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Archi-ponics: Certified Organic Hydroponic Systems

Hydroponics is the wave of the future for organics. Hydroponics is the wave of the future for organics.

The organic industry sustained outstanding growth of 19% between 1997 to 2008 and 8% growth in 2010 despite the economy and how organics has faired compared to most industries during these hard times. No question there is an increasing customer demand for healthier food, produced locally by smaller producers. These small organic farms are opting out of the corporate agriculture production systems that are wasting our country’s precious resources and offering poor quality food. The top organic distributor, Whole Foods Market is literally betting on the farm - offering start up or expansion loans to crop producers and contracting for the product through the Whole Planet Foundation

So how can hydroponic growers go organic and tap into these ever-expanding markets? Let’s be precise and understand what “organic” agriculture means to the accrediting agency. According to the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB):

“an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

As you can see, the emphasis is on biological diversity, cycle, and activity. These biological cycles occur naturally in lands where the soil has been left untouched, where the symbiotic relationship between plants and the organisms in those soils (the Soil Food Web) are in proportion and supply the plant with the nutrients and defense mechanisms it needs to survive, even through droughts and periods of adverse weather. These relationships are what the organic grower must understand and utilize in order to produce crops without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. A good example is when a grower applies fish meal to the soil. The nitrogen is not available to the plant until micro-organisms break down the fish meal through several different and complex processes. The byproduct of those organisms is the nitrogen that feeds the plant.

How can hydroponic growers utilize the Soil Food Web to certify organic? At Archi’s Acres we brew organic compost teas and liquid organic fertilizers with a solid comprehension of (you might even say respect for) microorganisms, the role they play, and how they live. But without soil, the natural home for these microorganisms, we still need to create a shelter for organisms to live and grow. In media-based systems using coco or similar medium, that shelter is already there, it is the coco itself; but in systems like NFTs and aeroponics, that shelter will need to be created. There are many different ways to do this with the use of biofilters or the incorporation of a media-based system. One thing to know about these systems is the microorganisms will also live in a healthy root zone being suspended in water. Keep in mind the environment in which the organisms thrive - high oxygen in the water in the case of NFTs, or good irrigation practices in the case of media-based systems, which allow time for the media to dry and for oxygen to take the place of the water.

With a thriving Soil Food Web in your hydroponic system and the use of organic-based nutrients, the organic industry can expand far beyond the conventional field-based and water-intensive crops it is limited to now.

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In addition to hydroponic gardening, Archi's Acres also helps equip veterans with skills to transition into civilian life.
Last modified on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 15:18

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