The Future of Food Part 4: Hydroponics

Hydroponics – A Growing Opportunity

As Earth’s population continues to grow, the challenge is to produce more food whilst being more sustainable. To assist with this, one new technological approach is Hydroponics; a niche method of food production. It is the process by which plants are grown without soil, by using mineral nutrient salts dissolved in water.

So what are the benefits of Hydroponics? Firstly farmers can more accurately control a plant’s nutrition, which leads to an improve in their yields. They also experience higher propagation success rates and make savings on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Perhaps hydroponic technology’s greatest appeal is that is makes more efficient use of space. And as Earth becomes more populated, space is a premium commodity.


The United Nations has predicted that by 2050 70% of the world population will live in cities. Hydroponics can be utilized in city environments where useful soil space is scarce. Furthermore, being able to produce locally within cities reduces the carbon footprint generated through the vast transportation of food. Rooftop hydroponic greenhouses are predicted to pop up in cities across the world. Just like in traditional greenhouses, hydropnic growers can have complete control of climate – humidity, temperate, air composition. This means they can grow foods all year round, regardless of the season, maximizing their business profits.

Ironically, hydroponic technology is actually water saving, and when effectively managed, it uses only 10% of water when compared to field-grown methods. With water shortage such a critical world-wide issue, Hydroponics seems to offer a viable solution to crop production.

However, the implementation of Hydroponic systems require expertise,  commitment and technical knowledge. There have also been some heated debates about whether Hydroponics can ever be classified as organic, since they grow in a liquid medium, and not soil. Beyond this, other critics argue that the vast majority of Hydroponic systems produce only vegetables, and especially low-calorie vegetables like lettuce, kale, chard, and herbs, and human life cannot be sustained on these types of foods. But with the evident destruction of the environment, coupled with increasingly populated cities, Hydroponics may pave the way towards sourcing the healthy and affordable food the planet needs.