What Does a Hydroponic Greenhouse Look Like?

Today, agriculture is going high-tech. All sorts of advancements are being made to provide safer, healthier, and more sustainable food for the world’s growing population. If you’ve been following any of the news about AgTech, you’ve probably heard some of the exciting buzz around the newest hydroponic greenhouse technology. But you may wonder, what does a hydroponic farm look like and how does it function? Read on to find out about this intriguing agricultural revolution.


What Is Hydroponics?

Hydroponic growing is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead of traditional planting methods, crops are grown in water, allowing their roots to absorb nutrients directly. Because these plants don’t need soil, they are most often grown indoors, in vertical farms. This allows hydroponic farmers to grow and harvest crops year-round, even in some of the harshest climates in the world, and with a far smaller carbon footprint than traditional farms.

Towers, Pipes, or Trays?

Like most vertical farming solutions, hydroponic growers typically use one of three physical structure types. Most hydroponic farm setups involve plants grown in either towers, pipes, or trays. 

Tray growing offers the ability to stack many layers of plants into tall racks for a space-saving design. These trays suspend the plants above their water source, allowing the roots to remain wet at all times. The downside to this method is that you have to provide artificial light sources for all of the plants below the top layer, as they won’t get enough sunlight otherwise, even in a glass greenhouse. 

Next, there are hydroponic pipe systems. Many DIY hydroponic setups are fabricated in lengths of PVC pipe. The grower drills large openings in the top of the pipe to hold each plant and then feeds the crops by running nutrient-enriched water through the pipes. These pipe-based systems are easy to construct but take up a lot of space, creating similar challenges to those of a traditional farm.

Finally, and our favorite, are hydroponic tower systems. They take the pipe concept and turn it on its end, creating a vertical tower for planting hydroponic crops. These towers allow farmers to grow dozens of plants in the space a single plant would typically use. With proper spacing between rows of towers, farms can take advantage of natural sunlight, significantly decreasing reliance on LEDs and other grow-lights. 

Nutrient Film Technique

Once you’ve figured out the structure of your hydroponic farm, it’s time to consider nutrients. One increasingly popular way of feeding your hydroponic plants is known as the nutrient film technique or NFT. 

In NFT growing, plants are fed in a continually flowing channel of water, running through the pipes, trays, or towers of the hydroponic greenhouse. A pump is then used to keep the water flowing, cycling it through the farm and back into a reservoir. A nutrient solution is then added to the water in a thin film, providing the proper nutrients to each plant while still allowing the roots to absorb clean water and have access to air.

This technique has a number of advantages that hydroponic farmers appreciate. It allows for easy root inspection, making it easy to pinpoint plant problems before an entire crop is ruined. NFT is environmentally friendly, recycling water through its system and minimizing risks of contamination. The constantly flowing water washes away any build-up that can plague other hydroponic feeding systems. And NFT systems are easier to disinfect than most other feeding systems, which allows for more thorough cleaning between crops.

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