Growing hydroponically means growing without soil. We use a substrate (something to secure the root system) but this does not contain any nutrients and is often chemically inert. All the nutrition the plants need are dissolved in the water: Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphate, Magnesium, etc. It's exactly what roots in soil are looking for, but with hydroponcis they are all readily available and in the perfect ratios. There is no guesswork about soil pH, nutritional content, or water availability. The nutrient rich water drips over the plant roots and feeds them everything they need! As an added bonus there's no dirt and no digging!
Aeroponics? What's That?
This tower uses a form of hydroponics called aeroponics. It is a system that allows the plant to alternately receive a nutrient rich bath followed by air time - a chance for the roots to absorb much needed oxygen from the air. Roots need oxygen for survival, but buried deep in the soil, it becomes a limiting factor for plant growth. With aeroponics, oxygen saturation is easy, and plants experience robust growth that can be 30-50% faster when compared to traditional methods.
Putting down Roots
The roots of a plant serve two very important functions - securing the proper nutrients and water for critical life processes, and for holding the plant in the ground. With aeroponics, the roots grow into large, dense mats covered with thousands of tiny hair like protrusions. Since they are not burdened by supporting the plant nor are they vainly searching for nutrients and water, the roots grow so as to maximize absorption. This means much more energy is available for vegetative growth - the plant pours its energy into fruit production and the production of delicious, nutritious leafy greens. This is how hydroponics produces higher output when compared to soil-based farming.
Green and Beautiful
Pictured here is a tower with mature growth - after just one month! Fast food production that pleases the eyes as much as the stomach is of course a key benefit of hydroponics. But there are many other reasons to get excited about hydroponics:
Water savings of over 90% are possible
Fertilizer reductions up to 85%
No Pesticides needed
Up to 10x growth per square meter
Higher yields in a shorter period of time
Reduction of food miles when growing at home or at work
More fresh, nutritious, and delicious food at your fingertips
And many more environmental benefits!
Things have really taken off in the last three weeks! I've harvested the spinach and arugula (yum!) and replaced them with more spinach and lettuce plants. Keep watching this space - we'll be hosting a Salad Brunch next month!
The second round of growth at CIC Tokyo is almost over and it's nearly time to harvest. Plants have only been in the tower for 3 weeks! We could harvest a little at a time, taking a few leaves here and there, but with an impending building shutdown next weekend, I'm choosing to let them all grow for a mega-harvest.
Harvest Time !
We invited CICers, staff, and friends to come join us in the harvest festival. We served over 30 people a variety of leafy greens including Kale, Frilly Lettuce, Sunny Lettuce, Komatsuna, Spinach, Arugula, and more! Fresh microgreens and hydroponically grown herbs were also provided.
Did you miss it? Stay tuned for details on our next harvest party!