1937 is attributed to William Frederick Gericke for his earliest modern reference to hydroponics. He grew tomato vines about 7.6 meters high in his backyard in a mineral nutrient solution. The earliest modern reference to hydroponics (last 100 years) comes from a man named William Frederick Gericke. While working at the University of California, Berkeley, he began to publicize the idea that plants could be grown in a solution of nutrients and water instead of soil.
In the 16. In the 19th century, Belgian Jan van Helmont recorded the earliest known science-based research on hydroponics. He found that water provided plants with nutrients. Building on Jan van Helmont’s earlier work, John Woodward created the world’s first hydroponic nutrient solution in 1699, after concluding that plant growth that benefits from nutrients in water was more accessible than soil. Our ideas about modern hydroponics vary greatly depending on how you ask.
However, for many people, they consider hydroponics to be a modern technology (probably also thanks to using NASA to test growth in space). But the truth is that hydroponics is not a new player in the game.. Yes, we’ve done a lot of innovation since the beginning of hydroponics, but it usually happens over thousands of years. To really honor the heritage of our modern hydroponics, let’s look at the history of hydroponics.
The legendary hanging gardens of Babylon are said to have existed around 500 B, C, E. The hanging gardens of Babylon were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II. as a gift to his wife Amyitis and were one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Scientists and archaeologists have long studied the complicated irrigation systems that supported the vast gardens. Using intricately graduated stones that held the plants, water was supplied by a steady flow from central water reservoirs..
The plants were fed by the uniform water flow to their roots and provided with plenty of aeration.. At the beginning of rice cultivation, there were attempts to grow rice in the soil. While this was more difficult, rice as a crop proved to be a valid investment.. After significant seasonal flooding, many other crops were destroyed.
However, rice not only withstood the watery conditions, it also flourished.. This was the spark that ignited the fire that continues to blaze today in hydroponic rice cultivation. Following this revelation, rice was intentionally grown in organized water systems. The rice not only grew better, but also resisted more diseases and pests than other crops, which is an added benefit to its hydroponic placement..
It is also worth mentioning that rice fields were used for hydroponic harvests, but ultimately offered more diverse food sources.. Today we use the term “aquaponics” to mean hydroponic systems that also keep fish, sometimes in commercial settings for fish farming. A similar system has been set up in Indochina and China. Fish were raised and bred in the flooded rice fields, which were already used for plant production..
Modern aquaponics works on the same similar principles used in the past in the rice fields, but with a bit more nuanced and much more technology. If a typical hydroponic system has a reservoir to hold the nutrient solution, an aquaponics system basically has an aquarium. A pump transports the water to the breeding bowl or plant bed. Excess water is filtered through the plant roots (making it safe for fish again) and returned to the tank.
The fish waste then supplies nutrients to the water, which is then returned to the plants above. Unfortunately, our visions of hydroponic pyramids aren’t correct. However, hieroglyphics have been found that tell us the story of an innovative people who use the flooded Nile to grow plants without soil.. The reality is (as strange as it is to think about it) that translucent stone was most likely an early form of a greenhouse.
By using a clear material (such as stone or glass), the cucumbers would have received plenty of sunlight and heat out of season and would have retained moisture. Another notable civilization that used hydroponics was the Aztecs.. They developed an impressively well-thought-out hydroponic system that successfully offered their employees abundant crop yields.. Their use of hydroponics was developed out of necessity due to their nomadic culture and situation in swampy, swampy areas.
In these regions, it was simply not possible to cultivate traditionally, as there was very little or no suitable land at all.. The Aztec hydroponic system is similar to what we might think of as a floating raft farm.. By creating dense rafts of reeds and rushes, secured with tough, dried roots, they were able to drive grain in the canals around their settlements.. Instead of fields, they had canals full of flowering plants and gardens..
To secure the plants to the rafts, they dredged nutrient-rich silt from the river or canal floor, while plant roots pushed through the bottom of the rafts to reach the underlying water. These chinampas were so well developed that they never sank despite heavy plant growth (and even hydroponic trees on the rafts).. Deep-water culture systems keep plants in growth trays or platforms that allow the roots to hang underneath and in an underlying nutrient solution. To ensure adequate ventilation, DWC systems often use an additional air pump or air stone..
Typically, roots are kept in mesh pots that are immersed in the nutrient solution.. The hydroponic systems used for a long time among other civilizations were not left without prior notice by foreign explorers.. From Spanish conquistadors in Mesoamerica to Christopher Columbus’s memories of his visits to China, the use of hydroponic systems was well documented. What we can think of as more modern hydroponics really started with the first attempts to understand hydroponics in an analytical and scientific way..
While we can spend days discussing what constitutes “modern hydroponics,” let’s err on the side of simplicity. To avoid a wormhole debate, we will say that ancient hydroponics have been reached and used but not analyzed according to a quantifiable, scientific method. Likewise, we will say that modern hydroponics began when we began to measure, analyze and modify existing hydroponic systems. It is worth noting that often different scientists, farmers and other innovators came to similar revelations about plant growth, physiology and hydroponics, albeit at different times and specifications.
With this in mind, note that mentions of discoveries that have been repeated or “rediscovered” are not a mistake, but are simply a result of our ebbing and flowing development. Master inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci, like many of his innovations, was ahead of his time in his revelations about plant growth.. While the French King Francis I. since Vinci had in his employment, the inventor continued his studies in agriculture. Ultimately, he found that plants need minerals to grow, which they absorb from the soil..
In particular, he realized that this only happens with the help of water, the lack of which prevented any nutrient absorption.. While it was still a few hundred years before more modern scientists took up his discoveries, we would make it neglectful to neglect him and not give him credit. He explained the great importance of irrigation and effectively laid down some of the basic principles that govern hydroponics today.. Mineral intake by water, the importance of irrigation, and the idea of abolishing the soil and delivering minerals through water are just some of the things we can attribute to it.
From the 16th. In the 19th century, people began to develop methods to protect plants from the elements and improve their harvesting capacities.. While these developmental techniques were not exclusively hydroponic, they signaled the beginning of an increasing interest in developing more advanced methods of harvesting plants.. The next century passed without major innovations in hydroponics.. Apart from this, the 1700s brought the invention of manure heated greenhouses, which helped drive the influx of heated greenhouses (which can be compared to the heated hydroponic systems common today)..
After a few centuries of what we can call “simple” attempts to understand different aspects of hydroponics, scientists began to understand them (or at least they were on to something). We can attribute many discoveries to the 1800s that paved the way for hydroponics to evolve. By 1842, they had made a list of 9 nutrients that they thought were necessary to sustain plant life.. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but they weren’t too far away.
After realizing that by adding minerals and nutrients (in this case they simply said “elements”), they could absorb them into the plants water supply and contribute to soilless plant growth. Aside from realizing that nutrients needed to be added, there weren’t many other leaps in the study of hydroponics (at least in terms of the 1800s). However, this revelation was an important basis for the continued development of better plant nutrition, much like the hydroponic fertilizers we use today.. While “hydroponics” is a household name today, it was only relatively recently that this “soilless culture” received the title it uses today.
In the 1920s, William Gericke, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, began to promote soilless plant growth and later coined the term “hydroponics.”. From 1925 to 1935, there was an increasing interest in plant physiology and improvement techniques for plant growth.. While greenhouses were established (and even witnessed an early introduction to hydroponics with the use of gravel culture above soil culture), they were simply expensive and didn’t catch on much. That’s because the growing beds were still built of concrete, and that was getting expensive.
However, the cost of food production has also brought hydroponics onto the world stage.. Transporting food to troops overseas during World War II was also a financial burden.. Instead of bringing about a move away from hydroponics, it actually led to widespread use of hydroponics in the Pacific and South Atlantic. This in turn increased the overall popularity of hydroponics and created a solution that provided economically grown crops to the troops stationed there.
In 1938, Gericke’s work on soilless culture was expanded to include two scientists who were also from UC Berkeley. Daniel Arnon and Dennis Hoagland were the two dedicated to the cause and eventually they released one of the cornerstones of hydroponics. Her work, The Hydroponic Method for Growing Soilless Plants, is widely regarded as one of the most important publications on the development of hydroponics. They explained the process and included formulations for nutrient solutions, which are now called Hoagland solutions and are still widely used today.
This ultimately led to one of the first large commercial hydroponics companies.. Wake Island, a typical stopover and gas station for Pan-Am Airways, was used as a staging area for this operation. They were able to successfully grow vegetables hydroponically, which in turn was used to feed Pan Am airline employees. Greenhouses experienced a significant upswing in the 1950s thanks to the increasing use of plastic and all its uses..
Just as you see today in greenhouses, plant factories, and residential hydroponic systems, plastic became a staple for building these plant habitats.. Until now, the heavy, expensive materials used as glass in concrete prevented major development in greenhouses and, as a result, the hydroponic systems housed in them.. This newer, cheaper material (plastic, of course) made room for many innovations. The dynamic use of plastic creates new and indispensable components for hydroponic systems.
This enabled, among other things, the introduction of drip systems, improved irrigation, filters and water reservoirs. Thanks to this new accessibility and reduced costs, there has been a kind of boom in hydroponics popularity. Ultimately, this led to an influx of investment in large, commercial hydroponic systems. Coincidentally, the influx of plastic and greenhouse systems also paved the way for drip irrigation.
Nowadays, drip systems are still a common type of hydroponic plant due to their ease of use, effectiveness, and cost-effective requirements. Drip irrigation is not limited to hydroponics. In fact, it is also a common way to irrigate soil crops. Basically, tubes or tubes deliver smaller amounts of water and nutrients (or “drops”) to plants near their roots.
The conveyor tubes usually have small holes arranged at specific intervals to reach each individual plant.. It works the same in hydroponic drip systems, although the placement of drops and plants may be slightly different. In the 1960s, we finally see the development of more specific hydroponic system types. The first to appear was the nutrient film technique developed in England by Allan Cooper..
In the 1990s, NASA began researching aeroponics as a more efficient way to grow plants in space.. In 1996, a researcher named Richard Stoner received funding from NASA to continue his research on aeroponics in the quest for plant production in space.. In the following years, 1998 and 1999, her research focused heavily on developing an effective aeroponics system that would work with weightlessness. In the end, they designed a functioning, self-contained aeroponics system that was used to colonize space.
Aeroponics is a form of hydroponics, although they are sometimes mistakenly called completely different things. Aeroponics still rely on the use of water to deliver nutrients.. The difference with other hydroponic systems is that aeroponics deliver water in very fine mist droplets that spray more frequently (or constantly in some systems), and no growth medium is ever used. The fine mist reaches the roots and provides an efficient supply of nutrients without you having to worry about extra ventilation.
The entire history that hydroponics built into various civilizations is now the basis of our contemporary hydroponics.. Hydroponics began as a simplified process compared to what it can be today.. That being said, the main functions of hydroponics are not so different from its ancient origins.. The basic principle of hydroponics to use water instead of soil to grow plants has not changed.
Regardless of the system you use, it all depends on the water and its movement. However, modern hydroponics offers many improvements compared to the systems used in the last thousand years. And it’s not just about technology and equipment improvements. Now we have advanced techniques for monitoring water and nutrient content, complicated calculations for plant and tower distances, artificial growing media, and much more.
We now have the capacity to create huge, environmentally friendly and energy-efficient greenhouses that are so large that they are called “plant factories.”. Thanks to our technological advances, we have been able to further increase the efficiency of hydroponic systems and develop new techniques such as aeroponics and fogponics.. Innovators around the world share knowledge and contribute to the growth of hydroponics as a field of their own.. In the history of hydroponics, we find thousands of years of innovation and development.
Although hydroponics progressed slowly at first, it has literally revolutionized cultures throughout history, bringing prosperity.. We will certainly see an influx of newer, more accessible hydroponic methods. Due to the high efficiency and environmental benefits of hydroponics, testing is already underway to solve problems with traditional soil agriculture. It’s not a big leap to expect hydroponics to overtake field agriculture, especially given the “plant factories” we’re already seeing around the world.
No matter what happens, we can look at the history of hydroponics and see that it was a staple of human innovation. This will always continue, as will human nature’s drive to improve, innovate and find new ways to bring prosperity to our societies. Modern hydroponic techniques are the result of continuous experimentation and refinement, and are finding new practitioners everywhere as the many benefits of growth spread in this way.. In 10. In the 19th century, the Aztecs reportedly used floating gardens in nearby lakes, and the Chinese used in the 13th. Century hydroponics for soilless rice fields..
Plants can and are grown (for some time) almost without soil, and “hydroponics” is the name for this practice.. There are reports that the US Army used hydroponics to grow fresh food for the troops stationed on the barren Pacific islands during World War II.. It is generally believed that the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon were 600 BC. BC. hydroponic principles.. A research division dedicated exclusively to hydroponics and organic agriculture was developed by NASA, in which they researched growing plants in extreme environments and hydroponic technology was a major player in the research.
Countries have already started providing acres of land for commercial hydroponics, including 10,000 acres in Holland, Israel with 30,000 hectares, Australia and New Zealand with 8.00 acres between them and Canada with hundreds of acres of land for large commercial greenhouses that grow mainly tomatoes, peppers and pickles. According to the US Army’s Special Hydroponics Department, the cultivation method is used to grow over 8 million pounds of fresh produce for the military. In a world where freshwater and food supply are such a hot topic, I see hydroponics as an important way to solve these problems in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way..