The history of hydroponic is a long and interesting one. The popularity of hydroponics has fluctuated from decade to decade throughout history. With the biggest questions being “Who invented hydroponics?”, “What is hydroponics used for?”, “When was hydroponics discovered?”, “Where is hydroponics used?”, “Why is hydroponics important?”. All of these are incredibly important questions that can be answered by looking into the history of hydroponics.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are thought to be the first example of soil-less growing.
Aztec Indians create floating gardens, floating rafts of reeds and added soil to the tops of the rafts. This way the crops grew on the rafts, with roots growing through the rafts, and down into the lake.
Leonardo da Vinci studied the nutrient cycle in soil using pots of grass.
The earliest published work on growing terrestrial plants without soil: Sylva Sylvarum by Francis Bacon.
Jan Baptist van Helmont “Willow Tree Experiment” proved that plants “gained weight by the water not dirt”.
John Woodward published his hydroponics experiments with spearmint. He found that plants in less-pure water sources grew better than plants in distilled water.
Justus Freiherr von Liebig was attempting to apply theoretical knowledge from organic chemistry to real-world problems of food availability. His book, Organic Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology, promoted the idea that chemistry could revolutionize agricultural practice, increasing yields and lowering costs. Liebig identified the chemical elements of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) as essential to plant growth. He is commonly known as the “father of the fertilizer industry” for his development of the Law of the Minimum, which observed how individual nutrient components affected crop growth.
Professor Julius von Sachs published the first standard formula for the nutrient solution that could be dissolved in water and in which plants could be successfully grown. His plant nutrient formula, with only minor changes, was almost universally used for the next 8 decades.
Wilhelm Knop can rightfully be called the true father of water culture, as his experiments lay the foundation for what we now know today as hydroponics. Knop successfully grew plants, without soil, weighing many times more than their seeds and containing a larger quantity of nutrients. In 1868, other scientists using Knop’s methods, grew buckwheat weighing 4,786 times more than its original seed, and oats weighing 2,359 times more. These experiments firmly established the fact that plants can indeed be grown successfully and productively without soil via the method known then as simply “water culture”.
Hoagland and Arnon develpoed the “Hoagland solution”. The Hoagland solution provides every nutrient necessary for plant growth and is appropriate for the growth of a large variety of plant species. Hoagland also contributed much knowledge in understanding the relationship of pH to plants grown in nutrient solutions as well as showing how important free oxygen around the root system is.
Dr. William F. Gericke achieved major success with his experiments to create viable commercial crop production without soil. Products included vegetables, fruit, cereal crops, ornamentals and flowers. Gericke called his process “Hydroponics”. Gericke said flowers produced by the soilless method are sturdier, more delicately colored, and less subject to mildew than those grown under ordinary conditions.” Headlines included “Grows Plants In Water: Chemicals Better Than Soil, Expert Says” and “Can Grow Plants Without Soil!” Gericke also published “The Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening,” in 1940, with several reprints since.
Heinz Dome at the New York World’s Fair, on display were several tomato plants being grown via “chemiculture,” with the plants rooted in sand and individual bottles of nutrient solution fed to the roots via gravity through clear tubes. And while it was admitted that these weren’t the same tomatoes that Heinz currently used in their products, they predicted that crops grown in the future could be done so without soil.
American and British military bases during World War II adopted hydroponic units to grow food for troops stationed on rocky islands where conditions did not accommodate soil-based food production. In only 5 months of cultivation, US Soldiers, in the dessert land, turned things around and transformed it into a rich fertile site producing a harvest of fresh produce such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. After the war the U.S. Army built a 22 hectare hydroponic operation at Chofu, Japan.
Over 8,000,000 lbs. of fresh produce are grown for military demand according to the US Army’s special hydroponics branch.
The Nutrient Film Technique was developed in England by Dr. Alen Cooper.
Larry Brooke Founded General Hydroponics and started developing products, solutions, and systems.
The Land Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center opened and featured a variety of hydroponic techniques in futuristic ride through “gardens of tomorrow”.
Canna Nutrients, a well known hydroponic nutrient company today, was founded by Dutch cultivators.
Advanced Nutrients opened and began to manufacture nutrients for the burgeoning cannabis market.