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Hydroponics

Hydroponics, the Future  of Agriculture and Sustainable Food 

Hydroponics is the future of agriculture and the most sustainable way of feeding the world and its ever increasing population. Hydroponics by definition is the process of growing plants without soil. This growing technique instead of soil uses a mineral nutrient solution in a water solvent, allowing the nutrient uptake process to be more efficient than when using soil. Almost anything that grows in soil has the capability of being grown in a hydroponic system including flowers, herbs and vegetables. Leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula, kale and spinach are among some of the most popular grown vegetables.

The phenomena of desertification, salinity, erosion and acidification are all threats to arable land which is required for traditional farming.  Accelerating these phenomena are influences such as land misuse, unregulated farming practices, deforestation, mining, pesticides and fertilizers. Hydroponic growth systems are the only solution to combating increased world food demand and the reduction in available arable land. It has already surpassed traditional farming in countries such as the Netherlands and its implementation is quickly spreading across the North America and Asia.

Hydroponics provides a number of key benefits compared to traditional farming techniques albeit with a significantly higher cost of production. Some key benefits include:

  • An Increase in Yields

  • Faster Growth Rates

  • Around the Year Growth

  • Capability of Automation

  • Food Safety and Security

  • Optimized Land Usage

  • Water Conservation

The amount of arable land available for cultivating crops decreases as world population and urbanization increase throughout the world. As a result, the importance of healthy, sustainable land is vital to feeding  the world. Loss of food security is often overlooked within well developed countries however its importance is rapidly becoming noticeable, as they are more and more reliant on food imports.

 

The United States is the perfect example of this dangerous occurence, as it finds itself a net importer of food importing USD 5.6 billion p.a. Currently more than half of the fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy come from other countries.  The situation is more dire for countries in the Middle East who import up to 90% of all their food. On the opposite spectrum is the Netherlands who is the worlds second largest food exporter after China, with USD 7.3 billion export p.a. The Netherlands wide use of advanced hydroponic systems however has resulted in it exporting an astonishing 192x more than China per sq. m. of arable land.

WORLD TRADE

  • The global hydroponics market is valued at USD 23.94 billion and is expected to reach UD 35.51 billion by 2024.

  • Europe leads other regions in hydroponic use with approximately 45% of total global production. Within Europe te Netherlands dominates production followed by Spain and France.

  • Tomatoes in totality form the largest market segment accounting for roughly 30% of global hydroponic production. In the United States however leafy greens dominate with a 57% of domestic market share.

  • In the United States, glass or poly greenhouses represent the bulk of the market with 47% followed by indoor vertical farming. This share is believed to be even higher in Europe.

  • The Middle East is ideally poisitioned to benefit from hydroponic systems being home to 12 of the world’s most water-scarce countries, posing a challenge for the agriculture sector. The region is heavily dependent on food imports, with up 90% of food imported in some countries.

  • Inhibiting factors to widescale adoption and production at the moment are high input costs such as labor and rent, packaging and energy.  All of which can be reduced based on scale and the longterm implementation of advanced technologies.

Global Share of Hydroponic Use

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Source: Mordor Intelligence

Vegetable Imports (USD Trillion, Net)

Source: ITC - Trade Map & Agri Developments

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By 2050 agricultural production will have to rise by 70% to meet projected demand. Since most land suitable for farming is already farmed, this growth must come from higher yields.

The Economist and Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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Products

Avocados

Bamboo

Durian

Guava

Hydroponics

Mangos

Hydroponics and food security go hand in hand. Learn about them and how dwindling arable land impacts food you consume.

Hydroponic Key Stats

Global Hydroponic Market Value

(USD Billion)

 

Source: Mordor Intelligence

Hydroponic Vegetable Crop Type

(North America)

Source: Agrilyst

Did You Know?

  • Hydroponic grown crops use 90% less water than the same crops grown in traditional soil farming.

  • The Netherlands is the world’s leader in hydroponics and second largest food exporter in value, behind only China. The Netherlands however per land area (sq. m) exports an astonishing 19,192% more.

  • Hydroponic systems have been used for thousands of years, from The Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Chinampas of ancient Mexico.

  • Almost 50% of all leafy vegetables in South Korea are said to be sourced from LED based domestic hydroponics.