Hydroponics – Cost Advantages

There are many sustainability issues in the world today, especially in agriculture. Part of the problem is the expanding population and the resource requirements that are ever increasing to meet the demands. One of the most used resources in traditional agriculture is water, simply that it uses too much. One article placed it at about 80% of potable water (in the US) that is used in the agriculture process. Another article claims that about 70% of fresh water is used worldwide and that needs to increase by about 15% water withdrawals by 2050. In addition to this, in order to support monoculture, large amounts of pesticides are required to support ever increasing yields. Mixed in is ineffective utilization of land and difficulty scaling. One possible solution is using sustainable agriculture. There are _ key reasons how this can be sustainable.

More efficient use of space
Various forms of sustainable agriculture can be used; aeroponics, aquaponics and even traditional farming avoiding monoculture. These systems can be vertically scaled to support growth, reducing the amount of space required to support them.

Low pressure Aeroponics


There are of course other types, for example this high-pressure setup at NASA that was deployed to the ISS

Can be grown indoors and automated
One additional benefit is that these systems support growing indoors. The primary advantage to this is that 1) pests are removed from the equation, negating the need to use pesticides and 2) plants can be grown out of season or in locations that traditionally would be less than ideal outdoors. Further, these systems can be automated using cost effective sensors, cloud integration and remote management. This reduces the amount of personnel required to manage the systems. Paired with machine learning, it would be possible to attain greater accuracy in crop yields per year through precise climate and nutrient controls.

Greater yield with limited space
At the Pickle Factory, we have conducted a few years of research. One such project was to estimate the amount of square footage required to produce a certain yield. This was performed based on existing information and some experimentation on certain types of plants. More details in a future article, but here is one example.

Per 100 sqft, one can produce between .4 and .5 tons per year
This particular source of food is worth about ~700,000 (761,893.652 per calculator) or so calories per ton
This is based off of estimated 1 gram = .84 calories and 1 ton = 907,185 grams = 761,893.652 calories
So ~350,000 calories per .5 tons of this plant can sustain one person (not gloriously, but living) for 175 days at 2,000 calories, 233 days at 1500 calories all on 100 sqft, which in most cases can be stacked/scale vertically

It is easy to see why such tech, which is very simple and easy to implement, can revolutionize the existing agriculture methods with conservation of resources, namely water and reduce the dependence on pesticides used on food. Future articles will provide more details on research done and what possible solutions could look like.