Hydroponics is a technique of growing plants with water and nutrients without the use of soil. This technique makes use of containers or specially designed benches with troughs to enable the suspension of plants in water. Hydroponic systems often use materials such as sand, pebbles, or sawdust as substrates that have high water-holding capacity. The roots grow within the substrates to secure the plant within the trough or container. The hydroponics technique was first introduced in the 1920s; however, it could not be implemented on a commercial scale due to various limitations. In recent years, controlled environment agriculture (CEA) and hydroponics have gained rapid adoption due to advancements in greenhouse structures and affordability of technology to support plant growth. Hydroponics offer several advantages over soil-based horticulture, such as lower water consumption, better control of nutrient levels, less prone to pests or diseases, shorter harvest times, and higher yield.
The evolution of CEA and hydroponic smart greenhouse took place largely in Europe due to the favorable environment for the adoption of greenhouse automation technologies and encouragement from the government. A large number of Europe-based companies have invested significantly in the research of various areas of greenhouse automation, including climate control, lighting, material handling, and hydroponics. As a result of the all-round development in CEA, Europe has become a major market for hydroponic smart greenhouse technologies.
The Asia-Pacific region is the world’s largest consumer of food products as it accounts for nearly 60% of the global population. Earlier, many of the countries in this region relied on traditional cultivating techniques for producing plants. However, rising population, increased urbanization, and industrialization have led to a reduction in the availability of cultivable land. In order to obtain more number of annual harvests in limited cultivable lands, growers in Asia-Pacific have started adopting advanced technologies for producing plants in hydroponic smart greenhouses.
There have been various factors which have played a major role in driving the hydroponics market across the globe. One of the major drivers is that hydroponics provide higher yield compared to traditional agricultural techniques. It also provides farmers the ability to grow crops in areas that cannot support crops in soil. Furthermore, hydroponics eliminates the use of artificial ripening agents and pesticides, which helps in creating nutritionally superior vegetable products.
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