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Hydroponics Crash Course

What is Hydroponics  

In the conversation of some of the best ways to grow in an urban environment, hydroponics is one of the most common words thrown around. Hydroponics is an emerging method of growing plants that can seemingly be both extremely simple and complicated at the same time. This article will serve as an intro into the ideas of hydroponics and a jumping off point for future articles and as a way for our readers to start their own research. 

The basic idea of hydroponics is eliminating the need to use traditional soil for a grow medium as well as providing alternative supplements to plants such as light and nutrients that increase productivity and the possible density of growth. 

There have been several different systems created that all fall into the group label of “hydroponics”. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks. However, understanding these limitations can help you plan an efficient garden even in spaces you didn’t think was a possibility. 

The Need for New Techniques 

So why is there a rush to change the way we grow our food? Put simply, our current agriculture system is going to have a difficult time keeping up with the increased calorie and nutrient demands that will occur over the next few decades. 

According to the Princeton Student Climate Initiative Contributor Camille Boylan, the agricultural sector will need to increase its food production by around 70% by the year 2050. Current growth rates will not be able to keep up with number. 

There is also a large environmental impact. Almost 70% of the world's water usage is dedicated to agricultural production. As well, human expansion for farm field development is destroying much of the world's biodiversity and limits the amount of dietary variety that is available in urban areas and food deserts. 

Why Hydroponics 

So, what benefits would hydroponics have to help address these issues? By controlling more variables in the grow process food production can require much less resources. For example, a hydroponic system can run on up to 90% less water compared to traditional methods. As well, these farms are between 3-10x more space efficient. 

Below we’ve included a few different types of hydroponics systems so you can a little bit more yourself. We plan on taking a deeper dive into each in the future. Follow this link for an overview or on a specific method below to learn more. 


The Nutrient Film Technique is one of the most popular and common methods when growing leafy greens. Its setup includes creating a channel where seedlings are suspended above an open flow channel that provides nutrients to the roots. This system is relatively cheap and can be easily adapted based on space and production requirements. 

One of the simplest hydroponics setups, DWC works by suspending the grow medium in a nutrient solution. This solution is oxygenated by an air pump. The depth of the reservoir allows for a more developed root system that is more beneficial to long growing plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, or other fruiting plants. 

Drip irrigation involves pumping the nutrient solution through tubbing and then using drip emitters to feed the plants from the top down. The nutrient solution can be used once or recirculated through the system.  Using different containers and grow medium allows for different applications and plant choices. 

The Ebb and Flow hydroponics method utilizes a pattern of flooding a larger garden bed and letting it dry out to prevent rot. One of the benefits of this system includes the fact that the bed can be modified to accommodate root vegetables, which isn’t possible with other methods. 


Hydroponics has a wide variety of techniques and methods to achieve the goal of growing plants. Despite these differences every method can be uniquely tailored to fit the needs of each grower. We look forward to exploring more about these techniques on our journey and hope you join us along the way. 


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