Hydroponics – the process of growing plants without using soil – has been around almost two centuries. In the first half of the twentieth century, researchers at Berkeley and the University of California studied hydroponics in greater depth and encouraged it for agricultural production.
For a few years in the 1930s, hydroponics was all the rage in the world of botany, and scientists were making big claims about higher crop yields and more efficient land use. In 1938, however, an agricultural paper by Dennis Hoagland and Daniel Arnon debunked the more overblown claims about hydroponics. Hydroponics had several limiting factors, they argued, especially the quality and quantity of light.
Indoor Grow Lights
Hydroponics got a boost later on in the twentieth century when more efficient indoor grow lights were invented. The high intensity grow lights (HID lights), though, still had some disadvantages. For starters, they produced an incredible amount of heat. In confined spaces, this heat meant that it was necessary to use additional fans and/or complex ventilation systems. The heat and intense light produced by an HID light also had a tendency to scorch plants.
Today, hydroponics is getting a second wind thanks to researchers who grow with led lights. NASA, for example, is experimenting with hydroponic plants that grow with led lights as part of its continued research into Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems, or CELSS. The most famous CELSS was Biosphere 2, the huge glass facility in the Arizona desert that uses hydroponics to grow food.
The Future of Hydroponics
Now that hydroponic plants can grow with led lights quite efficiently, hydroponics may enter a new era of experimentation and research. Because LED lights do not have the unpleasant side effects of producing excessive heat and unnecessary types of light, they can be used in small spaces without requiring cooling fans or additional ventilation systems.
As LED technology continues to advance, the spectrum of light produced by LED grow lights is being refined. One day soon, hydroponics and other indoor gardeners will be able to grow with led lights that have been specifically designed for the plant or herb they want to grow. Not only NASA, but every hydroponics enthusiast will finally be able to overcome the obstacle of adequate light that Hoagland and Arnon identified so long ago as the main barrier to successful hydroponic endeavors.