The ecological value of products produced without pesticides, in a system with minimal environmental discharge make hydroponic production a strong sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional large-scale agricultural products imported and shipped long distances.
Hydroponics save on greenhouse gases and do not contaminate the environment:
- Growing plants, fruits, and vegetables hydroponically uses less arable land. Many hydroponic crops have shown to yield ten times those grown in fields
- Hydroponics offer the benefit of a shorter growing period. Plants have direct access to water and nutrients and thus are not forced to develop extensive root systems to allow them to find the nutrients they need in the soil. This saves time and produces healthier, lusher plants in much less time than traditional agriculture.
- Ground water is saved as there is no need to irrigate large tracts of land. Hydroponic systems only require approximately 10 percent of the water that soil-based agriculture requires. These systems allow for the recycling and reuse of water and nutrients. Nutrients are analyzed in the discharged water and once the water is purified to be recycled, the nutrient content of the water is just topped up before being used again.
- Plants are not threatened by natural calamities when in controlled greenhouse environments. The chances of infestation of weeds, insects or disease are greatly reduced allowing for the elimination of weed-killers and fungicides and the ability to greatly reduce the need for pesticides. The minimal insects in the crops are controlled in an integrated pest management system using natural insect predators. In some crops, such as our lettuce, pesticides can be eliminated completely and in other crops, such as our cucumbers, growing space is virtually pesticide free as applications are used very minimally.
- Hydroponics benefit the environment in that no chemicals are being released into the air.
- Hydroponic systems use little to no growing medium. In addition to that the medium can be both re-used and recycled. We grow several crops on our growing medium and then naturally compost.
- Finally we must consider the environmental impact of the transportation of imported products. Since hydroponics allow produce to be grown year-round locally there is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of reduced transportation.
At Lake Erie Farms we employ many other environmentally friendly procedures. For instance, we recapture CO2 from our heating system and allow our plants to use it in their process of photosynthesis. We have installed state of the art energy curtains to greatly reduce the amount of natural gas we use to heat our greenhouses.
Greenhouse curtains are used for heat retention at night when heating demand is greatest. These are installed under the trusses of the “attic” portion of the greenhouse roofs. They trap an insulating layer of air, reduce the volume of space that must be heated, and reflect heat back into the house. In addition, the curtains provide shade and cooling effects during the day. They thus eliminate the need for other shading materials such as white wash paint. The curtains are computer-controlled and measure the indoor and outdoor environment to maximize the benefits of the heating control and solar radiation in the greenhouse.
To preserve food freshness and safety we must package our products. Since we are aware of the vast quantities of packaging being used across the globe today, we employ every effort to reduce packaging where ever possible. Where not possible we ensure that we use recyclable materials where available. All of our plastic clamshell containers for instance are made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate). This material is highly recyclable and is marked with a recyclable symbol to help our customers and consumers identify the material and recycle appropriately.
For more details on our environmental actions, please have a look at a Union_Gas_Enercase featuring our farm and their EnerSmart program for Greenhouse Energy Curtains.