Hydroponic gardens could save us from the looming climate and food crisis
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was one of the earliest examples of hydroponic gardening, which is gardening without soil (4). These gardens were for aesthetic purposes, but scientists have also discovered that they benefited the irrigation and overall infrastructure of Babylon. More than 2,000 years later, the modernization of gardening has provided us with an even more efficient version of hydroponic farming which will combat climate change. Hydroponic gardens will mitigate the negative effects of our agriculture system by saving space, using less water, and yielding more crops than traditional agriculture practices.
Hydroponic gardens are revolutionary in their sustainable growing and harvesting methods; they do not require soil or fertilizer and instead consume mineral solution and grow in small spaces. Hydroponic gardens are most commonly stacked vertically on top of one another to save space and maximize productivity.
There are three techniques used in hydroponic farming. Firstly, there is the nutrient film technique. The nutrient film hydroponic technique involves plants being grown in a grow tray that is slightly angled and positioned above a reservoir filled with the water-nutrient mix. With this setup, the plant receives proper nutrition, aeration, and water (3). Secondly, the most common technique is the “Ebb and Flow” technique which allows plants to be flooded with the nutrient-rich water, which is then drained back into the reservoir. Lastly, the simplest technique is the wick system. Nutrients are passively given to the plant from a wick or piece of string running up to the plant from the reservoir. In method three, plants are grown in an inert growing medium such as sand, rock, wool or clay balls that help anchor the plant’s roots (3). These methods produce large amounts of crop yield because the plants can all be grown in small spaces and they can reuse resources due to their inert growing mediums.
On the verge of a global food shortage, an efficient farming system is especially desirable. The Russia-Ukraine war is exacerbating the issue of global food security; the U.S. and other nations are losing exports and imports of crops like wheat and corn (8). These crops are vital to countries which are reliant on grain.
Climate change also exacerbates the global food crisis. For example, projected increases in temperatures, restrictions on water availability, changes in precipitation patterns, and increased extreme weather events, will result in reduced yields and more struggles in agricultural production (6). Moreover, the traditional agriculture industry merely contributes to the climate crisis. The agriculture industry emits 10.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions during harvesting and production of crops (4). Comparatively, hydroponic gardening is carbon-negative; it removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits (5).
Hydroponic gardens are incredibly beneficial in urban societies. The vertical stacking of gardens allows farmers to conserve around 90-99% of their land while increasing productivity (1). Depending on the crop, this farming model can produce around 4-7 times more growth cycles than the traditional farming methods. This is incredibly important to fight off the looming food crisis. Hydroponics continue to amaze us as they use 90% less water than conventional farming (1).
We need an efficient and sustainable farming system to combat the struggles we face with a deteriorating Earth and a booming population. Hydroponic gardens will provide support in the fight against climate change.
- Boylan, C. (2020, November 9). The future of farming: Hydroponics – PSCI. Princeton University. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://psci.princeton.edu/tips/2020/11/9/the-future-of-farming-hydroponics
- Bills, B. (2019, October 4). Hydroponics: The power of water to Grow Food. Science in the News. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/hydroponics-the-power-of-water-to-grow-food/
- Cartwright, M. (2022, April 11). Hanging Gardens of Babylon. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://www.worldhistory.org/Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon/
- Dupuis, A. (2021, November 4). Carbon-negative farming: Is hydroponics the solution? Eden Green Technology. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://www.edengreen.com/blog-collection/carbon-negative-farming
- Peterson, D. (2022, April 9). Opinion: The world is on the brink of a food shortage. here’s what the US government and businesses can do to help. CNN. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/09/perspectives/food-shortage-ukraine-russia/index.html
- US EPA. Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food Supply | Climate Change Impacts | US EPA. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://climatechange.chicago.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-agriculture-and-food-supply#:~:text=Climate%20change%20can%20disrupt%20food,result%20in%20reduced%20agricultural%20productivity
- USDA ERS – Climate Change. (2020, August 14). Retrieved April 13, 2022, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/climate-change/#:~:text=Agriculture%20emits%20an%20estimated%2010.5,carbon%20dioxide%20from%20the%20atmosphere
- U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Hydroponics: A better way to grow food (U.S. National Park Service). National Parks Service. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/articles/hydroponics.htm