Home Business Downtown Farming: Soilless Production, an Overview

Downtown Farming: Soilless Production, an Overview

In this overview of soilless production, you will see that soil is not needed for food production. Soilless production of various crops has significant advantages over conventional soil-based production. That entails that city dwellers don’t need a piece of land to produce food but can become urban producers wherever you can find space with or without sunlight. So even starting off producing in pots might be a feasible initial step. 

However, a thorough understanding of the multiple components that influence each other in a crop production environment needs to be understood to ensure high yields in soilless production. In this series of articles called “Downtown Farming,” we will provide you with the necessary information needed to ask the right questions when starting your profitable downtime farming endeavor. Guarded with this knowledge, you will know how to produce optimally and maximize returns as a small-scale producer or a corporate institution. 


Soilless production is defined by Google as; “The process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid with added nutrients, without soil.” This extensive definition needs to be addressed in more detail to explain soilless production more efficiently. The scientific way of expressing soilless production is “hydroponics” and entails growing plants with roots in water, using an alternative substance apart from the soil. Production can also take place with the roots in nutrient-rich water and air without a substrate.


Localization of food production curbs the negative effect that food production and distribution have on the biosphere in Texas. By utilizing more soilless production in urban areas, we minimize transport and maximize yield to feed people in urban areas and eliminate food deserts from forming in urban areas of Texas.


We call on all existing and prospective urban farmers through this overview on soilless production. Whether big or small-scale, to start producing food in urban areas using soilless production techniques. Even if you can just contribute to your family’s needs, it already serves the most crucial purpose. 


But the more significant your operation is, the more you can contribute to healthy living in the community, your city, and at large, the state of Texas. While your contribution will enhance other people’s lives, the financial benefits to you will be extravagant and worthwhile to pursue.


History of Soilless Agriculture


Soilless production of plants can be traced back to primitive times in China. The Chinese started with floating gardens and the hanging gardens of Babilon in Iraq. As we can see, hydroponics is an age-old concept and not new to the world but only refined to maximize yield.


During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Dr. William Frederick Gericke of the University of California was responsible for the modern introduction of soilless production, or as he called it, hydroponics.  During his research on the nutrition of valuable crops, he has grown 25 feet high tomato plants without soil, using only a nutrient-rich water solution.


More research was directed to this field after the achievement of Dr. Gericke and resulted in the advantages of hydroponics being further exploited on a mainstream commercial level.


Types of Soilless Production Systems


In soilless production, we get different production systems varying from each other in different ways.


  • Hydroponics – growing crops in a substrate other than soil to anchor the plant.
  • Aquaponics – growing plants in water with fish included. The fish excrement feeds the plants while the plants clean the water for the fish.
  • Aeroponics – growing plants with roots submerged in air filled with a nutrient-rich mist. 

Benefits Of Soilless Agriculture


  • First and foremost, soilless production of crops eradicates the idea of food production only in rural or suburban areas. On the contrary, it localizes production in urban areas, wherever you can find space to implement soilless production.
  • Soilless production can occur where no soil is available and in peri-urban or urban areas where the soil is polluted and does not allow food production.
  • Insect, disease, and pathogen infestations are minimized or eliminated depending on specific criteria.
  • With soilless production, the water requirement is less than in conventional soil-based production of crops. Some sources estimate that you can use up to70- 90% less water than needed in a soil-based, traditional production system.
  • Yield in soilless production can be up to 60% higher than in conventional soil-based production. However, it is essential to note that the methods, crops, and substrate you use in soilless production might influence that figure.
  • It is a very flexible production system. You can utilize It outdoors or indoors and even in the absence of sunlight in buildings.
  • Producers can eliminate seasonal differences and create one growing season all year round, which will double yield and income.
  • Soilless production brings food production to our doorstep. Less food produced all over the globe needs to be imported anymore, which has magnificent advantages on the way we want to preserve Texas and the planet.


Economic Viability of Soilless Production


The agricultural environment is revolutionized by soilless production, and TexasRealFood can prove that by the number of hydroponic and aquaponic producers listed in the producers’ dictionary. However, soilless production is highly profitable. While conventional soil-based farming will yield $20 000 per acre, hydroponic farming will increase your yield to $200 000 per acre.


However, hydroponic production is intensive farming, and therefore, producers have to work from or through a sound knowledge base to maximize income. Therefore, hydroponic producers need to plan everything regarding their operation carefully and in advance to optimize yield, eliminate waste, and direct all actions to increase profit.


Soilless Production in Practice


The simplest way to introduce soilless production is to grow a plant in a pot of water with (hydroponics) or without (aeroponics) a medium to anchor the plant. Hand watering the plant with nutrient-infused water will supply nutrients, water, and oxygen to the plant’s roots to grow. On the other hand, the roots can hang in the air with a continuous nutrient-enriched water spray called aeroponics.


Soilless production can be done on any scale you prefer. Start with one pot that will maybe become a thousand pots as soon as you see how easy it is. However soilless production is a science and if you really put the effort in you will experience the pleasure of producing healthy, super-tasting products with extreme financial rewards.


The essence of soilless production is that the plant needs water, oxygen, light, and the right amount of nutrients to grow and produce. Therefore, there is no need for soil with all the constraints that come with it. This might sound like a simple process, but obtaining an optimal yield requires an in-depth knowledge of all the intricacies of plant growth and production and applying the understanding to each aspect of the soilless production.


Due to minor differences between hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics, we will focus the rest of this discussion on hydroponics that includes all elements used in the different types of soilless production. We will discuss all aspects in more detail in subsequent articles and aeroponics, and aquaponics will be addressed as well. 


Hydroponics means “working water” (Hydro – water and ponos – labor). We can break down the complexities of hydroponic production for each part of hydroponic production by considering the different needs of each element for optimal plant growth. These elements for optimal plant growth are the solution, the growing medium, lightning, and the hydroponic system. 

1. The Solution


The solution can be seen as the lifeblood of your hydroponic system and is, in essence, a highly complex interaction of multiple elements that must be different for every crop, growth stage, and scenario of raw water. We will exploit that in more detail in subsequent articles on the subject.

2. The Growing Medium or Substrate


In the soilless environment, you may or may not need a substrate that can anchor the roots of your plants. With aeroponics, no substrate is normally used. However, there are many substrates to choose from, and it is essential to understand the ideal substrate requirements before selecting a substrate for hydroponic production.

We must keep in mind the factors that will affect the growth and yield of the cultivated plants when selecting substrates for hydroponics. Producers need to ascertain the physical and chemical properties of the substrate to create an environment in which optimal root growth can take place. At the same time, the substrate must allow supplied nutrients to be available for uptake by the roots without chemical interference


Available substrates for use in hydroponics include the following;


  • Coco Coir 
  • Rockwool/Stone wool
  • Perlite/Vermiculite
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Expanded clay pellets
  • Sparghum peat moss
  • Rice hulls


3. The Lighting


You don’t need to set up your system for natural light only, and you can even have your hydroponic set up in a building and provide the right light intensity to grow products.


Bright lights should be provided for 14 – 16 hours per day, followed by a period of 10 to 12 hours of darkness. The dark period is because photosynthesis has a light and a dark phase, and each is needed for optimal biomass production. 


It is imperative to ensure an adequate amount of day and night time which is needed by the crop, and you can install timers to power lights on and off.

4. The System 


Different systems for applying the solution exist, and everyone works well with certain crops. For now, we just want to leave you with all the different methods you get.


  • Hand watering
  • Dripper
  • Wick system
  • Water culture
  • Aeroponic system
  • Aquaponic system
  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

As illustrated, soilless or hydroponic production is an effective and financially worthwhile production method used in urban communities to enhance the farm-to-plate systems. By doing this, we can produce fresh food in the vicinity of consumers and restaurants. That will benefit the consumer as the nutrient-rich food is freshly picked and immediately distributed, contributing to more nutrient-rich food served to clients. In addition, the shortened traveling distance, soilless production has limited adverse effects on our ecosystem in our city and Texas.