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Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants without any soil, using only water. Today, hydroponic farms often use very sophisticated technology. In indoor vertical farms, where hydroponic plants are grown in trays stacked in shelves on top of each other, you can control and monitor so many aspects of the growing process using computers and apps. In addition, growing in stacked layers is space-saving and limits the footprint of vertical farms. It’s actually very cool! 

But, did you know that the core “technology” behind hydroponics has actually been around for centuries?

ancient times

The first occurrence of hydroponics is supposedly traced back to ancient history – to the hanging gardens of Babylon (near current-day Baghdad). They are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In these gardens, plants were watered through a watering system that pumped river water from the Euphrates to the raised terraces above. 

Early hydroponics also appeared in the Nile River, where plants were growing without any soil. Marco Polo observed floating gardens in China. And the Aztecs built rafts made out of rushes and reeds, on which plants could grow.

hydroponics gets a name

In 1929, Dr. William Gericke at Berkeley, California coined the term hydroponics. His experimentation with hydroponics generated 25-ft-tall tomato plants! He created the modern version of a hydroponic growing system using water and nutrients.

today’s new environments

The broader concept of hydroponics – plants growing in water – can be found in many examples from the most primitive to very technologically advanced. In more modern times, we’ve seen it crop up in different places. During World War II, U.S. military bases in the Pacific islands used hydroponics to grow vegetables to feed American troops.

NASA has experimented with hydroponics in outer space, growing herbs on the International Space Station. The Epcot Center also has hydroponic gardens that are part of the theme park’s educational experience. Even restaurants have started installing hydroponic farms, such as in a self-contained growing unit on-site, or in rooftop hydroponic gardens. It’s fascinating to think of hydroponics as a technology that spans thousands of years! 

Sources: Medium.com (@evanfolds) 


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