Gather around, children. It’s time for a history lesson (yes, I know it’s summer and learning should be saved for more winter-infested months. But bear with me).
What is hydroponics? The name “hydroponics” literally translates to “water working.” It’s good it doesn’t translate to “wet work” because that could be deadly.
Hydroponics – the practice, not the name, has actually been around for thousands of years. It just wasn’t as popular back then because they had no place to plug in their LED lighting setups.
Apparently, one of (if not THE) first instance of water-based hydroponics was in The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (great band name suggestion, by the way). It is one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, along with sliced bread and sex dolls… or something like that (https://www.epicgardening.com/history-of-hydroponics).
Ancient Egypt had hieroglyphs depicting soilless gardens in a few hundred years B.C. And Marco Polo talked about floating gardens of China in his journal (arguably, the most famous diary written by someone NOT named Anne Frank).
The ancient Aztecs (as opposed to the modern Aztecs) made chinampas, which was stalks and strong roots lashed together and loaded up with sediment from lake bottoms. The sediment was high in nutrients, and the chinampas were basically primitive grow boxes.
Fast forward through hundreds and hundreds of years where various scientists would experiment with, improve, and modify different variations of soilless gardening to 1929 or so. This is where “modern hydroponics” is truly born (or, grown into existence without soil).
Dr. William F. Gericke coined the term hydroponics. He also received a lot of criticism because people didn’t believe his claims about how efficient and productive hydroponics could be. That is, until he proved it to them by growing 25 foot high tomato plants. That’s a lot of spaghetti sauce!
People were so impressed by it, that they believed it would be an agricultural revolution. The media even said it was the most colossal invention of the century (clearly they forgot about brunch), and that regular farming was obsolete.
Obviously, that didn’t pan out. And it seems that the extremely high and hyperbolic praise was one of the biggest reasons why hydroponics still didn’t become mainstream. Traditional farm supporters didn’t want to contribute to the demise of farming. Also, scam artists started selling useless hydroponic equipment to people who wanted to participate in the agricultural revolution. When the equipment failed, it tainted the image of hydroponics.
See the articles linked above to fill in the blanks, but there were numerous innovations and setbacks throughout the decades that continued to hurt and help the collective opinion towards hydroponics.
These days though, hydroponics is thriving. It is proven to work, and work well. It creates high yields with immense quality – regardless of where or when you’re growing. Now, it’s a booming industry that continues to grow and evolve. There are industrial sized hydroponic grow operations that mass produce a wide variety of plants and vegetables. And with the combination of overpopulation and climate change, hydroponics is being seen as a way to help extend the lives of humans and the earth itself. There are also small, “home gardens” that people can setup themselves and grow their own plants and veggies.
It is legitimate, accepted, and praised. It still hasn’t made traditional farms obsolete, and until the earth is so damaged that it can’t handle any sort of vegetation, it probably won’t. But now, they work in a sort of harmony together. There’s room for both to exist and thrive. Companies like Complete Hydroponics (https://completehydroponics.com) are at the forefront of the constantly evolving industry. New innovations and better products/equipment/nutrients/etc. are continuously being developed so that no part of the industry becomes complacent or stagnant.
Whether it’s an ancient hanging garden in Babylon, or a completely self-automated, futuristic grow box in someone’s living room, hydroponics is here to stay.
And like hydroponics has already proven, there’s always room to grow.