Are Hydroponic Farms Practicable?

A standard prediction for the 1950’s futurists was the matter of hydroponic farms. There were quite a fewimpressive demonstrations of this method, and they were impressive…5 pound tomatoes, huge cabbage heads, etc. I can see the advantages:-food crops are grown in water, no bugs or pests. Also a hydroiponic farm can be three-dimensional-you can d grow a lot of plants in a very small area. Heck, there were predictions in the 50’s that the tops of skyscrapers would be used for hydroponic farms…no neeed to ship foods into the cities?
So how come nobddy does this? is this just another futurist dream? I belive the Israelis do some (limited) hydroponic farming…seems like agood idea to me!
Imagine, producing the entire output of the state of Kansas , on just 10 acres! :smiley:

Well, to be fair, they are rather practicable and have been for years. Only it’s not tomatoes being grown, so not much is getting published in peer reviewed journals. (Unless you consider High Times to be a reputable peer reviewed journal.)

But a lot of tomatoes are grown hydroponically these days:


Commercial growers produce all sorts of veggies hydroponically.

I work in the produce department of a grocery store, and many of the vegetables (almost all of the tomatoes) are grown hydroponically.

Most if not all of the greenhouses that produce vegetables where I am do it hydroponically. Well in a way; they use inert rooting material and water rather than soil. A couple reasons for this is to get rid of all the soil pathogens that infect the plants… and also to have a consistent nutrient supply since it’s constantly being mixed up; soil will change in it’s nutrient composition over time requiring more additions (fertilizers), so they just throw in exactly what they want into the water in the desired concentrations and skip the soil altogether. It has it’s drawback naturally though… You also don’t even come close to eliminating pests - you’ll have all kinds of bugs parasitizing your crops in a greenhouse soil or no, so you still need to manage them.

You can’t really grow plants in 3-D economically however - they still need light. Sunlight is the cheapest, but if you’re packing the plants so densely you need electrical light, you end up paying as much or more for power than you save in space (for any kind of legal vegetable prices of course).

Why doesn’t everyone do it? Not enough profit. You actually can get tomatoes grown, harvested, processed, and shipped to your store from Mexico in much higher quantities cheaper than you can grow them yourself in your own backyard. You need a pretty big greenhouse to be commercially viable (something like 10,000 square feet) in the first place, and that’s in/on farmland. Rooftop systems big enough to make sense would loose money. No building owner is going to go for the idea, or if they do it’d be a publicity thing rather than a economic thing.