Pros and Cons of Hydroponics
By Geraint Hughes
“Cnoi cil” gyda TechTyfu “Food for thought” – Advantages and drawbacks of hydroponics
Hydroponics is a technique for growing crops without soil, and is very common on a global level. Nutrients are provided in dissolved form in the water whilst light, air and heat can either be provided
naturally or artificially.
The potential advantages of using hydroponics within a vertical farming system are:
1. The extended growing season offers a wider window for production and marketing fresh
produce to local customers.
2. Hydroponics allows growers to produce a wider array of fresh produce because the system
can create the conditions for optimum growth without having to depend on soil and to a
lesser extent the weather.
3. It makes more efficient use of inputs, in particular water and energy.
4. The quality of hydroponic produce can be as good, or even better than crops grown
conventionally in the open, in both taste and nutrient density. Hydroponic crops tend to be
cleaner than field crops.
5. Hydroponics should make pest management easier.
6. Higher yields are achievable in a hydroponic system in less time compared to a soil-based
7. Continuous crop production is possible as there’s no need to rotate land or rest soils.
8. Less labour is usually required with hydroponic production.
There are however certain drawbacks associated with hydroponics:
1. Hydroponic cultivation requires good agronomy and technical skills. Growers lacking in
experience need to start by choosing simple growing systems to start off, and cultivating crops
that are relatively easy to grow such as salad leaves, microgreens and various oriental
2. Although cheap to run, hydroponics can involve a significant capital investment at the
beginning. This has been identified as a barrier for new growers.
3. Despite having a lower pest and disease pressure, growers need to be vigilant of any
outbreaks, as pest and disease problems tend to spread quickly in a vertical farming system,
especially if located under protection.
4. Some species are better suited for hydroponics than others. Experience and reading about
hydroponics is possibly the best way of learning what varieties grows best in hydroponics.
5. The assumption that a polytunnel or even glasshouse is required has been another barrier in
the past for starting out in vertical farming. So, would we recommend hydroponics? Absolutely!
As with any other things in life, there are downsides. However, most of these can be overcome by
planning and experience.
The systems that are currently available on the market for start-up growers have been designed to
operate within existing locations such as sheds, redundant farm building or even in a moderately sized
garden shed. There is no need to invest in new infrastructure.
Even the basic systems nowadays allow the grower to control the nutrient level and lights, with more
advanced systems allowing the grower to directly control the growing temperature.
Hydroponics offers practical advantages which can support a wider range of horticultural crops. With
only 7% of Welsh land classified in the top 3 grades for cultivation, hydroponic systems offer a mean
to increase horticultural production and to meeting the growing demand for fresh produce