History of Hydroponics

The term Hydroponics is from the Greek words hydro, meaning water and ponos, meaning labor.  Hydroponics  is defined as a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.

History of Hydroponics

“Hanging Gardens of Babylon” by Dutch artist Martin Heemskerck

Hydroponic gardens date back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where it is believed that the gardens used hydroponic principles were used.  Built in 600 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar II,  he is reported to have constructed the gardens to please his homesick wife, Amytis of Media, who longed for the trees and fragrant plants of her homeland Persia.

It is believed that an Archimedes screw was used to raise water to the top of the gardens where the water would flow down through the garden beds back to the Euphrates River

The gardens are thought to have been destroyed by several earthquakes after the second century BC.

Intha Floating Gardens

Intha Floating Gardens

The Aztec Indians had a system of growing crops on rafts manufactured from reeds and roots.  The gardens are formed naturally from the mixture of hyacinth, buoyancy and some decay roots and anchored with bamboo poles in the shallow lake. Mainly tomatoes and gourds are planted on floating gardens.

The Intha tribe in Myanmar still to this day use floating gardens to cultivate their crops.

Development started in Europe in 1699 when John Woodward found that he could grow plants in a solution of water to which soil had been added.  Over the following 200 years study into the nutrient requirements of plants was conducted resulting in scientists being able to grow plant in nutrient solutions made up from  mineral salts.

By 1925 practical applications of hydroponics were being made in the greenhouse industry.  The following decade saw extensive development take place as researchers became aware of the potential of growing plants hydroponically.

The first commercial hydroponic facility was built in the USA by scientist William Gericke in 1930.  Later during World War II the American Forces in the Pacific grew vegetables hydroponically.

The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) was developed by Dr Alan Cooper in the 1970s, this  development made the growing of hydroponic plants commercially viable.    Automatic control systems have been become available which allow easy control of nutrient concentration and acidity, carbon dioxide concentrations, temperate, humidity, and ventilation.

Low cost digital testing equipment is also now available which has allowed the home gardener to easily grow plants in hydroponics.

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