When it comes to Indoor Hydroponic Gardens, we can grow produce right where it’s going to be purchased and right where it’s going to be eaten. How cool is that! Imagine you walk into your kitchen and stroll on over to your custom wall-mounted hydroponics system designed by a local agricultural artist and start picking off some freshly grown, pesticide-free lettuce, herbs, and veggies for your lunchtime salad.
Nope, not a scene from Willy Wonka or a chapter from Ernest Callenbach’s, Ecotopia, this is happening now! Apparently, Indoor Hydroponic Gardens are more than just “a thing” or the current “trend”, it’s here to stay. Farm to fork “is” the way of the future. Big corporations that are making turn-key hydroponic systems for the local restaurant, office, or home are betting on it.
More and more people are introducing some type of hydroponic system into their restaurant, office, and home now more than ever. Manufacturers, Industrial Designers, Architectural, agricultural, and landscape artists are beginning to re-think and redesign our current indoor hydroponic systems to become not just a source of food but an appliance or even a visual masterpiece inside our homes.
History of growing hydroponic gardens indoors
- 1973- Syracuse, NY, General Electric developed an indoor hydroponic farm funded by DoD to grow fresh vegetables on nuclear submarines (Geniponics).
- 1980- the CDC purchase Geniponics growing facility but was ultimately shut down by 1984 for lack of profitability due to rising electricity costs.
- 1980- mid 1990’s – General Mills ran a large commercial indoor farm for leafy greens in Dekalb, IL. Also closed due to rising electricity costs.
- 1987-2000 – NASA makes significant advances in hydroponics while creating the KSC Biomass Production Chamber (BPC) out of the high altitude orbit simulation chamber leftover from the Mercury mission.
- 1989- TS Farm by Kewpie Co. Corp, Japan ran an indoor A-frame aeroponics farm. They made significant technological improvements by using HID lamps for lighting and by use of their shelving systems.
- 1992- NASA publishes a study about growing hydroponic plants under narrow spectrum LED lights.
- 1996- Dr. Cary Mitchell studies the concept of Intra canopy lighting.
- 2008- ASHS release one of the most read and cited literary works on LED use in horticulture
- 2009 – Sky Green Farms, the first modern vertical farm is built. This Singapore facility consists of over 100 towers, each 9 meters tall that grow vegetables using sunlight and stored rainwater.
- 2010 – The Vertical Farm Magazine, brings about further public awareness to vertical farming that the scientific community previously had not.
- 2014- Veggie plant unit is sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Space X-4 rocket.
Summary of enabling historic technologies
- 1930-1940’s- Advent of soilless hydroponics and aeroponics
- 1940’s – The invention of plastic aids in the manufacturing of better plant holding trays and pipes that don’t rust or deteriorate from plant nutrients solutions and PH chemicals.
- 1950- 1980’s- Advances in environmental control systems
- 1980- current- Advances in computer smart controls and automation
- 1990- current- Advances in LED technologies, efficiency, and light spectrum. Probably the most important advancement in vertical farms and indoor agriculture as these advances allowed for realistic profitability due to energy savings from LED technology.
How does it work?
- Most indoor hydroponics systems are Active Hydroponics systems. A submersible pump in a reservoir is required to pump water and nutrients through a series of tubes and valves up to the top of either a vertical PVC tower or of a series of long channels, tubes or trays run side by side.
- In a vertical hydroponics system, water is pumped to the top of a large cylindrical PVC pipe with indentations all along its side. The nutrient water uses gravity to flow down the length of the large center tube hitting rings that line the inside on the way down. The rings help redirect and distribute the nutrient water evenly as it washes over and feeds all the plant root mats that are nested in net cups in the indentations along the side. The solution then flows down back to the reservoir at the bottom.
- In a horizontal tray or channel system or stacked tray system, one side is designed to be higher than the other. The nutrient water uses gravity to flow down the length of the trays feeding all the plant root mats on the way to the lower end.
- Plants are either placed into a net cup filled with stone wool or medium and then placed into the system or are grown in stone wool grow cubes and placed directly into the system.
- The pump usually runs continuously but can be set on a timer
- Usually runs with an integrated aeration system but is not required.
Learn More about how different hydroponic methods or techniques and how they work.
Where to grow your indoor hydroponic garden
Greenhouse, abandon warehouse, unused retail space, basement, garage, shed, back bedroom, grow tent, shipping container, trailer, and the list goes on. Wherever you have the space requirements to grow the type of veggies you want should work. The details would be in where you would get the water, lights and how to control the environment. This holds true for the local farmers’ market and even the average hobbyist or do-it-yourself, hydroponics builder.
These solutions may even work for the local restaurant or food store. In fact, many high-end restaurants have a container farm parked out back to give you that super fresh farm to fork experience. Grocery stores are no exception, they have jumped on the train full force to grow an assortment of fresh vegetables either Uber locally, in a container farm outback, or right in the produce aisle of the store.
However, when it comes to the home, big corporations and designers are betting on your kitchen and dinette as your main area for your fresh veggies. They have a multitude of small to medium and even large refrigerator-like appliances staged and ready to be shipped and set up just when the market is ready for it. Is it? I’m not so sure we are there just yet.
Farmers’ markets, homes, and hydroponics gardening are all the rage, especially with Covid 19 lingering on. So it’s probably only a matter of time before you’ll not only be calling your local pool and AC guys, but also your local hydroponics guy to come set up your systems for the summer! The following are just a very few examples of the plethora of indoor installations out there.
Small countertop systems
Appliance Type systems
Pros of growing your own indoor hydroponic garden
- Grow produce right where it’s going to be eaten
- the satisfaction of knowing where your food comes from and how it was grown
- Optimal usage of unused or repurposed space
- Compact design allows you to grow more per square foot
- Visual beauty of a well thought put installation can be quite appealing
- Great hobby or educational tool to learn hydroponics
Cons of growing your own indoor hydroponic garden
- More expensive initial set up
- Light Supply can be much more difficult. Especially with decorative installations
- Smaller nutrient reservoir or difficulty hiding one in a more decorative installation
- Many installations will require a higher “head height” nutrient pump
- Can be more difficult to clean some systems
- Limited vegetable selection. Difficult to grow fruit-bearing or top-heavy plants in the vertical or wall systems
- Limited number of crops per space to feed your entire family
The Future of Indoor Hydroponics
The future of indoor Hydroponics is grand! Indoor hydroponics is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s Covid 19 ridden world. More homes, offices, and restaurants are introducing installations for a hobby, visual effect, and food supply. The demand for design is growing exponentially. Designers are taking existing green wall technology and introducing it to the indoor garden world with some great success.