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Hydropolis » Blog » Growing Upwards: A Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponic Vertical Farming
20.04.2023 Autor: Hydropolis

Growing Upwards: A Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponic Vertical Farming

Hydropolis » Blog » Growing Upwards: A Beginner’s Guide to Hydroponic Vertical Farming
Autor: Hydropolis

Hydroponic farming, although known since the times of Babylon, still raises a lot of controversy, myths, and misconceptions. This is especially evident in the context of vertical farming. Herein we will dispel some of the myths and present the benefits and potential that comes with using this cultivation method.

Source: Shutterstock

From Babylon to NASA: The Surprising History of Hydroponic Farming

Hydroponic farming is a method of growing plants that has existed since the time of Babylon. It may come to you as a surprise that The Hanging Gardens of Semiramis served as a prototype for today’s hydroponic systems. Their intricate layout consisted of seven separate terraces. To avoid flooding or overflow, the roof of each level was covered with tar and a lead coating.

The outer edges of the terraces were coated with climbing plants, which descended towards the lower terraces, creating a green and steep mountain with trees, hedges, bushes and flowers. It looked as if the gardens were floating in the air, hence they are referred to as hanging gardens. Water from the Euphrates River was used to irrigate the gardens. It was delivered to different levels using a system built in of channels and drains.

What is hydroponics?

The fundamental difference between hydroponic cultivation and the commonly known method lies in the type of medium in which the plant is placed and the way it is hydrated.

Hydroponic farming is soilless plant cultivation carried out in appropriate substrates or even without them. These are so-called organic or inert substrates used to stabilize the plant. They do not contain any nutrients and are easily permeable to aqueous solutions.

Hydroponics is a cultivation system in which water, along with nutrients, is delivered directly to the roots of plants.

Plant roots have continuous access to macro- (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur) and micronutrients (iron, chlorine, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum, manganese, nickel) dissolved in water (nutrient solution). The amount of micro and macro elements depends on the cultivated plant species and whether the aim is, for example, faster plant growth, flowering or fruit setting.

Podłoże do uprawy hydroponicznej
Source: Canva, Various substrates for hydroponic cultivation

Thanks to years of research and work, we can technologically adjust the irrigation system and provide the plant with key elements for growth: water, nutrients, air, light, space, and time.

Where are the hydroponic systems used?

Hydroponics is mainly used in greenhouse vegetable, herb, and ornamental plant cultivation, as well as in vertical farming. It is worth noting that hydroponic plant cultivation can be done both indoors and outdoors, e.g., in a garden. However, it is more often talked about in the context of indoor cultivation of plants, as hydroponic can be an alternative to traditional farming methods.

Hydroponics allows for the cultivation of food in demanding climatic conditions, such as in Egypt or the Middle East. Hydroponic systems are successfully implemented on a smaller scale in home settings, as well as in greenhouses and warehouses. This technique complements traditional methods of plant cultivation.

Uprawa Hydroponiczna Hydropolis
Source: Hydropolis, Vertical farms in hydroponic system Basil, Hydropolis

Vertical farming in a hydroponic system is a technology that allows for independence from external climatic and atmospheric conditions. We already know that this modern farming method will be important for ensuring food security in the future. Research on it is conducted by private companies as well as public institutions. NASA scientists are conducting experiments on crops grown in controlled conditions using hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic farming techniques.

Advantages of vertical farms in a hydroponic system:

• Reduced fertilizer usage, up to 65% less compared to traditional cultivation.

• Water savings: up to 95% less compared to conventional agriculture.

• Zero pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides – no need for use plant protection products.

• Fast deliveries – 2-5 times faster growth of lettuce and herbs compared to traditional agriculture.

• Weather independence: cultivation operates in a controlled environment.

Healthy and safe food from vertical farming

In the era of increasing concern for the natural environment, a positive trend in reducing the use of chemical pesticides is observed across the European Union. According to the data of the European Commission, the risk related to the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture shows a steady decrease: by 14% compared to the reference period 2015-2017 and by 1% compared to 2019.

Source: EU: Trends, Trends in the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the use of more hazardous pesticides,

This positive information shows that farmers are increasingly conscious and responsible about the use of pesticides, which translates into an improvement in the condition of the natural environment and consumer health. In the context of these activities, it is worth noting that in 2022 Poland used an average of 2.1 kg of plant protection products per hectare, which is lower than the EU average of 3.1 kg/ha.

Source: Hydropolis

Many people associate hydroponics with the use of synthetic substances, which can lead to concerns about the quality of the plants produced. However, in vertical farming, hydroponics is used with significantly less fertilizer – up to 65% less! There is no need to use plant protection products, because these are isolated crops, which, when properly functioning, do not have “access” to weeds, insects, fungi or viruses.

It is important to note that all plants, regardless of their origin, undergo quality control before they are sold. Vegetable and fruit producers have a legal obligation to send their products to accredited laboratories to ensure they are safe for consumption. This process is controlled by national and EU laws, regulations, and other legal documents. As a result, consumers can rest assured that the fruits and vegetables they purchase have passed rigorous safety standards and are fit for consumption.

As part of its R&D activities, Hydropolis has multiple vertical farming operations and conducts studies of the plant’s microbiological composition. In 2021, the company conducted tests on Lollo Bionda lettuce and found impressive results. According to the guidelines contained in the European Commission’s regulation, one kilogram of fresh lettuce grown in a greenhouse cannot have more than 4500 mg NO3 per kg during the collection period from October 1 to March 31 1. The results showed that the vertically grown lettuce had 10 times fewer nitrates than the mandatory limit, demonstrating the high quality of Hydropolis’s vertical farming practices. 

Nitrate contentNitratesUnit
European Union DirectiveMaximum permitted levels (mg NO3/kg):
Harvested from October 1 to March 31: greenhouse lettuce
mg NO3/kg FW
Hydropolis resultsAmount: 449,193mg NO3/kg FW
Source: Hydropolis

3 Limitations of Vertical Farming

1. Plant Species for Cultivation

Vertical farms have the potential to cultivate various plant species. However, not all species are suitable. We aim to provide the best growth conditions in controlled environments for plants quickly rotating as leafy greens. We could provide these conditions for other plants but before a cherry tree grows, it would consume many resources

Hydropolis focuses on delivering turnkey solutions for leafy greens cultivation to reduce resource consumption and human labor. The company has currently developed crop recipes for crops like lettuce, herbs, and microgreens. Work is in progress on additional crop recipes.

2. Cultivation Space – Continuous Access to Electrical Power

Effective farming requires continuous access to electrical power. LED lighting, irrigation systems, and other electrical devices are used in vertical farming. Proper energy infrastructure is crucial for the farm’s efficient operation.

3. Monitoring of Cultivation

The production process is automated at select stages. With GROW WIZARD software, users have constant access to the conditions on the farm. Human presence on the farm is necessary for managing the entire process.

10 Benefits of Vertical Farm

1. Reliable Year-round Plant Production

One of the fundamental advantages of vertical farming is its independence from weather conditions. This means constant year-round production without concerns about weather affecting quality and quantity of crops.

2. Increased Efficiency through Crop Recipes

Developed crop recipes allow precise prediction of crop quantity, quality, and growth at any given time, preventing food waste at the production stage. The process is closely monitored by cultivation management software, GROW WIZARD.

Learn more about

3. More Economical Space Utilization for Cultivation

Vertical farms in hydroponic systems utilize less space and yield more in less time. Traditional agriculture requires more space for producing the same number of plants. Vertical farming uses approximately one-third less space. Plants are arranged vertically, one above the other, and each one receives the necessary conditions for proper growth.

4. Greater Control Over Fertilizer Usage

Hydropolis vertical farms use up to 65% less fertilizer. Controlled conditions on the farm minimize the risk of infections and damage caused by pests. Plants receive the necessary micro and macro nutrients for healthy growth at every growth stage.

5. Flexibility in Designing Vertical Farms

Hydropolis’ vertical farming can be customized for different plant species and client needs, depending on the scale and available space (whether it’s in halls/warehouses or shipping containers).

Learn more about the available technology here.

6. Local Food Production

In 2022, the transportation sector was responsible for emitting 8 Gt (gigatons) of CO2 into the atmosphere, a 3% increase compared to 20212. Vertical farms can be established almost anywhere, even in the city center, reducing food transportation costs to a minimum.

7. Reduced Labor Costs

Thanks to the developed crop recipes, we are able to precisely predict the quantity, quality and growth of crops at a given time. This prevents food waste already at the production stage. GROW WIZARD software allows control of the entire production process, from seed to harvest.

8. Minimal Water Usage

In vertical hydroponic farms, up to 95% less water is used compared to conventional farming. Water is recycled in a closed loop, reducing costs and minimizing environmental impact.

9. Optimization of Equipment Utilization

In traditional agriculture, farming machinery like combines and tractors is used only for a specific time of the year, generating costs for purchase and storage. In vertical farming, equipment is continually used to maintain conditions and ensure year-round production.

Chosen cultivation systems, lighting, and climate control in vertical farms are precisely tailored to the individual needs of the selected plant species.

10. Minimal Impact on Soil and Ecosystems

Vertical farming doesn’t require natural agricultural land, protecting soil from erosion, pollution, and reducing pressure on natural ecosystems. The absence of plant protection substances such as pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides minimize the risk of soil and groundwater pollution.

Vertical farming is an integral part of modern agriculture, which aims at the sustainable use of resources: both land and water. The efficiency of land, water, CO2, and light energy utilization in vertical farming can be up to 100, 40, 2, and 1.7 times higher, respectively, than in greenhouses3.

With the right conditions in hydroponic vertical farming, plants grow faster and are more resistant to diseases (compared to traditional agriculture). This allows for increased yields and improved quality of food production.

Let’s talk

Take the first step to start your own vertical farm in a hydroponic system!

1 COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1881/2006 of December 19, 2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs (Text with EOG relevance).

2 International Energy: IEA,, dostęp: 26.10.2023.

3 HORTSCIENCE 53(4):496–503, Responses of Sweet Basil to Different Daily Light Integrals in Photosynthesis, Morphology, Yield, and Nutritional Quality, 2018.

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