Hydroponic farming offers plenty of benefits to people who don’t have the space for traditional soil farming or would like to try an alternative method of cultivating crops.
This list is specifically for growers who dream of eventually selling surplus produce from their vertical/hydroponic farms.
Unless you’re in this purely for the practice of the art, there’s a big chance that your hydroponics setup will not be profitable if you raise crops that are not in demand in your area.
Add to this the burden of distribution and you will get a good idea as to what it takes to make a hydroponic farm profitable.
So the first thing that should be on your mind would be: what does your local market actually want? What kind of crops? Create this list of crops and find out if they are feasible in a vertical/hydroponic farm.
After performing market research, it’s time to select your crops and test them out on your hydroponics system.
This will take some times, as you adjust both the nutrient solution, grow media, and all the other factors that make a hydroponics system work.
This particular mistake can be fatal to a whole batch of plants, if not remedied immediately.
The vital nutrients needed for normal growth in hydroponic setups include potassium, iron, calcium, etc.
In cooler environments, the most common problem is iron deficiency, especially when the root mass is often saturated in water with high pH levels constantly.
In this type of scenario, it is important to fix not just the pH level but also the nutrient composition of the water itself.
This applies most especially to setups where you’re supposed to add the nutrients yourself (which is different when you’re running an aquaponics setup, which has its own continuous source of nutrients).
A high humidity environment on the other hand, tends to deplete calcium more quickly. The reason for this is that the high humidity itself can hamper the proper distribution of nutrients in the system.
You can protect your plants easily by making proper and regular measurements of the nutrient solution.
Accurate measurements can help you determine probable problems so you can solve them before things get out of hand.
Algae infestations are exceedingly common but that doesn’t mean that you can just ignore them.
Apart from being an invasive species living alongside your precious crops, algae can grow to the extent that drips and piping become clogged and the algae can even spread the the root mats of your plants, depleting their oxygen and causing the eventual demise of your plants.
Some hydroponics growers don’t mind the presence of a bit of algae in their system, as long as the algae doesn’t become too comfortable in their new environment.
However, if things get out of hand, you have no other choice – you need to get your system cleaned pronto and replant.
Yes, we know that this is certainly not in your plan, but algae do happen in hydroponics systems and you should be prepared to deal with this problem, too.
While many books on hydroponics state that hydroponics setups are virtually pest-free, this isn’t true at all.
A hydroponics setup can be pest-free but only if the greenhouse has been designed well and pests are fended off by screens and other natural methods of keeping insects out.
Can pests be the downfall of your crops? A big yes. If crops planted on soil can suffer from insect attacks, then so can plants growing in a hydroponic setup. Be on the lookout for gnats, mites and other common pests that are attracted to growing plants.
There is also the possibility of encountering molds and fungi along the way.
Like algae, molds and other types of fungi can destroy your crops and render your system infected. Fungal infestation is serious and if this should happen to your hydroponics system, it’s important that you have your system cleaned ASAP.
To many beginning hydroponic growers, the idea of using shortcuts might be attractive as manually adding nutrients to the nutrient solution might be confusing and tedious.
However, shortcuts like using regular fertilizer to increase the nutrient levels of your solution can be problematic.
The main reason for this is that regular fertilizer wasn’t meant to be dissolved in water and applied to any hydroponics system.
It was meant to be mixed with soil where it is slowly absorbed by plants throughout a period of time.
If you use regular fertilizer instead of the required dissolved nutrients, you may end up causing more harm than good.
In the event that you don’t want to continually mix individual nutrients to your hydroponic system, your best bet would be to shift to a system that produces its own nutrients – such as an aquaponics system.
Another shortcut that we often see in hydroponics systems is ignoring the warning signs of infestations – such as fungal infestations and algae.
A grower that ignores signs of infestation and reuses an existing system without cleaning it puts an entire batch of crops at risk of eventual destruction, because the fungi/molds/algae are still in the system even after a harvest or removal of the plants themselves.
Such systems require thorough cleaning and disinfection before reuse.
This applies most especially to hydroponics setups that are indoors.
It is understandable for many beginning growers to want to save on their setups; however, incorrect lighting can and will wilt even the most steadfast of crops.
Either you invest in the right type of lighting or scale down the size of your system so you can invest in appropriate lighting for a smaller-scaled system.
Yes, hydroponics setups need a high level of sanitation. A mostly dirty setup will attract pests, fungi and other problems.
Among the things that you need to take care of are keeping the floors of your greenhouse clean and dry, remembering to sterilize any and all equipment that you use in the system and always disposing of plant waste.