Responsible Growing using Hydroponics Systems

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Growing high quality greens is important to us just as it is important to be an environmentally responsible grower. It’s not enough in our opinion to produce great looking vegetables if it comes at a cost of environmental degradation.

A lot of people have seen our various hydroponics systems over the years and have probably wondered why we use certain materials preferrable to others. The reason is because we put alot of thought behind designing and building systems which need to be fundamentally sustainable, which means lowering consumption of consumables therefore lowering operational expenses, while promoting re-usability, re-cycling, and re-generation of everything as much as possible.

REDUCE WASTE

We consider waste creation as a serious problem in producing vegetables. While traditional farms often create small landfills of discarded plastic mulch and irrigation materials, hydroponic farms create waste in the multitude of products and planting materials consumed.

Take for example, the choice of substrate or grow media. Most newcomers into hydroponics growing undoubtedly read articles online or watch videos that feature rockwool media as the de-facto way to grow leafy greens such as lettuce. Rockwool, a fibrous substrate used locally as a fire-resistant, heat and sound insulator for building walls, is a popular media because it is considered a clean substrate.

The problem with rockwool is that it’s not re-usable after each grow cycle and it needs to be disposed of. Certain countries are taking charge in finding ways to up-cycle rockwool instead of being sent to our ever-increasing landfills. This means that as a grower, you’ll have to factor in the cost of buying new rockwool each and every grow cycle. Costs that directy take away from profitability not to mention the environmental cost associated with using rockwool.

LESS IS MORE

Our preferred substrate media is cocopeat or cococoir. The Philippines is abundant in coconuts so the cost savings is significant to re-use the same planting media over and over again.

More importantly, cocopeat is fully compostable and recyclable for succeeding grow cycles. In fact, through repeated use of cocopeat and composting, plant yields become bigger and more pronounced taste improvements can be realized through the expanding microbiological activities occurring in the cocopeat.

And because of an actively growing microbiology through the repeated use of cocopeat, the expanding colonies of beneficial fungi and bacteria greatly contribute to the plant’s defense system which completely removes the need for pesticides and fungicides.

RAINWATER HARVESTING

Most growers use tapwater or shallow well water to use in their hydroponics systems. The water quality parameters vary so widely in pH and TDS and will most likely need to be run through a UV light to kill off any pathogen causing bacteria. A common problem with using tapwater is high chlorine content or heavy metals from the rust in old pipes. Shallow wells tend to have high bicarbonate content which needs to run through an activated carbon filter. Expensive Reverse Osmosis (RO) filter setups are often required to treat water before being used in the hydroponics system to ensure good quality grows.

The best quality water is rainwater. By collecting rainwater from the greenhouse gutters, this not only saves on the local utility meter, it also gives you a clean source of water to grow clean, fresh vegetables. To size out how large your reservoir capacity should be, you’ll need to calculate your consumption during the dry-season and make sure you have enough storage capacity during the rainy season.

SAVE WATER

Another feature important to hydroponics growing is a recirculation system where the consumption of water and nutrient solution is minimized. Water loss in a recirculation system compared to non-recirculation systems is a no-brainer. We’ve grown a full cycle of lettuce consuming only less than 1/2 liter of water per plant for the whole cycle.

OVERUSING FERTILIZERS

And another major problem for growers, we tend to over-apply nitrogen in our hydroponics systems leading to massive nitrogen runoff problems in our water source. For static systems such as Kratky using containers or iceboxes, it is even recommended to dump out the nutrient solution after every cycle. Responsible growers find ways to alter the nutrient solution after every cycle to balance the solution rather than dumping out the mixture and starting over.

Check out our calculator to set your own PPM targets to make your own recipe.

Growing high quality greens is important to us just as it is important to be an environmentally responsible grower. It’s not enough in our opinion to produce great looking vegetables if it comes at a cost of environmental degradation.

REDUCE CARBON FOOTPRINT

Indoor or outdoor greenhouse hydroponics growers are at the mercy of relying on the local electric utility to provide power to run the pumps. Some NFT setups are at risk of disaster if there’s a prolonged brownout, a problem not apparent with DWC systems.

We take our builds a step further by installing a solar powered energy source to provide all the necessary power to run the pumps and devices. Releasing our dependency on the electric utility and their exorbitant service fees is great for improving profitability, but by doing so, we know that the vegetables we grow are not reliant on the burning of fossil fuels and the added release of carbon into the atmosphere.

SUSTAINABLE AND RESPONSIBLE GROWING OF VEGETABLES

As growers and food-producers, we are committed to sustainably producing food that is fresh, clean, and healthy to eat. But just as well, it is important for us to responsibly grow vegetables and take the environmental footprint into consideration. Reducing, re-using, and recycling is a concept that all farmers and growers should be mindful of not just for commercial viability but also because it’s the morally right thing to do.