Hydroponic Farming: Can It Be Commercially Viable?

Hydroponic Farming: Can It Be Commercially Viable?
External Guest Writer
March 30, 2021

Hydroponics farming has been growing rapidly in the recent past and the trend doesn’t seem to be bucking at any stage. According to recent projections, the global hydroponics market is expected to hit a CAGR of 8.5% between the period 2021 and 2027. This points to the enormous potential currently being discovered within the hydroponic space.

Commercial hydroponic farming takes things to the next level by creating enormous farms based on the hydroponic model. In this article, we consider the commercial viability of hydroponic farming as well as the factors you’ll need to examine before setting up a commercial hydroponic farm. 

What is Commercial Hydroponic Farming?

This novel farming method refers to the process of setting up commercial farms for large scale produce based on the principles of hydroponic farming. This is a novel method of cultivation and has numerous advantages when compared to traditional farming practices. 

For one, it is the more viable option for farmers who are looking to scale their operation but do not have the necessary land to spare. Thanks to the principles of hydroponic farming, it becomes easy to multiply your yield in a limited space without compromising on the quality of the produce. In fact, the quality of fruits and vegetables produced using hydroponics is known to be far superior when compared to traditional farming methods.

The Benefits of Hydroponic Farm Systems

In order to understand the commercial viability of hydroponic farming, it’s important to look at the benefits associated with this practice in the first place. Here are some of the factors that give the method the edge over their traditional counterparts.

Wider Range of Produce

The sheer number of fruits and vegetables that can be grown in a commercial hydroponic systems farm in the same space is far higher in comparison to traditional farming. Farmers can look to use the same farmland to grow multiple crops such as basil, mint, cilantro, lettuce, kale, arugula, and nearly any other type of herb or leafy green

This factor can be used to improve the profit margins of farmers. They can understand the type of crops that are lacking within a given region and match the demand by growing the right crops.

Improved Quality and Quantity

While farming has been largely considered to be an art more than a science until recently, hydroponics is changing the culture by transforming it into a pure science. The precision of the inputs and the correlation to the outputs has been well studied at this point. 

Thanks to this newfound knowledge of hydroponic farming, it becomes possible for farmers to produce improved levels of both quality and quantity in their yield. The entire hydroponic system, in fact, is designed in a manner so as to allow scaling to occur easily. Thus farmers can drastically increase the size of their farms without allowing it to affect the quality and quantity of their produce.

Decreased Dependency on Labor

In a lot of developing countries in Asia, South America, and Africa, farming is a highly labor intensive activity even to this day. As farming is also a largely seasonal activity, it becomes very difficult for farmers to maintain their labor force with each passing year. The sheer inconsistency associated with traditional farming prevents a large number of the population from considering it as a viable career option.

Hydroponic farming, on the other hand, requires very little manual labor in order to operate efficiently. The only period where there is a greater reliance on manual labor is during the initial setup process. Once all the systems are in place, hydroponic farms tend to be fairly self-sufficient.

It is also possible to couple this systemic benefit with robotics and automated systems to ensure that the farm is well taken care of across the year. Thus the burden on farmers is further reduced as they do not have to be worried about maintaining the labor force across the year.

Improved Management of Resources 

Traditional farming has been deeply reliant on the management of various resources, especially the water resource in a region. Apart from being reliant on irrigation systems that derive water from nearby rivers and canals, there is also a tremendous dependency on rainfall to naturally water plants across the rainy seasons. 

Hydroponics stands out from the competition in this regard, as it helps to greatly maximize the use of water in its operation. In fact, estimates highlight the fact that it only takes 10% of the water used in a traditional farm to power a hydroponic farm. When the disparity of the requirement is so immense, it can have a great impact on the operations of a farm.

Farmers will no longer be watching the skies hoping for rains as their farms are well taken care of with only a fraction of the water being used.

Soilless is Painless

Hydroponics farming is built on the principles of operating in soilless conditions. This singular factor itself has immense benefits for the farmers. Tending to the soil is a hard task and requires a lot of time and effort. Of all this energy can be redirected in a more fruitful direction as hydroponics does not use any soil that needs working on whatsoever.

This also works well for plants as they are now free from any diseases that could be transmitted using the soil as a growing medium. This has become a growing concern for farmers off-late as soil conditions around the world are dropping due to rise in pollution and toxins.

Creating a Commercial Hydroponic Farming System: Factors to Consider

Right Location

Although hydroponic farms can be literally established in any location on the planet, it does not mean that the farm should be set up just anywhere or everywhere. The size of the physical space and the geographical location itself should be carefully considered before setting up a farm.

It’s always useful to minimize the distance between the farm and the population that will consume the produce. This reduces storage and transportation costs in the long run. Additionally, the natural ecosystem of a location also has a say on the type of equipment you will need to run your farm. 

Locations with ample lighting, for example, will require fewer additional lighting systems, and this will also bring down the costs for farmers in the long run.

Educating All Parties

Although hydroponic systems have picked up a lot of steam in recent years, it’s crucial to remember that this is still a fairly new farming method. Thus it becomes crucial to not just be well-informed about the processes as a farmer, but to also educate all the labor involved.

Quality hydroponic farming systems rely on well-educated hands working precisely for the farmwell-being of the crops. There is plenty of educational material available regarding this practice currently and there are also numerous companies that can aid the process of setting up a farm. Utilizing these mediums is vital in establishing a commercial hydroponic space that can stand the test of time.

Using Data Well

When a modern hydroponic systems farm is up and running, it tends to generate a lot of data based on the instruments and technologies in use. All of this data that’s being generated needs to be put to good use in order to maximize the potential of the farm. 

For example, if the data from the soil is warning farmers about growing a certain type of produce, it can only be seen as effective if the farmer makes use of the data and changes the production on the ground level.

Understanding Processes

Along with the modernization of hydroponic farming comes numerous pieces of ancillary technologies that can make life easier for the farmer. Today, farmers can utilize artificial intelligence and robotics to virtually automate any process under the sun. 

Understanding and implementing each of these processes takes time though, and it should certainly not be rushed for any reason. Every process that’s introduced into a hydroponic farm should be carefully studied, monitored, and tested to achieve the best results. Simply jumping from one process to another can have a detrimental impact on the overall health of the farm.

Commercialization is King

An industry as vital to the overall health of the planet as agriculture needs to be brought into the 21st century. This can only be achieved when modern farming systems and techniques such as hydroponics are implemented on a commercial scale. 

The benefits of this can be shared by all in the long run, not to mention the positive impact this move will have on the future of our planet.