Hydroponics Gardening – Moving Beyond the Hobby Stage

Hydroponics Gardening – Moving Beyond the Hobby Stage

Hydroponic Gardening can be a fun activity with rewarding results. These results, however, beg the question can I do this to make money as a commercial venture. We then look to expand out of the hobby growing scenario and move to a more serious production-based method of growing. This move fueled by a desire to see hydroponics as a viable, sustainable and profitable venture would mean changing the outlook from a hobby grower to one that will use data and replicable models to attain growth throughout the year.

Firstly commercial hydroponics farming in Hyderabad or Chennai or anywhere will first need a careful examination of existing resources. Top of the list being open flat land, water, and electricity. Next would be to specify the type of hydroponics, climate control, and polyhouse that one will use to achieve this kind of farming on a large scale. These components will decide the kind of crops that you can grow throughout the year. One must remember to survey the market and see the viability of growing particular crops at a particular time of the year. For example, one doing hydroponics in Gurgaon it would profitable to grow lettuce in summer but resort to things like swiss chard or kale in winter when lettuce supply is usually more abundant.

The type of hydroponic equipment used will dictate what one can grow in their farm, A NFT set up would likely work for leafy greens and herbs but would not be successful in growing larger rooted crops. A DWC system or dutch bucket system would make the cultivation of tomatoes or strawberries much easier. Another factor to consider is the type of climate and temperature for growing a plant needs, set temperatures can be achieved with the use of climate control such as air conditioners, fan and pad systems, and even chiller tanks to reduce water temperatures. Material that a polyhouse is made of can also help with temperature control.

The most important aspect is the market. Does it make sense to invest a vast amount in a technologically advanced farm with better quality and quantity of output? Does my market need the benefits that hydroponic growing give? Does it market as a better product than its soil or organic counterparts? The answer to this can only be tested with a marketable product, there is always a need in one part or another for production of a particular crop variety and hence one must constantly look for new opportunities to refine current crop production methods to achieve better yields or quality and look at new crops for more options of products to take to market. Packaging and collateral educating people of the benefits of these crops is also something farmers must focus on to spread the word of the little-known benefits of this type of farming.

The shift from hobby to commercial growing means more thought on the overall product than just the growing, with hydroponics we can use data to follow fool proof growing SOP’s to get recurring and consistent quantities and qualities of the crop but selling the end result is the main gateway to running your farm profitably.

Types of mediums that are used for hydroponic gardening

Types of mediums that are used for hydroponic gardening

Hydroponics by definition does not use any soil, soil which has traditionally been one of the core components of farming/gardening was the best format for nutrient delivery. The soil plays 2 important functions, the first it breaks down the fertilizing agents so that the plant can absorb the same via its roots, second, it also supports the plants so that they can stand upright. Hydroponics omits the use of soil altogether. They instead use different media for different purposes, techniques, systems etc. A “medium” refers to the substance that is used to replace the soil and provide support to the plant. This medium can be made from different materials, either man made of synthetic in nature. Coco peat is a natural material that is made using crushed coconut, it has very high wicking ability and water retention property thus allowing it to retain a significant amount of water this allows the root zone to be kept cool in hot climate zones. Another example is rock wool which is a man-made material that.

It’s created from rocks that have been melted and spun until it’s become fiber much like fiberglass. They are fashioned into cube-like shapes and are preferred in commercial farming as they can be used directly from the seeding stage and no transplanting is required thus reducing the labor required. The ultimately the choice of media for NFT hydroponic systems is one that has a high wicking ability and is easily available for large-scale consumption as this is essential for commercial hydroponic farming. Some of the most popular choices for mediums are as follows. LECA or lightly expanded clay aggregate these are clay balls that are very light, nontoxic and infinitely reusable. This is preferred by a commercial farming as unlike a lot of other media options this one is reusable, hence this is good for commercial farming. Rockwool is another popular medium choice, the advantage is that they come in slabs and are very easy to work with, they can be seeded very easily and the same plug can be used right from the nursery till harvest, eliminating the need for transplanting. The drawback with rock wool is that it is not reusable and they are not biodegradable this is a concern for some growers, the plugs are also expensive and in some cases may increase the cost of production. Cocopeat is a low-cost option that can be used, they have superior wicking ability and great water retention ability this helps cool plants while growing in higher temperature zones.

Other options included sand, perlite, vermiculite etc there are so many grow mediums to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics. Choosing the right to grow medium can make the difference between success and failure in the commercial farming. While making the right choice for you, always look for consistent supply, low cost and wicking ability, retention ability and aeration.

Hydroponics and Grow Lights

Hydroponics and Grow Lights

Artificial lighting for plant growth has been one of the best additions to the agriculture-technology marriage. Replacing the sun as the light source has been a long and hard journey, juggling efficiency and power consumption v/s cost. In the current scenario, lights exist in adjustable and plant-specific spectrums with customizations available in all aspects. The current research into lighting technologies has brought forth more regulation and better standards to look for when discussing the right lights for a setup. We will discuss these specifications and the power that hydroponics and lighting offer growers in this post.

Lighting for indoor growing has 3 main bulb types:

1.Metal Halide or High-Pressure Sodium bulbs

2.CFL and T5 fluorescents.


Light from the spectrum which consists of IR-VIBGYOR-UV is emitted in grow lights. These are emitted in various ratios usually 60:40 Blue to red or 80:20 red to blue, the former is used for leafy growth and the latter for flowering growth.

The general rule for lights being put in a hydroponic System design is that leafy plants get about 30W per sqft and flowering plants get 50W per square feet. This is a very rough figure and even the actual wattage output from a LED light is hard to monitor. The accuracy of these values is overstated by manufacturers. The important values to note are the Photosynthetic active radiation that plants can take in which is measured in Micromoles per cm.

Hydroponics Technology in India can greatly benefit from the introduction of artificial lighting to enable year-round growing in indoor farms. For example, someone doing Hydroponics farming in Hyderabad or places with extreme climates would be best placed to use indoor growing with lights to reduce the dependence on seasons for rain and a good crop. They could use these advanced lighting systems coupled with climate control and hydroponics can help hyper localize produce sourcing and bring clean, traceable food sources right to the doorstep of consumers.

Production with lights would ensue much lower turnaround times, 24X7 growing ability, ability to grow without any constraints of climate and cyclic seasons. It would also be able to provide the ultimate in protected environment to grow plants without the use of any kind of pesticide or insecticide.

Indoor lighting systems are the future of food production with more research going into bringing out better and more efficient lighting systems that are cost effective and have the right kind of PAR and ppfd values.

The current problem with the industry inhibiting the uptake of LED or other light-based growing systems is the high price off-of the hardware and electricity. There is also no standardization in the ratings given to the light systems and their specs, for example, some manufacturers claim’s of a 2000W output could mean an actual output of 465W but another player could claim and actually deliver an output of 600W.

It is important for more research to go into the efficacy of lighting systems and more manufacturers would need to come together to standardize and bring normalcy to the LED industry.

Common problems encountered with Hydroponic Gardening

Common problems encountered with Hydroponic Gardening

If you’re doing hydroponic farming at home, here are some common problems you probably face with hydroponics in areas like Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi and the rest of India. We will also cover some quick fix solutions for these problems! If you’re not a hydroponics urban gardener, what are you waiting for? Head on over to the FutureFarms Urban Store and pick up your very own hydroponic kit in India!

Water Management

You will find that the water level in your system goes down every couple of days. This is because of plant uptake as well as evaporation of water. When the water level in your system goes below a certain point, your plants will start to suffer from dehydration. The easiest way to overcome this is to top up the water in your reservoir every 2-3 days!

It’s not enough to ensure your plants get sufficient water, you also need to give your plants nutrients in the water. Additionally, you need to maintain your keep the water slightly acidic to maximise plant intake of nutrients. To keep your plants well hydrated and well fed, check the EC and pH of your water every 2-3 days and add nutrients accordingly.

Pest Management

While hydroponics has bypassed about 90% of the pest issues faced by soil grown crops, there’s still the 10% of fungal infections and air borne pests that may plague your crops. The most common fungal diseases you may face are root rot and sclerotinia while some familiar air borne pests are mealybugs, aphids, leaf miners and white flies.

There are three layers of protection you can provide your plant against these assailants. A physical barrier such as an insect net will keep airborne pests at bay but will burn a hole in your pocket. Instead, keep your system protected from rainfall and spray your foliage with organic plant extracts like chili, garlic or neem oil to extend protection from fungus and pests. You could also spray microbes such as Trichoderma and Pseudomonas to boost your plants immunity against diseases.

System Management

After a few weeks of using your hydroponic system, you may find algae growing inside your NFT channels or in your reservoir. Water abundant areas exposed to sunlight will foster algae growth. You may also find that there are salt deposits at the bottom of your gully or reservoir tank.

Flush your system with Flora Kleen to dissolve the extra salt deposits, kill algae and fungal diseases. The great thing about Flora Kleen is that it can be used while your plants are growing in your system! Also, ensure you clean your system with a brush after every cycle to for optimum results!

Plant Management

After transplanting your seedlings into your hydroponic system if they appear to look droopy and colorless and proceed to die over the next couple of days, this is because of transplant shock. To avoid this, ensure that the roots of your seedling are not exposed to air for long durations while transplanting. Once you remove the seedlings from the seeding mix, keep the roots in water till they are moved to the hydroponic system.

In certain climates, if your hydroponic system doesn’t have access to electricity you may find that your plants are dead by the end of the day. It is important to keep your system running all the time so as to keep the roots oxygenated. If your area is prone to frequent power cuts, use alternative sources of electricity to power your system! Solar power, diesel generators or inverters are just some options.

With these basics in mind anyone can start hydroponic farming at home! We at FutureFarms provide you with holistic hydroponic solutions to help with hydroponic farming at home! Get in touch to pick up your very own hydroponic kit in India over here.