Tips on designing the best Hydroponics System

Tips on designing the best Hydroponics System

To design the best hydroponics system, one must look at the host of factors contributing to plant growth, roughly these are the environment, temperature, nutrient delivery and protection from damaging agents.

Hydroponics farming in India looks to the use of Greenhouses as a solution to manage these factors. Greenhouses are large structures built over tracts of flat land to accommodate the protected farming techniques, that use climate control methods and such to grow seasonal crops in unseasonal weather. In hydroponics, an additional technology used is water chillers as a cool root zone promotes aeration and root health.

For ambient temperature fan and pad cooling systems are effective in dry and hot weather. The system works by drawing air in through a cellulose pad placed all along one side of the polyhouse structure, water is trickled through this cellulose pad to provide the evaporative cooling effect. The air is sucked in by large fans and blown out of the greenhouse.

The material a greenhouse is made of can also greatly help with removing trapped heat from the structure, commonly used material is polycarbonate which, while being significantly more expensive than a poly sheet, it has the best heat transfer ability and hence is the best for climate control. Polycarbonate is also more durable but can be tough to work with due to its rigidity. The ultimate in greenhouse material technology is Glass greenhouses, both the most expensive and the best to control temperature and climate. A Glass greenhouse would ultimately require less frequent maintenance than any other type of greenhouse material. A glass greenhouse would be ideal for doing hydroponics in Gurgaon or Delhi which have very varying climates.

When looking at doing large scale hydroponics in India it is important to remember that we undergo usually intense summers followed by pleasant winters. Heating is not a necessary concern except in very extreme cold climates, but these climate zones are restricted to a few pockets and usually, the market for hydroponics is not present in these areas. This, however, should not discourage potential hydroponic farmers as the colder climates help with growing high-value exotics. These have great export and commercial value in urban areas.

Automation is a key aspect of designing any hydroponics system, water is reactive and transpiration and evaporation can change key water parameters of ph and EC and hence it is necessary standing monitor systems like the Bluelab Guardian monitor. When looking at automatic dosing the requirement stems from the need to reduce labor and time spent on maintaining the system thereby freeing up labor for harvest, maintenance, and packaging of the produce. Automation can be achieved through master controllers and peristaltic pump dosers. These control panels like the Bluelab Pro Controller are very efficient at monitoring and controlling dosing pumps such as the Bluelab Peripod to maintain the all-important parameters of pH and EC. The Bluelab connect software is a remote monitoring and control software that helps growers record data and control their dosing remotely. The Pro controller is a versatile device that can control up to 12, 3 or 4 pump dosing units and can be used to do up to 3 nutrients and one pH solution, this has great application for automating fruiting vegetable crop production. The Pro controller can set an individual on/off times for each of the pumps thus enabling the grower to maintain the right NPK mix for his crops throughout the growing cycle.

The Hydroponics system itself should be designed according to the crop to maximize efficiency and space. For example, Tomatoes need larger root spaces with changes to their NPK ratios during flowering but lettuce can be grown close together on pipes with very little nutrient use. Thus we use different hydroponic techniques for these plants, tomatoes are grown on DWC rafts or BATO bucket systems and NFT systems are used to grow leafy greens and herbs. The type of crop dictates the type of vessel the crop is grown in. While cheap and cost-effective, DWC trays may be cumbersome to maintain and flimsy meaning frequent repairs and upgrades. NFT and BATO systems are easier to maintain and dose, they also use water and space more efficiently.

One important factor of the use of all these technologies is the ability to monitor the factors affecting crop growth and thus giving us the necessary data to improve our crop growing process to produce better yields and more quality crops. The use of technology could help us mitigate the damage that factory farming over vast tracts of land has done to our environment. The introduction of a data-based A+B= C formula is only possible with careful data monitoring and interpretation to make a replicable plant growing formula for great yields and quality produce.

How to start a hydroponic business

How to start a hydroponic business

India is a country of tradition and culture, and agriculture has always played an integral part in both. Agriculture is often referred to as the backbone of our country. However, historically and scientifically speaking, agriculture marked the beginning of human civilization and human brain development and is one of our oldest professions (if not the most important).

For the past few decades or so, agriculture in India has been going from bad to worse in terms of quality, and as a business prospect. Dependence on traditional or inadequate equipment has lead to crop failures and loss. It is said that today, in India, the farmer’s child is no longer encouraged to follow the family business. And this is a scary thought when we depend on them to survive.

It’s 2018! And today, a new breed of farmer is born.

Hydroponics, a technology that enables farmers to grow in sterile environments using water, has changed the image of a farmer entirely. From engineers and newly graduated youngsters to large corporates and businessmen who may have never even gardened a day in their lives, farming is now moving into the mainstream.

If you would like to be a hydroponics farmer, this what you’ll need:

  1. Cleared land of a minimum half acre.

  2. Access to water and electricity.

  3. Road access.

  4. A credible hydroponic equipment supplier in India

  5. Funds

Apart from this, one would need to decide which variety of plants one would like to specialize in. Based on current trends, leafy greens and herbs appear to be the best way to start. FutureFarms has set up close to 40 of these farms in the country in a matter of two years, and these farmers appear to be enjoying immense success in both growth and revenues.
These plants grow on Nft (nutrient film technique) hydroponic systems. NFT systems like the FutureFarms Leaf Station Farms (LSF), allow the farmer to grow leafy greens and herbs in three times less space (compared to soil. The success of the business almost entirely depends on the quality of equipment used and the choice of vendor.

Within the plant group, you have chosen to grow, the next step is to decide the crop mix. If you plan to sell to a B2B (business to business) market, high volumes are required at bulk rates. This would mean that the priority of the farmer here would be to focus on a small variety of crops, in larger volumes. The idea here is to get contracts with major aggregators or bulk consumers at lower margins, but assured sales for the period of the contract. If you plan to be more of a brand or directly target consumers, the variety is key. In this strategy, you would not be looking at build sales with lower margins, but rather lower volumes with higher margins. Having a good portfolio of products, in this case, would be the key to target the end consumer.

Whether you take the plunge or not, hydroponics is here to stay and is certainly the future of farming in India.

Hydroponic Seeding Techniques

Hydroponic Seeding Techniques

Many people skip starting their own seeds for their Hydroponic kits in Chennai because of the time and effort to get them started, but there are some great reasons to start your growing own seeds hydroponically. For Hydroponic technology in India, It’s so much easier to just go to the store to pick up some seedlings to pop into your system and get growing, right?

The reason that we find nursery or store-bought saplings lacking for Hydroponic technology in India is that: you’re limited to what you can grow in your system. You have to choose from the options available at the store. However, if you start your own seeds, you can grow anything. This means you can grow your favorite heirlooms or even rare plants that aren’t found at many nurseries.

Adding seeding to your overall hydroponic system design means that your plants won’t go through any trauma or root damage from being transplanted into your system. This process may also introduce diseases or bugs into your hydroponic system, from the store.

The first time you start your own seeds for your hydroponic system may be a bit more expensive in the beginning because you need to buy more materials. Seeds need water, light, oxygen, and heat to grow. You really don’t need anything too special to grow your own seeds for your Hydroponic kit.

Inside of your grow tray, it can be beneficial to use a pot that works for your Seeds and their future as seedlings in your hydroponic set-up. You’ll want to use starter cubes, cocopeat or something like an Oasis plug. The key here for the seeding in your hydroponic system design is to use something that can withstand being immersed in water without dissolving, as it could clog up your system after transplanting.

Step by Step Instructions for Sprouting Seeds in a Hydroponic System

  • The first thing that you’ll want to do is to soak your starter cubes in clean water for about an hour. After they’ve been given a chance to soak, put a few seeds into the cube’s hole. You’ll want to add several just in case you have some seeds that don’t germinate. Once they sprout, you can thin out the weaker plants to allow the strongest to grow.

  • Prepare your grow tray with about an inch of clean water or nutrient solution that is at half strength. Arrange the light source and heating mat as needed. You can keep the lid on to keep the heat and moisture in the tray.

  • Put these planted cubes into the grow tray and add water or the half strength nutrient solution as the level goes down in the grow tray.

  • After about four days, you’ll start to see some sprouts emerging.

Role of Calcium and PH in Hydroponics

Role of Calcium and PH in Hydroponics

To understand the role of pH in hydroponics one has to backtrack to age-old soil growing. We know that soil has many macroelements and microelements essential for soil growing chief of which are nitrogen in the form of nitrates and phosphorus and potassium in their salt forms. Other microelements are calcium, magnesium, iron, molybdenum, zinc, copper, chlorine etc. The presence of these elements in their salt or chelate forms causes small acidic or basic compounds to form in the soil thus changing the overall pH of the soil. The effects of rain and other natural processes make changes to the pH of soil according to the changing seasons thus helping plants through their veg and flowering cycles. This has to be replicated in Hydroponics where we do not want natural processes to command our plant growth but rather induce pH and NPK ratio changes to achieve flowering or vegetative growth.

Hydroponics farming in India has to be careful about pH changes due to heat and water “hardness”. Water is considered “ hard” when there is a high amount of calcium present, This is a common problem in the water we get from bore wells and from corporation sources. The calcium in water can react with the hydroponic nutrients and make compounds out of the salt forms of the microelements that cannot undergo cation exchange with plant roots thus causing deficiencies and higher susceptibility to diseases. Therefore it is imperative that grower’s use RO or low EC water for hydroponic farming. The general guideline is a ppm below 30 or an EC below .3(mS/cm). Nutrients these days come with “soft” and “ hard” water versions which basically uses chemical forms to negate the effect of overactive calcium and preserve the ratios of mineral salts in the solution.

pH variation is achieved in hydroponics with the use of carefully formulated pH regulation solutions. These are usually made of phosphorus or nitrogen derived compounds such as phosphoric acid, nitric acid for acidic changes and sodium hydroxide in mild concentrations for basic changes. pH is recommended to be between 5.5 and 6.5 for hydroponics meaning a slightly acidic water medium. While some plants do like a more neutral or even slightly basic water medium, this is few and far between and 5.5-6.5 is the best bet to get great growth. pH dictates what nutrients are taken up. For example, better absorption of magnesium, molybdenum, and Sulphur happen at higher pH of about 6-7 but zinc, boron, and iron need lower pH of about 5-6, therefore, it may be useful to control pH during your growth stages based on the nutrients your plant needs more.

To sum up it is necessary to make sure the pH of your nutrient tank is measured and monitored whether doing hydroponics farming at home or on a commercial scale whether doing hydroponics farming in Bangalore<.a> or in Delhi and this can be done easily with the available equipment such as a pH pen as made by Bluelab or a pH test kit. The pen, of course, is the more accurate and simple option. For ph testing, it is imperative to have both the testing mechanisms and the regulation solutions. Make sure to use solutions from trusted vendors that do not mess with the NPK ratios or cause the growth of bad bacteria.

Veggies and herbs that grow in hydroponics method

Veggies and herbs that grow in hydroponics method

Growing vegetables or food crop hydroponically for yourself or family is great start towards sustainability and safety. You get to enjoy the confidence and the pride of eating food that you grew yourself, controlling all of its inputs so that you know what’s in your food. If you start to think, though, that you would like to branch out and start growing food for sale, it is important to be a bit more selective about what you grow.

Hydroponic greens are common in most marketplaces and are highly recommended by hydroponics suppliers in India. They are a staple of hydro production and chances are, you will not be able to provide a much better product in the marketplace as there are no established hydroponic growers in India. There are, however, several other crops that can be grown hydroponically and provide a much greater return than lettuce or greens and it would be great to get to know them.

Before setting out to grow any hydro crop for profit, it is important to perform a market analysis. Visit farmers’ markets, local grocery stores, and any place where folks who care about the source of their food go to shop. This is important because the vast majority of the market does not care where their food comes from. As hydroponic farming in India is fairly new not a lot of people have heard of the same or know about its benefits. This exercise will tell you what is being grown and what you can expect to charge. This varies greatly from region to region, and it should not be assumed that because one crop is profitable in one area, it will be in another.

Regardless of which crop is selected for profitability, it must have some similar characteristics if it is to be successfully marketed. It must be a crop that realizes a high yield per unit area or otherwise has a quick turnaround in its growth cycle.

The crop should be one that cannot be grown year-round in your particular region with conventional field production. It should also be apparent that the quality of the hydroponically grown crop is at least as good, if not better, than its field-grown counterpart. A few crops that you can explore that grow well in hydroponics are. Basil is a tropical crop that fares well in hot and humid climates and can be grown very well using NFT technology. Basil grows well and is a prefered crop for hydroponic farms in Tamil Nadu. The other crop that hydroponic farmers in India prefer to grow is Lettuce, this is because there is a huge captive demand for lettuces both from organised players like supermarkets as well as QSR restaurants. Lettuces which are also referred to as salad greens in India enjoy a very healthy image. India’s new middle class has recently embraced the salad culture of which lettuce forms the centerpiece. Moreover, its international appeal and the healthy image is causing a lot of micro players like local roadside eateries and sandwich shops to switch over from cabbage to lettuce. Kale Is another crop that is preferred by growers as this is a fairly new crop but offers a variety of post-processing options thereby making it a very versatile option. Kale is extremely healthy and if often referred to as a superfood. Kale is used in everything from juices to chips, in a variety of forms like dried herbs and pastes. Kale is a relatively new and is not very easy to find in supermarkets, making it an attractive crop option. Spinach or palak a is a very popular Indian green consumed throughout the country. Spinach grows very well in NFT systems and can be grown easily year round.

In conclusion greens like basil and lettuces are prefered exotic crops whereas kale is a great option for a speciality grower who would like to focus on a crop as it offers a wide variety of post-processing opportunities. Palak on the other hand is a product that is consumed across the country and finding a market for the same is very easy.