydroponics is the use of hydroponic soilless growing methods with the goal of mass-producing and selling the resulting plants. The most common crops grown using commercial hydroponics are tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and peppers. Other crops that are commonly grown commercially using hydroponic methods include foliage plants, flowers and herbs.
History of Hydroponics
Hydroponics was first mentioned as early as the 1600s, but was not put into practice until the 1930s by a California researcher. It was first used on a large scale by the United States Army in the 1940s to feed troops stationed on islands in the Pacific, as well as by the United States Air Force. The development of plastics helped the development of commercial hydroponics because using plastic products made the process cheaper and easier.
Hydroponics Grows in Popularity
While still a relatively small enterprise, commercial hydroponics has seen a significant growth in popularity over the past few years. This is true all over the world, but especially in Europe and the United States. As advances are made in commercial hydroponics research and more people learn about the advantages to this method of growing plants, hydroponics may become even more popular.
The world’s largest commercial hydroponics farm is Eurofresh Farms, founded in 1997 and located in Wilcox, Arizona. Eurofresh primarily grows tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers. At 318 acres, Eurofresh Farms hydroponic farming area accounts for about a third of the commercial hydroponic greenhouse area in the United States.
Cost Savings of Growing Hydroponically
Many commercial growers find that hydroponics is advantageous from a price standpoint. Hydroponics uses approximately 1/20 the amount of water that a normal farm uses to produce the same amount of crops. Less fertilizer is also needed. This can save you a significant amount of money.
Commercial hydroponics also saves space because the plants can be placed closer together, meaning that you can use less space to produce more plants. Hydroponics also allows you to more tightly control the environment so that plants grow more reliably.
Having the ability to monitor the temperature, pH and humidity levels of your plants ensure that they are consistent and appropriate. This is beneficial because you can worry less about environmental factors having catastrophic effects on your crops.
Variety of Crops Since these hydroponically grown plants are often in a greenhouse, crops that are normally not grown in certain areas due to inhospitable environments can be grown wherever they are needed. You can also use fewer pesticides than if you were using soil.
Many consumers also prefer plants grown using commercial hydroponics because they find that these plants taste better, look better, last longer, are fresher and are generally of a higher quality than those that are grown in soil. If pesticides are not used, the plants can be classified as organic, which means that health-conscious buyers are often willing to pay more for them.