The rise of the well-informed consumer, as well as a genuine health need for nutrient-rich food, has forced immense progress in how food is produced. Over the years, humans have consistently worked to improve upon our agricultural techniques, but the development of hydroponics is arguably one of the biggest breakthroughs where health science and technology are concerned. The technology focuses on cultivating safe, nutritious food that can be produced in vast quantities. These facts have contributed to the hydroponics market’s rapid growth, which is set to grow to nearly $400 million (a growth increase of 17%) by 2020.
Producing enough food for the world’s growing population is a critical focus for development. Scientists now believe that the first plant cultivation could have been ‘invented’ as many as 23,000 years ago. However, during no time throughout history has as much technological progress in agricultural techniques, as in the 20th and 21st centuries. Pesticides took the reins in the previous century, releasing chemicals that produced high yields. Until now, innovation managers are finding new technologies to expand the hydroponics market.
A Peacefully Pest-free Existence
Hydroponics eliminates the use of artificial ripening agents and pesticides. This innovation not only provides peace of mind regarding of the risk of chemical propagation in food, much of which we do not know yet, but also produces more nutrient-dense food. These organic superfoods are critical to providing people with the level of nutrients they need, a level some health professionals argue is not being achieved with a traditional Western diet.
Countries such as the United States have always turned to high yield, but not particularly nutritious crops, such as wheat, as a way of effectively feeding the masses. The need to create high-yield food for a large population has always justified the lack of focus on nutrient-dense superfoods and use of pesticides. However, with technology, hydroponics can actually provide higher yields compared to traditional agricultural techniques, making it easier to produce food rich in nutrients.
The Technical “How To”
Various European countries are leaders in the hydroponics tech movement for a number of years. Smart greenhouses are used in countries, such as the Netherlands, Spain, and France. These greenhouses, powered by the smart grid, work well for producing large amounts of crops in a controlled environment – the bigger the greenhouse, the more crops can be produced. The technology behind hydroponics really comes into its own in climates where traditional agricultural techniques are nearly impossible. Scandinavia, in particular, uses climate-controlled hydroponics technology to produce fruits and vegetables that could not be cultivated during their winter season, revolutionizing the food industry for this nation.
Market Trends for Hydroponic Equipment
Obviously, the removal of an external climate means that creating an artificial one is imperative to the success of hydroponic crops. In terms of technology equipment trends, the market is led by aggregate hydroponics systems, which consist of widely used technologies, such as drip or wick systems, and HVAC systems that are needed for hydroponics cultivation. These systems accounted for the largest market share for controlled air environment technology.
Macros Aren’t Just for Counting Calories
What a plant grows in and what is added to the plant for effective growth are both hugely important factors in agriculture, particularly in hydroponics, where external variables are controlled or removed. Micro and macronutrients are the main nutrients added to hydroponics to yield this growth, and results from 2014 showed that the trend is moving towards macronutrients as a plant input.
The perception around foods with high nutrient or phytochemical content is often that they are difficult to produce and are overlooked in favor of hardier crops. The development of hydroponic technology is challenging this theory with its focus on producing high yielding crops, without forsaking their nutrient content. The ability to produce these crops in controlled environments means that climate is also no obstacle for nations with more difficult weather patterns. As the free market continues to grow and improve on these hydroponics technology trends, it means that more and more consumers can now really have their superfood and eat it too.
Image from http://www.suncrestusa.com/dwc-hydroponics/