Newark, NJ

Are Hydroponics the Future of Farming?

Eric Sentell

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Scientist records data about hydroponic plantsThis Is Engineering

Industrial agriculture requires:

  • panoramic vistas of open land;
  • small lakes of water pumped from underground aquifers to soak the crops;
  • chemical fertilizer to enrich the soil and nurture the plants;
  • pesticides to eliminate plant-eating insects; and
  • herbicides to kill weeds competing for water and nutrients.

Or does it?

Bowery Farming

Bowery Farming grows vegetables without soil, irrigation, sunlight, or chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides.

They produce beautiful, nutritious food year-round, out of a warehouse in an industrial park near the airport of Newark, NJ.

Bowery Farming is one of the first industrial-scale hydroponic farms.

Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil. Bowery Farming grows its produce in purified water under LED lights that mimic sunlight. Fish living in the water of the plants produce waste that fertilizes them.

The water circulates through their facility, getting purified and reused repeatedly. They estimate their process requires 90% less water than traditional agriculture.

Benefits of Hydroponics

Climate change is causing more extreme droughts throughout the planet. The population of earth continues to grow, and with it, demand for clean drinking water.

If industrial-scale hydroponics can grow food independent of weather, rainfall, temperature, or season, then it could produce far more food than traditional agriculture even while climate change wreaks havoc with typical growing seasons.

If warehouse-greenhouses like Bowery Farming can produce food with a fraction of the water use, then our species will enjoy a much-needed hedge against major droughts amid increasing demand for clean drinking water.

Bowery Farming and other greenhouse producers maintain an extremely clean, sterile environment for their crops. They require workers to pass through a decontamination room and put on hazmat suits to prevent bringing in insects, seeds of weeds, or other potential problems.

That means they don't need to use fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides, which means zero run-off of those chemicals into streams, rivers, and oceans.

Hydroponics also take up a fraction of the land because plants can be grown vertically in racks. Urban environments could include hydroponics, helping address "food deserts."

Many people in inner cities lack easy access to grocery stores. Small community gardens attempt to address the problem by providing fresh produce. Imagine if an abandoned factory building or an old skyscraper became a large-scale hydroponic farm.

Hydroponics Are the Future

Creating industrial-scale hydroponics may take tremendous set-up and advanced technology, but the long-term benefits will be worth it.

Imagine if industrial agriculture became hydroponic. Millions of acres of land could be reforested and help suck carbon out of the atmosphere. Man-made lakes and canals could be dug to collect rainwater and replenish aquifers. Human life would become much more sustainable.

As climate change continues to affect our lives, it's likely that both private investors and the government will support a nation-wide shift toward hydroponic farming.

Bowery Farming has investments from the CEO of Uber and Google's parent company, Alphabet. Other venture capitalists and billionaires will follow suit as industrial hydroponic farms prove themselves as a concept.

Government subsidies and loans will likely follow as our society increasingly recognizes the urgency of revolutionizing agriculture. Hydroponics will become solar panels.

The future of farming will be hydroponics, and the future can't arrive a moment too soon.

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