Vertical Hydroponics: What It Is and How It Works

Vertical Hydroponics: What It Is and How It Works
Contributor
Contributor
External Guest Writer
April 27, 2021

Despite half of the habitable land on our planet being solely dedicated to the purpose of agriculture, it is truly shocking that we are currently experiencing a scarcity of wholesome foods. We cannot continue to cause deforestation of valuable natural lands in order to make way for more traditional farming practices.

Instead, the alternative to consider now falls in the realm of unconventional farming methods. In the recent past, hydroponics has become a viable alternative to consider due to its several advantages when compared to traditional farms.

In this article, we examine a form of hydroponic farming known as vertical hydroponic systems. We discuss the details of this novel system, describe its working, and even highlight its advantages and disadvantages for your benefit.

What is Vertical Hydroponics?

Vertical hydroponics is the brilliant culmination of two ground-breaking modern farming techniques - hydroponic farming and vertical farming.

Hydroponics is all about growing plants in a soilless medium and using water to provide a rich and balanced diet. Vertical farming looks to save space by using tall structures such as skyscrapers in order to build on farm space in a vertical direction instead of the conventional horizontal method. 

When applying the major principles of vertical farming and hydroponics into a single form of agriculture, we arrive at vertical hydroponics.

How Does Vertical Hydroponics Work?

In vertical hydroponics, several layers of farmspace are stacked on top of one another with different plants usually growing on different levels. A vertical grow system can also be referred to as tower hydroponics or tower gardens as well, and they are the go-to option when looking to set up large farms within city limits.

Within the tower of a vertical hydroponic farm, a tube is utilized to help the various stacked layers access a water supply on a continuous basis. The supply is usually in the form of a reservoir tank that’s located at the bottom of the tower. A special hydroponic pump is employed to help the water make it all the way to the highest levels of the tower.

In order to maintain a steady and continuous circulation of water across the tower, the gravitational force is relied upon to help bring the water back down to the reservoir after it has finished circulating across the tower.

The water supply is infused with the right nutrients in order to help the plants attain the nourishment they require to fuel their growth. The nutrient levels are carefully studied and monitored in order to aid the optimal growth of the plants.

A singular tube is often utilized when only one major crop is being grown within a vertical grow system. As all the plants will have the same nutritional requirement, it is easier to deploy the water into a single chute. 

On the other hand, if multiple plants are being grown on various layers of a vertical hydroponic farm, it will require the use of numerous channels. Each channel will be connected to a separate water source that contains the ideal amount of nutrition for the plants being grown on the level. Additionally, this system also allows farmers to regulate the flow of water based on the species being grown on a given level.

In order to allow the plants to easily absorb the water, they are placed in netted pots and are tilted at a 45 degree angle. This allows the water to easily tap into the roots of the plants and access the most crucial sections of the produce in order to properly nourish it.

What Can You Grow in Vertical Hydroponics?

Vertical hydroponic plants can accommodate nearly any fruit or vegetable that one can think of. The only exception to this rule tends to include root plants as they aren’t compatible with this type of set up.

Currently, more than 50 types of leafy greens, micro herbs, and peppers are being grown in vertical hydroponic plants all over the world. This includes plants such as:

  • Butterhead lettuce
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Mint
  • Romaine
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries

Only vegetables such as onions, garlic, and potatoes cannot be grown in vertical hydroponic farms as they are tubers and would be much better served in aeroponic farms.

How to Set Up a Vertical Hydroponic System?

Vertical hydroponic farming has been quite popular in recent times which is why there are plenty of options available when it comes to setting up one of these farms today. Based on the requirements, budget, and expertise, these are the most common types of vertical hydroponic farms being established around the world.

The Stacked Hydroponic Farm

This is the most conventional method of all the types being discussed in this article. Here, the plants are stacked on top of one another and it is relatively easy to establish this farm in a short duration. Currently, there are plenty of companies that allow you to purchase the skeletal setup of a stacked hydroponic farm in order to establish one in your own backyard or garage. 

It is the ideal module to consider for beginners as such setups usually come with detailed instructions to help you make the most of your home garden space. The fact that it’s also easy to manage and assemble works as a double bonus for new farmers or home gardeners.

Once the stacked hydroponic setup is in place, the water source needs to be given primary importance as it will help nourish the plants being grown. It is crucial to ensure that the water flow to the various stacks is smooth and all the plants are receiving an adequate supply of nutritious water. 

There is also a threat of plants on lower levels drowning because of an excessive supply of water. This happens when the stacked systems aren’t properly installed. 

It is also important to keep an eye on the artificial or natural light sources being applied in this system as the light source is crucial in aiding the growth of plants. 

One final factor that needs to be considered here is the nutrient mix being added to the water source. Too much nutrition can be harmful for the plants while too little can stunt its growth.

Balancing these various elements is absolutely vital in determining the success of a stacked hydroponic system.

The Zig - Zag Hydroponic Module

After the stacked hydroponic method, the zig - zag hydroponic module has got to be the most popular variation of vertical hydroponic farming. This format allows farmers and gardeners to establish stacks in an unconventional manner in order to maximize the growing area.

When purchasing a zig - zag module from a professional agency, it is important to follow the instructions provided in order to maximize the utility of the system. It is usually seen that the zig - zag setup requires a lot more plumbing to get running and can thus be more complicated than a stacked hydroponic farm. 

Establishing this module correctly, however, will allow a farmer to raise numerous species of fruits and vegetables simultaneously.

The A - Frame Hydroponic Farm

The A - Frame hydroponic farm is an excellent choice for those looking to maximize the space within their garden or small-scale farm. This method is easy to set up and allows for immense production in a short period of time. There are many companies that sell A - Frame hydroponic modules that can be established easily.

This method, however, requires a lot of pipes and tubes in order to connect the various layers of the farm. As these tubes are multi-directional, it will also require an efficient pumping system in order to evenly distribute the water. Once these two factors are taken care of, you can expect the A - Frame hydroponic farm to thrive.

Vertical Gutter Hydroponic Farm

The principles of vertical hydroponic farming are extremely versatile which is why there are so many variations of this concept floating in the market today. A simple innovation within this framework relies on the use of gutters to help create a stacked vertical hydroponic setup in a farm or home. 

This method is extremely easy to set up and can be pretty much executed by anyone who doesn’t even have an expertise in farming. It is also an easy method to control the flow of water and nutrients, thus ensuring success virtually every time.

The Rain Tower Module

Setting up a rain tower hydroponic farm is by far the easiest of all the modules mentioned on our list. This method only relies on using a tall tube in order to ensure that the rain water is directed into a pot located at the end of the tube. Controlling the water flow with this method is easy and this is the preferred choice of those looking to create a small vertical hydroponic garden in their home.

This method can also be scaled up in order to ensure that rain water is put to the best possible use during the monsoon season.

The Advantages of a Vertical Hydroponic System

In this section, we discuss the vertical farming advantages below:

Soilless Agriculture

The fact that any hydroponic system does not require the use of soil as a growing medium is a massive advantage. It lends this concept tremendous versatility and allows farming to be conducted in regions that were previously unimaginable.

Maximizing Space

Vertical hydroponic farms, as the name suggests, involve growing farms vertically. This is a major advantage in a world where space has not only become limited but also extremely expensive. Farmers can thus multiply their existing production values several fold by converting their traditional farms into vertical hydroponic ones.

Reduced Wastage

Like all hydroponic farms, a vertical module is also known for its minimization of wastage. All important resources, including the use of water, is put to its best possible use. 

The Disadvantages of a Vertical Hydroponic System

Here are a few drawbacks of vertical hydroponics that are worth your consideration:

Expertise

Although vertical hydroponic farming runs like clockwork as soon as the system is in place, establishing a precise module can be quite a challenge for individuals new to this field. It requires either individuals with expertise to help create the framework, or it requires time for the farmer to carefully study and understand all the moving parts of this form of farming.

Equipment

In order to ensure the efficiency of a vertical hydroponic farm, it will require various pieces of equipment such as light panels, monitoring systems, water systems, and sensors. Acquiring these equipment can be pricey in the short-term basis but has huge benefits in the long run.

Vertical Hydroponics: Taking Farming to New Heights

Traditional farming has been the primary reason behind the rise of ancient cultures and civilizations. It has allowed our species to settle in a single location while feeding large sections of the population. Thanks to this innovation several hundred years ago, our species has gotten as far as they could manage today.

Unfortunately, traditional farming has run its course and is no longer benefiting our planet. In fact, this method of farming is hurting us by eating up more space than we can afford. It is therefore crucial that we take to vertical hydroponics and the vertical hydroponic system as quickly as possible.

Not only is a vertical hydroponic system a real space-saver, but it can also help build consistency in farming practices and ensure the wellbeing of farmers. The fact that a vertical hydroponic system can also help feed our enormous population makes this method a no-brainer.