Hydroponics is a new agricultural production system in which the production takes place in soil less mediums using either an artificial soil medium or water channels. Nutrients and fertilizers are supplied to the crop through drip irrigation in the soil medium system or through the water in the channel system. It is an efficient alternative to soil based agricultural production. It offers un-surpassed opportunities for environmental control resulting in a high production levels of small defined areas, a very high quality of product, an extremely efficient use of water, no waste of nutrient solutions, and adoption of biologically-based integrated pest management.
Hydroponics is the production of crops in isolation from the soil, either with or without a medium (NFT or Substrate), with their total water and nutrient requirements supplied by the system. Production takes place either in a greenhouse or outdoors and systems can recirculate or allow nutrients to ‘run-to-waste’. A wide variety of crops including ‘fancy’ types of lettuce, cut flowers such as roses, gerberas, carnations and
lisianthus, and other crops such as tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, strawberry and cucumbers are all grown under hydroponics.
An Hydroponic tower system
Advantages of hydroponic production
- No soil
- Control over nutrient, water pH, climate conditions
- Higher yield
- Pest & disease control and elimination of weed
- Best suited for crops requiring closed controlled environment
- Less land utilization and water requirements
- Higher product price
- An answer to urban encroachment on productive agricultural land
- Potentially lower labour costs
- Critical mass of production
Okay, now that we have gotten the technical introduction out of the way, let us look at hydroponics in the Nigerian context, innately a lot of Nigerians have farming dreams and aspirations but most do not want to go to the village nor are they willing to invest their capital in conventional farming methods, with hydroponics, anybody can be a farmer even if it is as a hobby or for consumption purposes. It can also be done on a large commercial scale on acres of land in form of greenhouses.
The beauty of hydroponics is that it can be done on a variety of scales from low to high depending on the resources available to you, it can be done indoors, or on a windowsill, patio, balcony or rooftop, making gardening and farming available to those who do not have a traditional yard or access to soil. It can also be combined with fishing by making use of the nutrient rich water produced by the plant and recycling back down again thus achieving water efficiency levels of over 50%.
Over the course of this hydroponics series, our approach will to show practical steps and procedures one can follow to starting an hydroponic farm from the scratch, this will include construction recommendations, Plants and fish species that are advisable to grow in Nigeria, Capital and labor implications and pitfalls to avoid. We will also carry out an in-depth profitability analysis of this idea using Nigerian case studies.