In the fall of 2012 when we launched our original website the world at large viewed hydroponics much differently than today. Most news related to hydroponic gardening were pot growing busts, followed by a smattering of school biology projects, and some food producer startups. There were actually places in the world brimming with technology where the cutting edge residents had never heard of hydroponics, let alone being able to grow food indoors. The guy who owned the web design company in Nepal that created the first Garden Culture website theme was amazed that he could grow his veggies in his house. At that point in time, India was gearing up to do it’s very first experiment with hydroponic farming.
Everything went fast forward in two short years, and now there are people growing fruit, veggies, and herbs hydroponically just about anywhere. The system may be crude compared to industry models, but they’re doing it. We’ve got ‘hydro evangelists’ traveling hither and yon to help people in some of the most downtrodden areas of the globe to build a system that will grow food year around despite the weather or their soil.
Here’s the biggest trends right now in hydroponic growing…
It hasn’t been that long since hearing about school programs growing food in hydroponics or aquaponics was something a bit unique. Not at a university level mind you, they’ve been dabbling with this for years. We’re talking young children to teenagers – at all grade levels, and in a growing number of countries. From Iowa to New York City, up through Canada, across the Atlantic to Ireland, Britain, Wales, the Philippines, and beyond.
It’s about time someone enlightened today’s youngsters that food doesn’t materialize out of thin air. Its awesome that this is teaching kids how to grow good food, even if they live in the poorest sections of The Bronx. But they’re learning more than how to garden, it’s also setting the stage for them to move into one of the hottest jobs predicted available in the next decade or two — urban farmers. They get some business and cooking education along with seeing how things grow in a closed system. All these schools’ cafeterias make good use of what the kids produce, and some of them are learning how to negotiate trade deals by selling the abundance to local restaurants too.
And while these thousands of young people are learning to succeed at growing food hydroponically, their parents are becoming more and more concerned about how the quality of food the family is eating relates to staying healthy. The ranks of those who want more control over what’s on their plate is rising to colossal proportions simultaneously. It’s a simple step to get into growing food at home year around when you’ve got a budding indoor farmer under your wing. The trend spreads as extended family sees what they’re doing, and the neighbors, and the co-workers… things like this spread in all directions from each nucleus. And then there are the single professionals seeking basically the same thing.
Some said this would fizzle and die, but it’s getting bigger and more widespread as the months go by. It’s not going to stop growing either, the obstinate stance of the food industry is fueling an undercurrent that could soon reach tsunami proportions. Let them keep their precious secrets and profits, the consumer will find a way to go around them – because since the early ages of civilization, man has always grown his own food. Hydroponics, and indoor gardening allows anyone, anywhere, to do just that, which has fueled a design trend.
Frog Design, a leader in technological design of gadgets and user experiences was approached by 4 different companies in the fall of 2014 seeking product design for hydroponic mini-farms. They noted that this is pretty unprecedented having more than one company seeking the same product at the same time. They predict this no effort indoor garden for growing food in the urban home that allows busy people to stay connected to their garden via their smartphone will skyrocket in popularity in the near future. In their business, this is a trend taking shape, and with new versions popping up on a regular basis already it’s definitely already taking root.
A growing number of backyard gardeners are extending their enjoyment of fresh homegrown foods with indoor hydroponic gardens in the cold season. Be it a corner of the basement, a closet they can spare, or a grow box tucked into a corner – harvesting fresh salad greens, jalapenos, and even tomatoes all winter long is simply irresistible. Why stop when you don’t have to? Serious gardeners realize that there’s not enough energy in the winter sun to try window gardens for long, they see the sense in equipping their plants with the light they need to produce well. It is possible to use sunlight and grow lights together too, but controlling the temperature in a windowsill is almost impossible in a cold climate.
Some build their own systems, and others go the plug and plant routine with a purchased ready to roll model. Today’s tower gardens allow them to pack a lot more plants into a small footprint, and by making it an aquaponic system they can grow their food organically since the fish provide the nutrients. Of course you need to have enough space for sufficient fishies to support the garden, and when you lack that, the deep water culture setup offers a pretty simple to master standard hydroponic system. It’s not so much the method chosen that matters most here, to this group its that fresh picked, homegrown flavor they’re after. Now they can have it year around.
Rooftop farming under glass is giving way to repurposing old warehouses and factories in cities big and small all over North America. Once concentrated in places like Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago, the hydroponic urban farmer supplying fresh produce to stores, restaurants, and farm markets is becoming a business you’re likely to find just about anywhere. Municipalities eager to clean up and occupy derelict buildings are getting creative with funding and tax incentives too.
It’s not a fad like many predicted it would be, if it were these indoor hydro farms wouldn’t be setting up to grow thousands of pounds of lettuces, herbs, veggies, and fish in places like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, Jackson Hole, Omaha, Nashville, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver… this list grows bigger every month. And that’s just in North America. They growing local food in hydroponic systems in the UK too – in the tunnels under London, and the UK’s first indoor commercial fish farm just launched in London too. While in Asia major corporations are jumping into adding food factories to their complexes, and in Tokoyo they’re pumping out 10,000 heads of lettuce a day – have been for a couple of years. Obviously, this far surpasses a fad, and turned into a full blown trend with no end in sight. Providing communities with the freshest food possible, boosting the local economy, and improving the nutritional value, the benefits shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Farm To Fork
Trendy restaurants in the Big Apple weren’t far behind peers in California in setting up micro farms on the premises producing fresh herbs, greens, and more. Discerning chefs know it doesn’t get any better than fresh off the plant, and highly acclaimed eateries across the USA are beginning to follow suit. It’s not just fine dining establishments growing ingredients on site these days. A beer garden in New Jersey is one of the most recent additions to the ever increasing list where they’re growing mint, and several other herbs in tower gardens to give customers an excellent food experience.
One of the most popular things for chefs to grow on-site is microgreens. These are swift to loose flavor and nutrient value in their fragile state, so producing them on the grounds makes all the sense in the world. They’re fast growing, easy to harvest, and an organized grow space is simple to maintain. There are even some enterprising hydroponic pros who garden for the chef at the restaurant, kind of like a contract farmer. This arrangement will no doubt become more common too with really busy restaurants where the staff needs to concentrate on filling plates.