What is Hydroponics?

You may have heard the word “Hydroponics” so many times. The media surely has popularized this method of growing plants. But what is its true meaning, and how did Hydroponics evolve through history? Well, you’re about to find out.


Hydroponics is a Greek term, made from two words – Hydro means water and Ponos means labor. And hence “working water” is its raw meaning. 

To put simply, Hydroponics is the method of growing plants without soils. 

Plants are grown in a soilless medium (we’ll know about it below) and come into contact with the nutrients in the water for their growth.

How Does Hydroponics Work?

Basic Parts of hydroponics

Hydroponics operates on the premise that as long as you are able to provide with what they need, plants will grow well.

In this sense, Hydroponics is invented to rule out the influence of mother nature – It can be placed in a controlled growing environment.

Hydroponics replaces the soil with water and the growing media. The growing media can be Perlite, sand, Rockwool, etc. Their main role is to transfer the nutrients in the water and keep the roots oxygenated.

Nutrients are added to the water and are moved to the growing media and through the plant roots usually by a water pump. The interval of each action is often set by a timer.

History of Hydroponics

A brief history of hydroponics

Hydroponic cultivation does not occur overnight. In fact, it has evolved from primitive types and has undergone lots of scientific researches by scientists. And what we have today is modern Hydroponics, which have been in a wide application by greenhouse farmers as well as Hydroponic hobbyists.

Let’s have a look at some of the key milestones of this method.

The 600 B.C. – The Hanging Gardens of Babylon along the Euphrates River in Babylonia are the earliest example of Hydroponic culture.

The 1000 A.D. to 1100 AD – The Aztecs developed a system of floating gardens called “chinampas” in the island city of Tenochtitlan.

The Late 1200s – Marco Polo discovered floating gardens during his trip to China

The 1600s – Belgian Jan Van Helmont performed the first experiments on plant growth & constituents.

1699 – An English man, John Woodward grew plants in water containing soil mixes. He concluded that plants take up nutrients from certain substances and mineral in the water, derived from the soil. Of course, this statement is incorrect.

The 1860s – Two German botanists, Julius von Sachs and Willhelm Knop devised the first standard formula for plant mineral nutrient dissolved in water.

The 1920s and 1930s – Hydroponics terms coined by W.F Gericke (U.C. Berkley). He experimented and popularised the practice of growing plants in a water solution.

The 1940s – Hydroponics was used on the isolated, non-arable Wake Island to supply the troops stationed here with fresh vegetables

The 1950s – Many countries around the world started Hydroponics for commercial farms and greenhouses. These include France, Spain, Italy, England, Germany, the USSR, Israel, etc.

The 1960s to now – Many Hydroponic systems are invented and are put into use, including the Nutrient Film Technique, the Drip System, Ebb & Flow, and Aeroponics. In the recent two decades, there is a stirred interest of growers into Hydroponics when it is applied to large-scale greenhouse farms around the world to provide foods for millions of people. 
NASA also considered Hydroponics as a viable method to grow and provide food for astronauts on Mars.

There are several Hydroponic systems, but they all work as per to the above principle.

Hydroponics is usually grown indoors or in a greenhouse. This means growers will take full management of the environment – climate, temperature, lights, ventilation, and so on.

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