Ever seen a palak leaf the size of a one-litre bottle? No exaggeration, these are the kind of results you get when using hydroponics to grow your veggies, says Alex Khathing, the agricultural expert or ‘Chief Growing Officer’ as he is better known at Future Farms in Perungudi.
If you aren’t convinced that bigger is better, a study (2000) published in in Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses confirmed that hydroponic produce can be superior in nutrition and taste, but it also depends on the hydroponic solutions used.
“You can expect your fruits and vegetables to be 10-20% bigger, not to mention tastier. As the roots don’t have to go searching for nutrients as they normally would in soil, given that it is already dissolved in the water, you are guaranteed nutritious produce” says Alex, who has had significant experience with the growing process first at an assignment in Thailand and now in India.
He also points out that water is a uniform medium, and so the nutrients used in the water are distributed equally. “This means every fruit from a particular crop cycle will have the same nutritional value. A metric of the same for soil-based crops is near impossible as different sections of soil have variable elements of composition like minerals, worms, water content and so on.”
With nutrients fed directly to the roots, another advantage is that plants grow faster. According to researchers, a crop cycle of lettuce grown in soil would take 55 to 60 days as opposed to hydroponics-grown lettuce, which would take substantially less time: 45 to 50 days.
Of course, all this is provided the whole process is done properly with nutrients used in the right proportions. Too much food for the roots or too little oxygenation can have adverse effects on your plants. And unlike soil-grown varieties, here a power cut which would mean no water circulation through a pump and this could cost you.
“But your plants should be alright for at least a week without power,” assures Alex, relating their farm’s recent loss of power during the floods in Chennai.