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How to Start a Hydroponic Farm

Hydroponic farms use a soilless method of growing plants. Hydroponics is the use of liquid to deliver nutrition to plants instead of soil. Hydroponics uses material such as sand, gravel, perilite or peat moss. Understanding the basic needs and requirements of the plants you're growing helps ensure success in starting a hydroponic farm.

Contact your local zoning office to determine any requirements needed to start a farming operation. Let them know you are starting a hydroponic farm since this may have different requirements as opposed to a soil-based farm. There may be building and height requirements; there may be set-back requirements where structures must be spaced certain distances from each other and from the edge of the property line.

Choose the method of hydroponic farming you will use. Hydroponic farming methods fall into one of two systems: liquid-based and sand-based. Each system has two sub-systems or methods. Liquid systems can be either sub-irrigation using trays of porous material, or glass wool floating on top of liquid called water-culture. Sand systems use a slope method where nutrients are poured onto sand, or drip method using a constant dripping of liquid onto the sand.

Choose the location of the structures for the hydroponic farm. Greenhouses can be used in areas with plenty of open sunlight. Use a location where you can run enough power to the greenhouses for grow lights and ballasts if needed.

Set up the greenhouse. An 8-by-10-foot greenhouse can hold up to 100 plants. Use stone, brick, gravel or concrete and tile for the floor of the greenhouse; this type of flooring can provide for drainage if needed. It also holds heat in the greenhouse longer.

Assemble the hydroponic growing kit inside the greenhouse. Find the kits, porous material and nutrients at specialized retailers selling hydroponic farming material. Hang the ballasts. String the electrical lines so that each are connected. Attach the power to the lighting. Set up the growing medium according to provided instructions.

Plant your seeds or bulbs according to their instructions in the growing medium. Contact your local Cooperative Extension for proper growing conditions and nutrient levels; make sure you tell them you are growing hydroponically, as this is different from other methods of farming.

Create a schedule to provide nutrition to the plants. Maintain the schedule, including pruning and checking for damage or pests. Harvest the crops as they mature.

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