Lettuce, strawberries and cut flowers are well known commercial hydroponic crops in Australia and have been for the past decade and more. Tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers and cut flowers form the bulk of Dutch hydroponics crops. A number of UK growers have successful cucumber and tomato operations and many herb growers are moving into this form of cultivation. Nowadays, plants for essential oils, rare herbs, medicinal plants and Chinese vegetables such as, pak choi are more recent crops of great interest. Even gourmet potatoes and wasabi are being grown using hydroponics in New Zealand. There is a developing interest in growing plants for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical use. It is possible to grow practically any commercial crops hydroponically.
Commercial growers have been producing superbly flavoured hydroponic tomatoes for many years. Speciality crops and even fruit trees can all be grown hydroponically. We have even learnt of a commercial hydroponic potato business in the Southern Hemisphere!
We are seeing an increasing interest in the production of cut herbs and salad crops, driven by the demand for convenience foods that are also seen as ‘healthy’. The production of cut flowers is itself a huge market, the introduction of new more exotic plant types lends itself to hydroponic production as a means of growing the best quality from the outset and therefore, making it more difficult for cheaper lower quality crops to compete.
We expect, in time, to see an increase in demand for edible flowers, especially for use in restaurants and hotel complexes. Even fruit trees can be grown this way. In fact, there are very few plants that cannot be grown hydroponically; the choice for a commercial operation is a pure economic one.
There have been recent technological developments in the shape of LED lighting and phone apps. LED lighting has been successful for the hydroponic and horticulture industry because of their low energy qualities, high efficiency and long life. Whilst apps allow you to monitor a whole range of growing aspects such as EC and temperature.
‘A great source of information and support. Good luck with making this primary source for hydroponics worldwide’ Iain Reynolds, CEO – Pocket Herbs and Produce, Australia