Controlled Environment Agriculture Center

Research, Instruction & Extension for Producing Crops
With Sustainability, Efficiency & Eco-Friendliness

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a technology for growing plants in nutrient solutions (water containing fertilizers) with or without the use of an artificial medium (sand, gravel, vermiculite, rockwool, perlite, peatmoss. coir, or sawdust) to provide mechanical support. Liquid hydroponic systems have no other supporting medium for the plant roots: aggregate systems have a solid medium of support. Hydroponic systems are further categorized as open (i.e., once the nutrient solution is delivered to the plant roots, it is not reused) or closed (i.e., surplus solution is recovered, replenished, and recycled). 

In combination with greenhouses, it is high technology and capital-intensive. It is also highly productive, conservative of water and land, and protective of the environment. Yet for most of its employees, hydroponic culture requires only basic agriculture skills. Since regulating the aerial and root environment is a major concern in such agricultural systems, production takes place inside enclosures designed to control air and root temperatures, light, water, plant nutrition, and adverse climate. 

There are many types of controlled environment/hydroponic systems. Each component of controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) is of equal importance, whether it be the structural design, the environmental control, or the growing system. Not every system is cost-effective in every location. All too often, importance is given to only one or two of the key components, but the system fails due to lack of attention to any one of the components. If improper attention is given to the greenhouse structure and its environment, no hydroponic system will prove economically viable. While hydroponic and CEA are not synonymous, CEA usually accompanies hydroponics. Their potentials and problems are inextricable.