Being “green” dictates using our natural resources wisely and sustain-ably, learning from our most experienced teacher: Mother Nature, the master sustainer.
Our need for food has greatly increased and is projected to rise as with exploding populations.
The current dominant methods of agriculture greatly stress land through monoculture, planting one crop commercially on fertile land destroying its biological diversity. Organic sustainability is a different concept to every region. The wisest of the west reignited the organic movement. The well intentioned in Kuwait adopted it though I beg to differ on how.
My vision of sustainability is Kuwait is recirculating fossil composts “oil” from dead biomass to living, Transforming oil back to edible matter using mother natures amazing carbon reducing mechanisms “ plants growing ” . The harvest results in a carbon biomass that in time might be oil again. All this is done at the origin: Kuwait.
Webster’s describes hydroponics simply as:This process is carbon positive ( plants absorb carbon) flipping the status quo equation. The burning of fuel to transport would be a mistake of the past. The doorway for this sustainable vision starts with understanding hydroponics then subsequently organic hydroponics aka Bioponics . First we’ll start with easier of the two.
” A method of growing plants without soil; in water containing dissolved nutrients.”
Hydroponics is not a new science or method. Many plants existing in nature are truly hydroponic like rice, water plants, watercress and others.
One of the first examples in recorded history for its use by humans was right around the neighborhood in the hanging gardens of Babylon. Nature lovers back then used mass irrigation with some plants surviving only with nutrient rich water underneath (nutrient film technique).
Elsewhere on earth, native tribes of the Americas circa 1000 BC had a Newton apple smack on the head discovery. Seeds of certain non-water food crops left on floating log boats near nutrient rich and oxygenated waterfalls mistakenly sprouted and thrived. This discovery led the civilization to create floating farms called Chinampas, solving their food issues.
Soilless agriculture is key to farming in extreme conditions that lack fertile soil. This includes deserts, the frozen poles and even in space!
When done right, hydroculture breaks the notion that deserts are infertile lands turning them into the world’s premier food source.Yes, Growing skills needed for our record breaking hot desert environment are comparable to what NASA is searching for! Any person who has experienced a dust storm will know what I mean.
You might be surprised and doubtful about this technology, opting to just put a seed in sand with no investment rather than bother to spend time and money on hydroponic systems. I truly believe the former statement is wrong if we look at the facts. Occupied Palestine grew their own produce creating self-sustainability and excess export to Europe from the Negev desert before I was even born (1978). The United States leased the technology through the environmental laboratory in Arizona State University, leading a third of tomatoes consumed by its population as hydroponically grown in Arizona’s highland deserts. The list goes on so it always breaks my heart when I hear my fellow citizens who, blessed with Kuwait’s share of our mighty Sun, limited but available freshwater supply and subsidized electricity, eluded that we are an importing country because of conditional limitations. The truth is our only limiting factor is will and lack of education on the subject matter.
Why Go Hydro?
Control and conservation of nutrients
You control what your plants eat by providing optimum nutrition required for the intended crop. We feed the plants what they need to grow good tasting, highly nutritious food and in turn using less nutrient and get more fruits. A high NCR (nutrient conversion ratio- nutrients in/food out) follows. This saves our environment from the excess waste water run-off current agricultural methods produce.
Conservation of water
In recirculating hydroponics systems, the only way for water out is through plant uptake saving 80-90% of wastewater versus best practice agriculture. In Kuwait, evaporation due to high heat and overwatering attributed to sand’s inept water holding capacity makes that number climb to an astounding saving of 1000% and more.
Better health and faster growth rate reducing need for pesticides
The word pesticide is a marketing illusion; the true name is life killer or biocide. If people call them what they are, sales would reflect people’s concerns. Although the public would not buy a poison, they would buy an enemy, a.k.a pest killer. A poison does not select what it kills hence the disappearance of the honeybee. Their effect on large bodied mammals are debatable only from their makers. One must admit that recent trends in diseases at early ages raises more than an eyebrow. In hydroponics, we solve the problem of “pests” from its roots by removing what approximately 60% unwanted bugs call a dream home, humid soil, and therefore nulling reproduction.
No need for herbicides
A weed is what we call any crop that grows in a place we do not want it to. In hydroponic systems, there is only room for the intended crop to grow in plastic channels. Weeds are not an issue at all, leaving them to do what they do best, colonize the land saved from mass agriculture. This removes the need for herbicides or more appropriately named plant killers used to save labor of hand weeding.
Optimum utilization of plant genetic ability,
Providing the optimum conditions and nutrition to plants results in the best performance under the plants genetic ability. Increased size and quality of crops is not a result of an unnatural system, rather a well-fed and happy crop living in a plant’s dream conditions all year long.
Access to roots
Provides many benefits to various root crops but the biggest benefit is seeing the health of the plant and its roots rather than wait for the plant to show stress signs which is usually too late to act.
Growing crops in Extreme conditions
Because hydroponics does not need fertile land, extreme conditions including deserts, the poles and space are optimum locales for this crop production method. Treating deserts as fertile land only results in vast wastage of water. Nature made deserts for obvious reasons. To change that definition, one must think outside the box that made it.
Better use of space and reduction of labor.
A hydroponic water root mass does not need to extend as its soil-searching counterparts do. Spacing crops in hydroponics has alternative definition and is only concerned with upper growth habit rather than root space. Square foot or square meter gardening rules do not apply so throw away your soil growing books. Production yield per meter is improved so hydroponic growers use less land and produce triple to 15 times more with the same givens. Vertical production raises the bar even more. Soil growers know how labor intensive the land can be in terms of turning, fertilizing, cross planting, weeding and the many chores nature’s minions do easily in years and we want done in one. season.
Why we didn’t go hydro?
Hydroponics comes with its own set of limitations too. It is not recommended in an environment that can sustain seasonal soil growing unless the demand on the production of the land is high, which will result in the destruction of what nature made sustainable.
Higher initial cost of the systems is an entry barrier to many. Persistence and time show that the return on investment is high if executed well especially in Kuwait. A country that imports a very high percentage of its food and has high income. A metaphoric example is investing in high-end automatic box making machines versus opting to hire 10 unskilled laborers to cut and fold paper into boxes. One year later, the 10 laborers are outperformed by the consistency and high production rate of the well run machine. Forgetting to put paper in the efficient machine creates the issue for the next limitation.
The last and most important limitation is that plants have no protection from our mistakes and blame. Nature created a buffering capacity in soil making it withstand the random chaotic conditions needed for her R&D, all the while protecting the root from sudden changes. The microorganisms in soil such as fungi and bacteria quickly reestablish balance saving the plant from excess and other factors. In hydroponics, we limit buffering ability to provide what is needed fast. Good intentions and lack of experience turns the pro speed of delivery into a con. We read and try until results prove otherwise. It is not a forgiving system to our mistakes. To learn one must have many. Patience and gradual changes are important for gradual growth.
I leave you dear readers with the words of Confucius as the remedy to the biggest limitation
Hydroponics and many other fields face in our beloved Kuwait. Good Growing Kuwait
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius