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|Hydroponics: Past, Present, Future 2-2|
Hydroponics today is also referred to as "soilless culture." Soilless culture may or may not use a growing medium but, in either case, it is the nutrients and moisture that plants are seeking out. By raising plants in soilless culture
you can be sure that every plant gets the precise amount of water and nutrients it needs.
Currently the US has corporate hydroponic farms that
cover as many as
60 acres and produce large quantities of hydroponic produce. Often this
produce, is shipped throughout the US. In addition, there are thousands
of smaller hydroponic farms that cover 1/8 -1 acre that usually grow
premium hydroponic produce and market it in their local area. The most
common hydroponic crop grown in the US is tomatoes, followed by
cucumbers, lettuce, herbs, peppers and flowers.
The demand for premium produce is so high in the US that the number of current hydroponic farms cannot meet
the demand. Every day hundreds of thousands of pounds of hydroponic tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are flown in from Canada, Europe and Mexico.
In addition to the commercial applications of hydroponics, there are many home gardeners that maintain
ponic systems. Because more crops can be grown in a small space, it is environmentally friendly and produces premium produce, hydroponic culture lends itself well to a small garden. A hydroponic garden can be set up indoors, in a windowsill, a patio, balcony or rooftop, making gardening available to those who do not have a traditional yard or access to soil.
|World wide, hydroponics has become a well established technology. In arid regions, such as Mexico and the Middle East, India and Israel, hydroponic culture is helping to feed growing populations. Nearly every country in the world uses hydroponic culture on some scale. In some cases, hydroponic produce is strictly considered a premium or gourmet product. In others, hydroponic technology is utilized for producing staple crops and grain. Hydroponic technology is even used by some zoos for producing animal feed.||
The US Navy is growing fresh vegetables on submarines in highly specialized recirculating hydroponic systems
to help supply fresh vegetables for the crews.
NASA is experimenting with recirculating hydroponic systems to be used to feed people in space. Many experiments have been conducted in laboratories and on recent space shuttle missions.
With today's technology, a small hydroponic grower with just 5,500 square ft. of greenhouse space (that's 1/8th
of an acre) can grow as much as 50,000 lbs. of hydroponic tomatoes annually.
As a concept, hydroponics has been around since the beginning of time. As a science, it is quite new. Hydro-
ponics has only been used in commercial production for approximately 50 years.
In that time, it has been applied to both indoor and outdoor farms, to growing premium produce, to feeding
third world countries and to applications in the space program.
The Future of Hydroponics
As the technology is refined, hydroponics may become even more productive, feeding people around the world
or even in space. Other areas where hydroponics could be used in the future include growing seedlings for reforestation, establishing orchards, growing ornamental crops, flowers and shrubs and integration with aqua-
culture, where the wastes provides nutrients to the plants and the plants help to purify the water the fish are living
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