Public interest in urban farming has increasingly grown during the Covid-19 pandemic. The implementation of WFH (work from home) makes people have more free time and start adopting urban farming. Apart from overcoming boredom at home, this activity can also strengthen our body and become a promising business opportunity.
An increasing trend in urban farming has a significant impact on the sale of horticultural seeds. Director General of Horticulture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Prihasto Setyanto, even said that urban farming in Indonesia has been phenomenal over the past year.
“The pandemic and the implementation of WFH make people have new activities at home, such as urban farming by growing hydroponics at home. This is an extraordinary phenomenon. We have monitored the sale of seeds since this trend exists and it turns out that horticultural seeds have increased up to five times,” Prihasto said.
In addition to vegetable crops, ornamental plants also become a star in urban farming. The public interest has increased that creates many successful millennial farmers for ornamental plants. Meanwhile, the export of ornamental plants has tripled. The export volume of ornamental plants soared to 333 million pieces in November 2020 from only 105 million pieces in 2019.
Urban farming has several methods such as verticulture, hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. Each method has differences. Hydroponics and aquaponics are the most widely implemented methods in urban farming. Do you know the difference between the two? Check out the following explanation!
Understanding Hydroponics, Types of Plants, and Plant Care Tips
Hydroponics is a technology for growing crops by using water and nutrient solutions as a growing medium instead of soils. In addition to water and nutrient solutions, hydroponics also uses other growing media such as rockwool, husk charcoal, zeolite, and various light and sterile media.
Hydroponics is also known as nutri culture, water culture, gravel bed culture and soilless culture. In agricultural systems using hydroponics, what needs to be emphasized is the fulfillment of nutritional needs with water as a source of nutrients from plants. Therefore, even though it does not involve soil in its growing medium, hydroponic plants can still grow, even with superior quality than ordinary plants.
In the e-book entitled “Technical Instructions for Hydroponic Vegetable Cultivation” as downloaded from the riau.litbang.pertanian.go.id, there are several types of hydroponic systems:
- Wick System: This system is the simplest hydroponic model, which uses an axis that connects the plant pot to the nutrient solution medium.
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT): The nutrient solution is continuously circulated to the plant roots using PVC pipes and a pump with a recirculation technique.
- Deep Water Culture (DWC): Plants are made to float in a nutrient solution so that plant roots are continuously submerged. The use of the pump is only to produce oxygen in the nutrient solution.
- Drip System: This system uses two separate containers, namely the top and bottom. Top container for plants and bottom container for nutrient solution. The nutrient solution is pumped up and water the plant stems, then the remaining solution will go down to the bottom container after passing through the planting medium and plant roots
Here is a list of plants that are perfect to grow in a hydroponic system:
- Lettuce: In addition to its high economic value, lettuce is one type of plant that is more resistant to disease, so it is quite profitable and has a bright prospect as a hydroponic plant.
- Celery: The prospect of celery is no less promising than lettuce. The plant, also known as leaves for soup, is much needed by the community for cooking and medical purposes.
- Tomatoes: Growing tomatoes hydroponically allows farmers to grow the plant in a controlled environment, with less risk of disease, faster growth, and larger fruits.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are widely consumed by the Indonesian people. The cultivation of cucumbers in a hydroponic system is easier to do and does not require a large area.
- Mustard greens: the advantage of cultivating mustard greens in a hydroponic system is a super easy and simple process when compared to ordinary planting.
- Spinach: Growing spinach through the hydroponic process is very easy, because all it takes is accuracy.
- Bok Choy: This vegetable is also known as mustard spoon because of its small size and shape like a tablespoon. Given it is a type of mustard plant, the hydroponic way of cultivating bok choy is essentially the same as cultivating other hydroponic plants.
- Chili: This plant can also be cultivated in a hydroponic system. A quite high demand for this plant makes it has a high economic value to be cultivated.
Things that need to be considered in hydroponic plant cultivation are:
- pH and Nutrition Measurements: pH is important to know to regulate the absorption of plant nutrients so that there is no deficiency. Nutrient levels in a solution can be measured by TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) or PPM (Parts Per Millions). The measurement results show the EC value of the solution which greatly determines the speed of plant metabolism, whether the nutrients given are in accordance with the plant’s needs.
- Pest and Disease Control: Pests that often attack hydroponic plants are mealybugs, Aphids, snails, leafminer flies, and ants. The types of diseases in hydroponic plants are generally the same as those cultivated in soils. The cause of the disease is caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses that are transmitted through insect vectors or the use of contaminated planting tools. Weeds are not a problem because hydroponic techniques minimize weed growth.
- Stitching plants: This can be carried out at the age of 15 days after planting.
- Installation Control: A rough system in pumps and hoses/pipes will greatly affect plant growth. Unavailable electricity and water may cause cultivation failure if left for a long time.
- Harvest and postharvest: Each commodity has a different harvest age and treatment. For a very important business scale, you should pay attention to harvest time and proper postharvest handling.
Understanding Aquaponics, Types of Plants, and Plant Care Tips
After understanding the hydroponic farming method, we will discuss aquaponic techniques. Aquaponics refers to a system that couples aquaculture and plants hydroponics in a recirculating or mutually beneficial ecosystem.
In aquaponics, plants utilize nutrients that come from fish waste, which if left in the pond will be toxic to the fish. Plants will function as a vegetation filter that will break down these toxic substances into substances that are not harmful to fish, and supply oxygen to the water used to raise fish. With this cycle, there will be a mutually beneficial cycle, those who apply this technique will also get the benefit because it saves land.
Besides not requiring a large area of land, aquaponics can also save water. This is because aquaponics uses a circulating water system. The water in the fish pond can be used to water the plants, after that the water will flow back to the pond.
The materials and the installation process are quite easy. For a simple system, you can use containers from fiber tubs, tarpaulin ponds, plastic ponds, used aquariums, and soil ponds for fish cultivation containers, while for plant cultivation containers, they can be made of bamboo or paralon.
Here is a list of plants that can be grown in an aquaponic system:
- Spinach is popular because the growing period is relatively short and can be harvested after 2 months.
- String beans are a type of legume that can be grown in an aquaponic system and can be harvested within 2.5 months – 3 months.
- Chayote squash can be cultivated in an aquaponic system and the results are satisfactory.
- Basil will be ready for harvest at the age of 50 days after planting.
- Kale is a plant that is easy to grow naturally. In its maintenance, kale requires a continuous supply of water. Kale harvest age is relatively fast, which is about 30-40 days.
- In an aquaponic system, tomatoes will be ready for harvest at the age of 65-70 days after seeding.
- Chili. As one of the spices for cooking, chili is usually grown by the people in their backyards. With the aquaponic technique, chili can be harvested at the age of 65-90 days.
Meanwhile, the type of fish selected for the aquaponic system should meet a number of criteria, including producing large amounts of ammonia and having a fairly high survival rate. Usually the types of fish that are cultivated in aquaponic systems are consumption fish. They are:
- Catfish (patin), harvest time 4 – 5 months.
- Clarias (lele), harvest time 2 – 3 months.
- Nile tilapia (nile), harvest time 4 – 6 months.
- Goldfish (mas), harvest time 3 – 4 months.
- Pomfret (bawal), harvest time 4 – 6 months.
- Giant gourami (gurami), harvest time 3 – 4 months.
In a report entitled “Aquaponics, Home Cultivation Options in a Time of Pandemic”, quoting the unpad.ac.id page, Lecturer of Faculty of Fishery and Marine Science at Padjadjaran University Irfan Zidni, M.P explained several things that must be considered in aquaponic system cultivation:
- Aquaponic installations must be installed properly and not easily damaged. Moreover, the installation must be easy to monitor and maintain.
- Aquaponics must also receive sufficient sunlight for plant growth. If aquaponics is cultivated indoors, then we can use light to meet the plant’s need.
- Pay attention to water quality, such as temperature, acid (pH), dissolved oxygen content, nitrite, and ammonia which become important factors in fish farming. In addition, the amount of feeding that is not excessive is very important to apply.
- The ratio between the density of fish and the number of plants is very important, because nutrients for plants derived from fish waste must meet the nutritional needs of plant growth.
- Do a check periodically to the sustainability of the aquaponic system, such as the inhibition of the recirculation system due to a buildup of dirt in the plant growing medium, and a check to anticipate leaks in the cultivation container.