Hydroponics is a method of growing plants directly in water without the use of soil, directly supplying the roots with needed nutrients. PLants grown hydroponically often are much larger and show much better growth this way. They may also be more nutritious.
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The environmental implications of hydroponics very much depends on the particular production system. When plants are gown without soil, they need to be supplied with the necessary nutrients in other ways, and usually this means purchasing a synthetic fertilizer solution that is added to the water medium that the plants grow in. While hyrdoponics is much more efficient in its use of water and enables the cultivation of crops in droughty conditions, it is not independent of the fossil fuel based fertilizer system.
An alternative that combines hyrdoponics–the growing of plants without soil– and aquaculture–the growing of fish– is aquaponics. In an aquaponics system, the fish fertilizer the water for the plants and the plants purify the water for the fish in a closed loop cycle that allows for the production of both fresh vegetables and protein without the use of synthetic fertilizers. I would say that aquaponics is better long term option for soil-less, water efficient, plant production.
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