A Brief History of Hydroponics from 1000BC to present

History of Hydroponics Intro 

The word Hydroponics is derived from the Greek ύδωρ=water and πονέω=cultivate. Hydroponics is a type of horticulture and is considered (by some) a subset of hydroculture. Due to the way the history of hydroponics rolls out, we will treat water culture/ hydroculture as a variation or method of Hydroponics.


History of Hydroponics
Agriculture map, GrowWithoutSoil



Similar Hydroponics Terms and Definitions

Hydroponics = “Water Cultivate” in Greek. the root of all hydroponic methods and types of systems.

Hydroculture = hybrid of ”Water” in Greek and Culture in English. A method of hydroponics where farmers grow plants in water with the aid of using a soilless medium

Water Culture= The name may mean the same as Hydroculture but in practice it is different. Water culture means growing plants in water “without” medium. Most hydroponic growers know it as the very popular Deep Water Culture and you will learn that some systems actually do incorporate the use of a growing medium.



Who invented Hydroponics?

500 B.C., The first known instance of water-based hydroponics is on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Scholars and Archaeologists found remnants of a complicated system of tiered stone culverts. They theorized that there was a continuous flow of water that came from a centrally located reservoir. They describe it as an irrigation system of streams of water coming from an elevated source flowing down inclined stone channels, irrigating all the hanging plants.


Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Source


1000, Ancient Chinese started using hydroponic methods to grow rice.

1200, Ancient Chinese farmers planted floating gardens in flooded rice patties. The farmers also raised and harvested freshwater fish in the flooded rice paddies (Aquaponics).


floating gardens
Floating garden on raft in rice patties, Source



1627, Sylva Sylvarum or Natural History by Sir Francis Bacon talked about growing terrestrial plants without soil.

1699, John Woodward published his water culture experiments with spearmint. He found that less pure water made the plants grow better.


spearmint in glass
Spearmint Growing in a glass of water, Source


1842, The discovery of the critical 9 elements needed for soilless cultivation

1859–1875, the Growth of plants without soil in mineral nutrient solutions was called solution culture

1929, William Frederick Gericke of UC Berkeley grew tomato vines twenty-five feet tall in his backyard in mineral nutrient solutions rather than soil!

1937, with help from W. A. Setchell, Gericke introduced the term hydroponics, water culture, and soon after published Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening.

1939, The U.S. and British Armies installed hydroponic systems at several military bases on islands in the Pacific to provide fresh produce to troops during wartime.

In the 1960s, Allen Cooper of England developed the nutrient film technique and published The ABC’s of NFT


NFT drawing
NFT drawing, Source


In the 1970s, The rise of ubiquitous plastics significantly lowered the cost of construction and eliminated the destructive properties of earlier system components.


steel and pvc pipes
Steel and PVC pipes, Source

1982, The Land Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center opened and featured “Living with the Land” attraction with a variety of hydroponic techniques.

1960-Current, NASA does multiple experiments with hydroponics for advanced space travel.

NASA Hydroponics
NASA Hydroponics, Source


2007, Eurofresh Farms in Willcox, Arizona, grows over 200 million pounds of hydroponically grown tomatoes in their 318-acre greenhouse.

2017, Canada becomes one of the world leaders in hydroponics with hundreds of acres of large-scale commercial hydroponic greenhouses.


Large Greenhouse in Canada
Large Greenhouse in Canada, Source


2020, Hydroponics can produce 10 times the yield per acre of soil-planted crops and uses 1/20th the amount of water. Approximately 90 percent of all lettuce and tomatoes in the US and Canada are being grown hydroponically. Advances in technology are allowing people to grow their own vegetables at home. (we’re guessing that’s why you’re here)

2023, The global hydroponics market is forecast to grow from $226.45 million in 2016 to $724.87 million.



This ever-expanding, evolving, and changing list is due to the advances in hydroponic technology over the last several thousand years, or more, and it looks as though there is no end in sight. Hydroponics is considered by many, the most promising new development in farming technology that is the most flexible, scalable, and sustainable option in commercial and hobby agriculture today.



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Hi there! I'm Penny a Marketing Guru turned Hydroponic Researcher and Farmer. For some time, I have been successfully growing & enjoying nutritious greens by applying hydroponic vertical farming technique. Now I want to share all the knowledge and skills I acquired through my many hours of research, experiments and mistakes so that maybe you don't have to.