There’s growing interest in buying organically grown produce to reduce exposure to harmful synthetic chemicals and pesticides found on more than a third of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. The downside to buying organically grown foods is that they’re usually more expensive and can be hard to find in some areas due to the high demand. One alternative to purchasing organic produce is to buy hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables instead. Hydroponic foods tend to be less costly than organics and are easier to find in some areas. Are hydroponically grown foods healthier than conventionally grown ones?
What Are Hydroponically Grown Foods?
Hydroponically grown foods are ones that are raised in a controlled environment without soil. In place of soil, special nutrient solutions are used to provide nutrition to the growing plant. Virtually any terrestrial plant can be grown successfully without soil using hydroponic techniques. Without the need for land, hydroponic foods can be grown indoors in a controlled setting so that the many factors that affect food production can be controlled. Plants that are raised hydroponically grow up to fifty percent faster due to the ready availability of nutrients.
What Types of Hydroponically Grown Foods Are Available?
Hydroponically grown foods such as tomatoes, berries, cucumbers, peppers, greens, and almost every manner of fruit and vegetable are grown hydroponically, although availability may vary depending upon location. Most hydroponic producers are smaller, family owned farms who sell their produce locally which makes farmer’s markets a good source for hydroponic fruits and vegetables. When you buy hydroponically grown foods, there’s a good chance you’re buying from a local producer.
What Are the Benefits of Hydroponically Grown Foods?
One advantage to hydroponically grown produce is that it isn’t grown in fields where exposure to disease causing bacteria from livestock can be a problem. On the other hand, if sterile conditions aren’t maintained, the moist, humid environment used in hydroponics can be ideal for growth of bacteria. With hydroponics there’s also little risk of exposure to run-off that can contaminate produce with bacteria and chemicals. Although hydroponically grown produce can’t be called organic because it doesn’t use animal fertilizers, it shouldn’t be contaminated with pesticides since it’s grown indoors under a controlled setting.
Are Hydroponically Grown Foods More Nutritious?
This depends upon the grower. Since the quality of the nutrient solution can be controlled, it’s possible to grow a healthier piece of produce by hydroponic methods. In one small study, tomatoes and sweet peppers were tested for vitamin content. It was shown that the hydroponically grown veggies had higher vitamin levels. Theoretically, by growing your own hydroponic produce you could create a nutritionally superior fruit or vegetable by enhancing the nutritional value of the solution they’re grown in.
The Bottom Line?
Hydroponically grown foods may be a less expensive way to get the benefits of organic fruits and vegetables. An even less expensive option is to grow your own hydroponic foods. There are various websites that sell supplies to do this.
Essential Elements for Plant Growth: Hydroponics.
Barak, P. 2002.