Hydroponics and Maintenance
Growing hydroponically is a great way to grow crops, and offers a much greater return than conventional farming.
However, just like conventional farming there are many variables to take into account. Each and every aspect of gardening can be blown out into many segments and hydroponics is no different.
The amount of human interaction is dependent on the type of systems in place, for example; many commercial vegetable farms have lots of plants to feed, so it would not make sense to feed everything manually. The majority of these farms employ automated feeding systems that accurately inject reservoir tanks with precise measurements of nutrients and pH buffers, they would also be connected to large re-circulating chillers keeping the temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO) within range.
If you’re not running automated equipment, then maintaining things like temperature, pH and EC can be quite troublesome.
If, however you decide to jump into hydroponics face first, then understanding all of the potential variables is key to success!
The most common problem experienced in hydroponics is temperature stability.
Another common problem is underfeeding, over-watering or overfeeding, under-watering, the key here is just stick to a formula and remain patient!
EC & pH measuring equipment – It’s amazing how many growers do not have these crucial tools! Without them you’re growing blind.
Lighting issues are fairly easy to figure out, a majority of the time most users have installed the light either way too close or way to far, always read the instructions and try to find online examples. Lighting distance changes with each technology some brands have many claims, try to find a report of someone running the same technology and how they best implemented to attain their results etc. Solid empirical evidence is always the best way to compare equipment, relying on antidotal evidence a recipe for failure.
Maintaining lights is fairly easy, you have a lamp that has a life span, so eventually the efficacy of the lamp is reduced, which in turn reduces the outcome. The better branded lighting systems recommend changing lamps and reflectors after a certain amount of grows. (usually 4-8) (every year or so)
Ventilation system maintenance is often forgot, not maintaining a ventilation system can lead to serious environmental issues! Always check the filter, fan and ducting for any issues in between grows. Issues can vary from, clogged fans running at a lower efficiency. Dirty filters can lead to pathogens forming or insect infestations. The life span of fans and filters also varies, so always stick to the best, as some cheaper Chinese models cost the same and last 1/10th of models made in Germany or Holland.
The maintenance becomes second nature eventually, to start a successful indoor garden the basic foundations must be understood otherwise you can run into trouble very quickly.
Once the basics have been learnt, there is lots more on the table. A gardener can never know everything, we can try though!