Written by Riyana Razalee, Avi Abhittan, Tinia Pina
Growing organically – a goal that many farms are moving towards or have, at the very least, considered. For soilless farms in the US, the contentious issue of organic hydroponics classification remains at the forefront of the industry, with the recirculation of nutrients back into the soil being one of the main issues at hand. Essentially, at the root level, the growing environment is very different. For soil-based farms, creating organics can be done easily. Whereas for soilless farms, this requires substantially more thought and process design behind the systems and inputs that are used. Being able to reproduce standardized, sterile, and a nutritionally balanced microbial ecosystems, similar to what happens in soil, requires more thought when working in a soilless farm. One method that has been mentioned is the incorporation of bioponics.
Some of you may be thinking, “What on earth is that?”. We’re here to break it down for you.
Bioponics: What Is It?
In a nutshell, “bioponics” covers the full range of activities under soilless farming. In other words, crops can be grown either (1) with their roots immersed or exposed to nutrient solutions such as often observed in hydroponics and aeroponics systems, or (2) within a system that utilizes fish waste as the nutrient, such as aquaponics. What differentiates it is that it takes into consideration the sufficient level of biological activity needed to grow crops by only using chemical-free and organic nutrients. Through bioponics, farms are able to create a symbiotic relationship between themselves, their crops, as well as microorganisms.
Bioponics vs Hydroponics vs Aquaponics
- Production of organic biomass – When comparing bioponics to aquaponics, both systems begin with a form of organic biomass as the source of its nutrients. For example, fish urine, produce organic biomass after the fish consumes organic feed. With bioponics however, microbes break down carbon from organic materials to produce the biomass need for the plant’s growth.
A Sustainable Agriculture Solution for Soilless Farms
Growing bioponically can be done. How do we know? Because we utilize similar principles of bioponics to help our farms utilize our organic hydroponic nutrient, to achieve the following:
- Water consumption and nutrient usage becomes a fraction of what conventional soilless farms are used to. Through bioponics, there is the establishment of microbials in the reservoir which farms continually build upon for the health of the ecosystem that they’re growing.
- Crops can express its full genetic potential, replicating the biological activity that would happen in a soil-based system, while also producing competitive yields when using synthetic mineral salts.
- There will be a large microbial population that will act as a formidable barrier for a crop’s roots, protecting it from pathogens.
Bioponics as a sustainable agriculture solution sounds exciting. However, many soilless farms are still looking for a clear first step. Number one: Look at the nutrients being used at your farm. Are they synthetic mineral salts? Are microbials incorporated into the nutrients? How can farms use these nutrients and will it work for your system? Will your nutrient choice help your farm incorporate bioponics? These are all excellent questions and we’d be happy to guide you through it step-by-step. Reach out to us anytime and we'll get back to you straight away.