Hydroponics: A Method to Boost Crop Efficiency and Productivity (Photo Source: Pexels.com)
Hydroponics: A Method to Boost Crop Efficiency and Productivity (Photo Source: Pexels.com)

The term “Hydroponics” is derived from the Greek words, "hydro" (meaning water) and "ponos" (meaning working), reflecting the water-based nature of this agricultural technique. It is a soil-less gardening method that allows plants to flourish without missing any vital minerals or by applying nutrient-rich water solutions to the roots of the plants.

In hydroponic systems, plants are grown in an inert medium such as gravel, perlite, or coconut coir, which provides support to the roots while allowing them to access water and nutrients. The nutrient solution, typically a blend of water and mineral nutrients, is circulated or applied directly to the roots.

A Brief History of Hydroponics

  • Around 600 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar II constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

  • Floating Gardens of the Aztecs, Mexico was built in the 11th century

  • The technique was first mentioned around 1600 in scientific publications.

  • The nutrient solution was first developed by Sachs and Knop in 1856

  • Hydroponics was first used in India in 1947 in Kalimpong in Darjeeling (W.B.).

  • The NFT was created by Cooper et al. in 1966.

Its Usage at Present

  • The US Navy is growing fresh vegetables with recirculation hydroponic systems to supply fresh vegetables for the crews.

  • Hydroponics is successfully used at NASA Space Centre.

Way Forward for Hydroponics

  • It is estimated that by 2050 the world’s population will have boomed to 9.1 billion people.

  • According to the UN, food production will need to increase by 70%.

  • A pioneer in this field of sustainability, Dickenson Despommier, a Micro-biologist, and ecologist at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, sees vertical hydroponic farming as the answer to this problem.

The Market Outlook

The Hydroponics market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7% from 2017 to 2022. Its value is anticipated to grow from USD 20 million in 2016 to USD 31436.7 million by 2022.

Areas Under Cultivation for Hydroponics

  • Israel, Holland, Spain, Australia, USA, Canada, NZ, Italy, Canada, Mexico, China, etc. are major countries in hydroponics.

  • Latest estimations indicate that Israel, Holland, England, Australia, and New Zealand have significant commercial hydroponics production areas, with 30,000 acres, 10,000 acres, 4,200 acres, and around 8,000 acres, respectively. Mexico is the country with the fastest-growing commercial vegetable greenhouse industry.

  • The world commercial hydroponics industry has grown 4 to 5-fold in the last 10 years and is currently estimated at between 1,000,00 hectares with a farm gate value of US$ 7 to 8 billion.

How to Set Up a Hydroponic System

  • Water Temperature: The temperature of the water should be in the range of 18-26°C.

  • Oxygen: It is important to ensure the root system gets adequate oxygen to support the development of healthy roots.

  • Light: Vegetables cultivated hydroponically need eight to ten hours of direct sunshine every day to thrive.

  • Nutrients: Hydroponic systems do not use soil; essential nutrients must be provided with a water solution.

  • Support: Plants can grow upright with the help of the soil. Artificial assistance can be supplied in hydroponic systems.

  • pH: Measurement that illustrates the acidity or alkalinity of a substance (plants need 5.5-7 for good growth)

  • Electrical Conductivity: According to an EC meter, the electrical conductivity represents the strength of the nutritional solution. ds/m is the unit of measurement for EC. For hydroponics, the optimal EC range is 1.5 to 2.5 ds/m.

Key Requirements

  • Protected structure

  • High-yielding hybrid varieties

  • Soil-less media

  • Multi-celled plastic plug-trays

  • Fertigation system

Materials to Use

  1. Coco Coir: it has an excellent air-to-water ratio with great water retention

  2. Rockwool: A fibrous material made from melted rock.it is not Biodegradable and has an Excellent water retention capacity.

  3. Expanded clay Pellets: It is the most popular media which drains quickly & is pH neutral. It is Reusable media. It is a 50/50 mix of clay and coco to create a breathable medium.

  4. Potting soil (Perlite): It is a mixture of Perlite + Coco Coir + Vermiculite. It is a synthetic material

Top Crops for Hydroponics

S. No.


Examples of crops



Tomato, Cucumber, Lettuce, Brinjal, Beetroot, Capsicum, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Melons etc.



Gerbera, Rose, Orchid, Marigold, Carnation, Lily, Chrysanthemum etc.



Strawberry, Raspberry


Medicinal crops

Aloe Vera


Fodder crops

Sorghum, Barley, Bermuda Grass, Carpet Grass



Parsley, Mint, Sweet Basil


Some Advantages

  1. No soil-borne diseases and pests.

  2. More productivity per unit area and time.

  3. The water stays in the system and can be reused.

  4. Systems do not have weed seeds that might germinate and compete with crops for water, nutrients, and light.

  5. Allows uniform water availability to plants.

  6. Off-season production is possible.

The Disadvantages  

  1. The initial investment in a commercial hydroponic system is high.

  2. The necessary equipment is expensive and technical skill is needed to maintain it.

  3. Daily attention is necessary.

  4. If a disease appears all plants in the container will be affected.

  5. Plant support is required.

  6. It is not suitable for long-cycle crops.


In recent years, hydroponics crop production has experienced a substantial surge globally. This method offers several advantages, including enhanced water and fertilizer utilization, precise climate regulation, and improved management of pests. Crop yields and quality are raised with hydroponics production, which boosts profits.

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