hydroponics photo

Photo by FoxTravels Soil less technologies: The way to the future 1

“The world will lead to hydroponics as the future of agriculture,” said Dr. Chito F. Sace, associate professor of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) and resource speaker in seminar series organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) on 15 March 2013.

Dr. Sace presented the principles and benefits of hydroponics and aquaponics systems as viable methods in raising crops and fishes to contribute to food security and sufficiency initiatives of the country.

He substantiated a report published by the Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) of the United Nations that food insecurity in developed and developing countries are imminent. According to the report, around 925 million people are chronically hungry due to poverty and 2 billion people lack food due to insufficiency.

Dr. Sace said that based on another publication (Philippines: Deterrents to Agricultural Production, Dolan, 1991), over-population; declining arable land; water shortage and climate change are considered major impediments for sustainable agriculture and fisheries. Increasing urban settlers, high cost of agricultural inputs, decreasing soil productivity, among others constitute direct and potential threat to improved production. However, amidst the threat of food shortage, the FAO predicted that the abundance of food supply in the coming years will be achieved through advanced backyard farming technologies and smart farming systems.

He downplayed the fact that the Philippines is capable of increasing the production of some of its agricultural crops by looking into the potentials of hydroponics and aquaponics systems. He added that such technologies prove that soil is no longer crucial for the plant to thrive.

Hydroponics is derived from two Greek words, hudor which means water and ponos which means labor. It literally means water-working or vegetable production in soilless culture. In a hydroponic system, plants are placed in nutrient-enriched water. Some hydroponic systems also use inert mediums such as gravel, sand or vermiculite. The plants placed in the water easily absorb its nutrients. Once the nutrients in the water are used up, it is recycled or additional nutrients are added. The system also shows much higher crop growth and yields, which makes it very profitable. It is also useful in areas where crop cultivation in the soil is not a viable option.

Meanwhile, in aquaponics system, one of the components is a hydroponic bed wherein crops are grown with the use of nutrient enriched solution. The other component is a tank or aquarium wherein fish are grown. These two systems co-exist and depend on each other for growth. As the fish grow, the tank becomes filled with excreta and other waste matter. It provides a harvest of crop as well as fish without the need for soil. There is no waste involved because of the continuous recycling that goes on.

Hydroponics and aquaponics are two innovative methods of growing crops. Unlike traditional agricultural methods, they do not use soil. The main difference between the two is that aquaponics takes the ingenuity of hydroponics one step further by symbiotically combining a hydroponic growing system with aquaculture.

Dr. Sace also highlighted the benefits and advantages of the systems that could eventually address food supply concerns. For instance, he said, the system could improved plant nutrition, minimize if not eliminate soil diseases and insects, plants mature faster, working condition is clean and comfortable, and more importantly this could be set-up in rural and highly urbanized areas.

The concept of urban farming is gradually gaining acceptance not only as backyard farming practices, but this could also be developed into a full-scale commercial farming operations and thus increase employment and opportunities to urban communities.

Dr. Sace obtained his MS and PhD in Agricultural Engineering at CLSU and has written a number of publications including Growing Dragon Fruit in our Backyard, Hydroponics can Revolutionize Philippine Agriculture, Greenhouse Economics, among others. His expertise includes tropical greenhouses, aquaponics, hydroponics, and pressurized irrigation.

The BAR Seminar Series is a monthly activity of BAR highlighting on various R&D related technologies. ###

by Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca, www.bar.gov.ph