Growing concerns over environmental pollution and deforestation, coupled with the rising demand for food sources from an ever-growing global population are key factors that are encouraging the growth of the worldwide hydroponics market.
On the other hand, hydroponic farming operations usually require environment control systems for optimal performance and success of the yield. As a result, the costs of implementing hydroponics for agriculture is expected to stay higher than that of traditional agriculture, restricting the growth of the hydroponics market for the near future.
Food Security Concerns are Key to Development in Hydroponics
The global population is currently growing at an exponential rate, and producing enough food to sustain this vast number of people is being seen as a major problem. This issue is further compounded by the growing scarcity of arable land, and the increasing severity of pests and plant diseases.
As a partial solution to this problem, hydroponic agriculture is gaining importance, as it is highly space efficient, and does not require agricultural land, and can be applied even in urban and crowded areas. With growing research the hydroponics technologies have already been proven to be feasible for a number of vegetables, especially in areas where water scarcity is common, leading to massive costs in food imports.
Growing Preference for Exotic and Salad Crops Boosts Hydroponics
One of the primary factors behind the higher use of hydroponic technologies in farming is that the technique results in a higher yield than conventional farming. Moreover, the salad and exotic food crops grow well in hydroponic mediums, which provides lucrative opportunities in the market owing to the growing demand for these crops, by a global population with larger disposable incomes.
In addition, growth opportunities are also available in the form of vertical farming, and the new approaches of farming high-profit crops. On the other hand, cost intensive setups and lack of technical knowledge with farmers are anticipated to restrict the market for the near future.
Tech Innovations Boost Yield and Application of Hydroponic Devices
Economic feasibility is one of the primary challenges faced by the hydroponics industry. Innovations in specialized lighting, nutritional formulations, micro-green cultivation, and integration to other sustainable technologies are expected to have a major influence on the innovative developments in the technology.
For example, researchers based in the UK have designed a hydroponic unit named SeaLeaf that can grow crops such as bok choy while being suspended in an aqueous solution of nutrients. The unit is able to produce up to double the yield as compared to traditional farming methods.
On a similar note, Toshiba has set up a state of the art system for the cultivation of lettuce plants. The system makes use of clean rooms, specialized lighting, disinfection of water, and continuous power supply to provide semi-automated farming processes that are operated through mobile tablets by workers at or outside the farm.
While conventional setups of hydroponic farms are normally costly to install and operate, new micro garden variants are available to DIY enthusiasts that can provide hydroponic platforms that are customized to the needs of the end user, while allowing greater scope of application for the technology and lucrative growth opportunities for manufacturers.
Healthy Eating Trends Encourage Use of Hydroponics
Unlike traditional farming, hydroponic agriculture is carried out in extremely controlled environments, with very strict standards of nutrient formulations for the plants grown in this method. As a result, the produce extracted from hydroponic farms have minimal risk of coming in contact with harmful microbes such as e-coli and salmonella, which is why hydroponics is gaining importance as great way to acquire healthy food.
Moreover, with the rise in urbanization, agricultural land is shrinking on a steady rate, creating multiple opportunities for hydroponics in food production. Owing to the high demand in the market, and the relative cost-effectiveness of cultivation, lettuce is expected to stay as the most commonly cultivated crop through hydroponics.
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