With the growth in urban population, the need for more space seems perpetual. Traditional farming techniques are known for the need of large lands and the enormous amount of water. So the need for revolutionary farming techniques which occupies lesser space, consume lesser water and can give larger produce have led to the popularity of farming methods like hydroponics and aquaponics.
Hydroponic farming is a system of growing plants without soil using nutrient-laden solution to deliver nourishment directly to the roots of the plants. In hydroponic farming, the idea is to create a controlled environment for the plants with the right level of temperature, moisture, CO2, pH, water level and nutrients and supplying this solution directly to the plant’s roots. This method of creating an optimal environment for plants helps to increase the productivity by 3 folds. It also has other benefits like the re-use of the nutrient solution, reduces the amount of water used for farming by recycling, reduced fertilizer usage and requires lesser space.
Aquaponics is a system which uses aquaculture with hydroponics. In an aquaponics system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponics system where the by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria initially into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.
While these new techniques promise great results, it has certain inherent challenges which inhibit its widespread adoption.
The biggest hurdle for its adoption is the maintenance of the system. It could be time-consuming and be challenging to understand and constantly monitor the hydroponic or aquaponic systems.
Setting up these systems could be a mammoth task, the number of sensors to be installed, the triggers and the parameter configuring could be time-consuming.
It also requires constant monitoring of the sensors and the system. A hydroponic farm must be regularly attended to by a farmer, to know if there is any blockage in the drainage system, to understand if any system failure/power failure if the pump is on/off. If they must set-up multiple farms then scalability becomes an issue.
IOT will be a key problem solver for hydroponics and aquaponics systems with its ability to connect various sensors in the field to cloud and allowing it to be monitored and controlled from anywhere.
The Union of Internet of Things and hydroponic farming will be the future of demystifying the hydroponic farming and making it easier for adoption.
The internet of things will bring in features like automation, remote monitoring and control and build intelligence into the hydroponic farming system. This helps to prevent the need for the human presence in the farm every time and allows efficient monitoring and control of the farm from a remote location.
Sensors mounted in the farm could be used for monitoring CO2, air current, lighting, fertilizer flow, and the pH of the soil. The readings from these sensors are then analyzed in cloud systems. These readings are monitored continuously and tuned if there is any change in environment. Immediate alerts of the status and action will result in increased yield.