Hydroponics: Your Sci-Fi-Sounding Solution to a Soil-Free Garden Paradise

95% of the planet’s food is grown in topsoil, and the damage of modern farming practices has meant that in the last 150 years, half of productive topsoil has been lost. The United Nations (UN) has even estimated that topsoil could run out in the next 60 years; a pressing issue given the Earth’s population is set to increase to 9 billion by 2050.

In the last 150 years, half of all top soil has been lost, largely due to industrial agricultural practises.

In the critically acclaimed documentary, “Kiss the Ground”, the subject of soil health (or lack thereof) is explored in great depth. In broad strokes, the film covers the damage to topsoil wrought by tilling, monocropping, and pesticide use. It is a fantastic watch to learn more about the often overlooked issue of soil health. And thrown into the mix here is the need to mitigate climate change by using land to sequester carbon. Stopping and reversing deforestation, preserving bogs and saving grassland habitats is essential for the fight against climate change. All of these are threatened by agriculture. 

What is Hydroponics and how can it Help?

One solution is to use less soil, and this is where hydroponics comes in. Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water rather than soil. It may sound odd to the uninitiated, but plants don’t actually need soil to survive; just the nutrients that the soil provides. For hydroponically-grown plants, a  nutrient solution is added to the water to keep plants fed, and a light system used to simulate sunlight. 

Hydroponic growing increases yields as root systems require less growth to extract nutrients. This means plants can be grown closer together, and have more energy to grow the fruits, vegetables, seeds and other produce we rely upon. 

Because hydroponically-grown plants require less energy for root growth, more energy is put into growth of the parts of the plant we consume, resulting in a larger crop yield.

Counterintuitively, hydroponics also uses less water than traditional growing, which is why it has taken off so well in places like California which suffer from droughts. It is also a good system for places where planting is difficult, such as urban environments, or even indoors.

Hydroponics works best with the sorts of unseasonal veg we Brits often buy at the shop; salad, tomatoes and peppers. It is estimated that 40% of bagged salad products are thrown away, so using hydroponics to grow your own could be a great way of avoiding food waste, as well as dodging the plastic packaging it comes in. 

Trying out Hydroponics at Home

A whole range of products are on offer to help you engage in a bit of urban, indoor gardening and reduce your plastic and food waste in the process. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best on offer below, so you can grow fresh food in your own home.

Exoponics 

This business, set up by two idealistic graduates, has a vision for feeding urban populations around the world. They’re first product – the Exopod – is an easy-to-use, accessible system to anyone wanting to try out their very own hydroponic-garden at home.

The Exopod comes in the form of jars made from recyclable materials which will beautifully adorn your kitchen or windowsill. All of their packaging is also biodegradable making this product an eco-friendly choice. 

Currently, Expoponics offer three plant seeds; tomato, basil and coriander, with a view to branch out with future products. Their pods are available on Etsy at a reasonable price, perfect for gift-buying. 

Botanium  

Botanium offers a pleasing array of vase-shaped products that will brighten up your living space starting at £69. 

Their seed pods will get you growing a wide range of produce including jalapenos, oakleaf lettuce and herbs. 

Click and Grow 

Click and Grow was born when their CEO was inspired after hearing about NASA growing plants in space. Subsequently, he developed their automated watering, light and nutrient hydroponic systems. Their mission is to improve people’s mental health and stress levels through greening their homes. 

Click and Grow’s “Indoor Gardens” are a little on the pricey side with a range of products between £100 – £600. However, they do have a delightfully large variety of seed pods including many different flowers, leafy greens and fruit. 

Seed Pantry 

Seed pantry boasts an automated system that can easily fit on your windowsill or on your desk. Their square pod, which comes with a fitted LED light, is perfect for growing salad and flowers, small fruit and vegetables. 

At £72 it’s in the upper-middle of pricing but it’s compact, pleasing design is worth the cash.

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