Clearing out the weeds between hydroponics and organic farming
The heart of organic farming is soil. In hydroponics, you don’t use soil to grow your plants.
A number of people who are asking me about hydroponics and organic gardening and what differentiates the two. The net is teaming with extensive literature about these two but to simplify the discussion;
Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. –Wikipedia
Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and biological pest control. –Wikipedia
So from the definition above, the main differences and similarities are:
- The heart of organic farming is soil. Hydroponics don’t use soil to grow plants.
- Organic farming prohibits the use synthetic chemicals such fertilizers and pesticides. Hydroponics rely on a premixed solution as a growing medium. Unless the liquid growing medium is from natural sources, your hydroponics may not be considered as “organic”.
- Organic farming also prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in any of the materials used for agriculture. This can be done in hydroponics too.
I can enumerate more differences and similarities between organic farming and hydroponics but these are the basic ones I guess. The question about which one of these two farming methods is “healthier’, sustainable, eco friendly, and cheaper depends on where you are located on the globe or universe. NASA astronauts for example, use hydroponics to grow plants in space stations.
I’m using both techniques in my urban farming to produce “healthy” food. I try to employ some organic principles and practices in my hydroponics set up, like not using pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. I gathered some of my organic garden setup from hydroponic designs I learned elsewhere. I cannot go purely hydroponics because of the expense. I cannot also go purely organic since I don’t have enough soil (yet) to cultivate all my plants.
As an urban farmer I’m adapting farming techniques suitable for my locality, environment, climate, cost and skills. That is what is more relevant for me as of now.