May 2, 2019
Hydroponics is really just a fancy way of saying "grown in water." Where traditional gardens use soil to deliver nutrients to plants, hydroponics simply uses a different growing environment - water - to deliver those same nutrients to the plant's roots. The science of modern hydroponic growing is at least 80 years old and there are many ways to set up a hydroponic system - Deep Water Culture, Nutrient Film Technique, Aeroponics, Ebb and Flow and Drip Systems - and just like anything else, some systems are better than others depending on what and where you are growing. It might be fun to go down the hydroponic rabbit hole, but luckily all you really need to know is that it works.
The word "hydroponics" might sound like it requires a lot of water, but it's quite the opposite. Because hydroponics are generally closed, recirculating systems, we are able to target all water directly to the plants without creating runoff or watering a larger-than-necessary area. As a result, in a vertical system like we developed for Lettuce Grow, we are able to grow a head of lettuce using less than 1 gallon of water when it would normally require 20 gallons in the soil. Besides the water savings, since hydroponics doesn't use soil, it doesn't involve many of the usual environmental impacts of farming, including soil erosion and runoff of nasty pesticides and toxic chemicals.
Here's where it gets really cool for all of us instant-gratification types: plants in hydroponic systems tend to grow approx 20-30% faster because they have the perfect amount of water and nutrients necessary to thrive, giving gardeners more frequent and abundant harvests. It's also generally "easier" on the farmer than traditional farming - watering is automated, weeding is eliminated, plants are more resistant to pests and disease, so the farmer (that's you!) isn't constantly battling them.
What's really cool is that these systems require zero soil - you can grow on concrete, on patios, on rooftops and other unused urban space right where the eaters are in our most densely populated areas. In addition to thriving in space that wouldn't be otherwise available for growing, hydroponic systems can also be incredibly space saving. For example, our Lettuce Grow Farmstand can produce the equivalent harvest you'd expect from 40 square feet of raised beds. Because they take so much less space, hydroponic systems can also be taken indoors and still provide significant harvests.