Like with everything else, hydroponics has its fair mix of promoters and detractors. Many pin it down to a new fad while others are extremely upbeat, calling it the future of growing. Most proponents (including me) talk about the reduction in the use of pesticides, the optimization of resources, yield per landed area and RoI. Today, we want to touch on an equally important and pertinent topic regarding hydroponics – Nutrition.
First, let us recap some aspects of Hydroponic growing:
- Scientific and calculated method of growing produce
- Takes into account the requirements and criteria of each individual plant
- Measures and provides the necessary nutrition to the plant
- Enables ease of pesticide check and monitoring
- Measures the parameters of the crop and its conditions
- Enables the plant to receive its nutrition at all times
- Enables treatment using natural remedies instead of huge investment in other detrimental health affecting ingredients.
Thus one can clearly understand that hydroponics is, by no means, deficient or inappropriate.
Now let’s look at Nutrition!
For the sake of understanding let us explore one produce ex: Spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins like C, K, A, E, B2, B6, B1. and also contains good amounts of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and protein.
Nutrition in the produce
I am sure each of us would want to have an apparatus that enables us to measure the quality of food that we consume. Be it brinjal or coriander! Researchers us an apparatus called a refractometer. Unfortunately, there is nothing commercially viable so far for the common households. Refractometers basically measure solids within any given product. So if a product is more liquid based, such as a cucumber, then this method is not ideal.
Studies indicate that irrespective of the medium, the nutrition of the ‘produce’ depends on the nutrition the plant receives. The nutrition we ‘consume’, however, is strongly correlated to the freshness of the produce. In the Hydroponics system, there is adequate control over the nutrition supply and therefore there is a good chance that the veggies would have better nutritional value. In terms of freshness, Hydroponics generally has a shorter farm-to-fork. We strongly believe that the hydroponics, in our current context has better nutritional value – but until we see more peer-reviewed research we’re gonna have to rely on experience.
Now while nutrition is tough to call, the benefit of hydroponics is clear in terms of reducing the harmful stuff we put into our bodies.
Studies indicate, that especially in the cities, the soil growing conditions of crops like Spinach is deplorable and many times the water sources used are dirty and unhygienic. In many parts of India, the water table is contaminated. So, along with the nutrients, there are also traces of unwanted elements that enter the system causing disease and damage.
Now let us consider the case of vegetables grown in soil vis-a-vis Hydroponics. The soil in its inherent nature has properties and thus a personality of its own. therefore there are specific soil types that can grow specific crops. Not all soils types are suitable to grow all crops. But in hydroponics, this soil dependency gets eliminated completely. Further, since the nutrients and the necessary monitoring is easier to manage and monitor, the only major hurdle that remains is air-borne pests!
In traditional (soil based) growing, pests are eliminated very aggressively with extensive use of pesticides and insecticides. Unfortunately, this affects the human system as we consume all these unwanted pesticides causing long term health disasters. But these pesticides also impacts the water tables and creates more resistant strains of pests. More often than not society focuses on curative such as medicines and doctors rather than preventive such as growing food well and hygienically without the use of unwanted and overdosed pesticides! And our generation may also get away with the current attitude of letting it be. But, I am uncertain for the future generations.
Below listed are certain findings with regards to the same:
- Brinjal: Chemical found is Heptachlor, 860% above the legal limit
- Cabbage: Chemical found is Cypermethrin, 95.5% above the legal limit
- Okra: Chemical found is Heptachlor, 55% above the legal limit
- Rice: Chemical found is Chlorfenvinfos, 1324% above the legal limit
- Banana: Chemical found is Chlorodane, 54% above the legal limit
- Cauliflower: Chemical found is Aldrin, 320% above the legal limit
- Apple: Chemical found is Dichlorvas, 140% above the legal limit
Thus, it is only in the larger benefit of our health that it is advisable to grow in a medium that helps to eliminate or at least minimize the use of harmful elements that cause long term damage.
India faces a daunting task of purifying and making soil worthy of growing produce as it has been infested with heavy dosages of pesticides and fungicides which in turn have had grave medical impacts.
Some 35 farmers in the region of Maharashtra have died of pesticide poisoning in the last four months. Most of them were working in cotton and soybean fields. They inadvertently inhaled pesticides while spraying on crops. The death toll is highest in Yavatmal district, where 18 farmers died between July and the first week of November.
If this is the state of those using them on their fields what will be the condition of those who consume? In such a time it is more important to check the amount of poison in food rather than checking nutrition in it!
Our adivse? Grow your own food!!
Sometimes you choose your profession. Sometimes God chooses your profession for you. For me it was the latter – The quest to find purpose and expression came in the form of my work. A connection with soil, water, growth and life.
As a kid, I would secretly wish that grown-up life was just like my childhood – running around luscious green fields, feeding the farm cows, chasing and being chased by hens, goats, cousins, the wind in my hair, the rain on my face, the smell of the earth after a rain, and the sound of non-stop laughter.
It was a sad day, when I realised that my wish was just that – a wish! Its been a personal mission for me to recreate the magic of my childhood in any way possible and contribute to clean air, smiling faces, nourishing food, happier homes all with a sense of awe and gratitude. Thus I found my way to CityGreens – here I help people sow, plant, nurture, care and harvest plants. Through plants a better home and life.
When I was not running around and playing with my cousins and farm animals I also managed to do my B.Tech and MBA.