Our lettuces and some of our herbs are grown using Hydroponics, a method of growing plants out of the ground, up on elevated garden beds. There are many ways of growing using the hydroponic method, and we've adapted the method to suit our farm philosophy of using no synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. 

Hydroponics is often a more sustainable alternative to traditional farming methods and this is certainly true for us on our farm. Why does it suit us so well?

Our water: we treat our water as precious because we collect our own rain water, storing and filtering it before use. Our hydroponic system is a closed system, so the water is re-used over and over. It feels good to be capturing and using the water carefully.

Careful use of nutrients: as the water goes through the system, it is analysed and the system drops in to it the nutrient amount required. We choose to use only natural minerals in our nutrient mix. This fits with our growing philosophy of only using natural inputs.

Careful use of energy: our hydroponic set-up takes less than a light bulb of electricity a week to run. We can use our two-person man-power to look after it, it doesn't require heavy machinery or fossil fuels to maintain. The beds are up at waist height which means less stress on our bodies. We can fit more plants to a bed than in the ground, which means we can grow more in a smaller space and control our workload. There are less weeds - we don't want to waste time weeding.

More control over pests: our hydroponic tables are outside, in natural sunlight.  They are covered by a hooped frame, and on the frame we can bug net, bird net, shade cloth or rain cover. At waist height, the tables make it easier to look for bugs. If we find aphids, we can remove and dispose of a few plants easily to contain the problem. We have lots of birds here at Salty River Farm, so bird netting is a vital part of our setup. We can pull the covers over if rain is coming and easily shade the beds if it's too sunny. 

Re-use and compost ability: We sow the seed into little grow pots, which get reused over and over. We mix together coconut coir and pumice for our growing medium - we like that after harvest any waste can be composted.

Consistency in growing: because the nutrient water runs under the plants constantly, our plants are strong and healthy year-round. This makes it overall the most consistent part of the farm crop-wise therefore income-wise.

Cleanliness of crops: being up off the ground, there is no dirt or mud splash on our hydroponic crops. This means we usually don't have to wash. Washing crops lowers their shelf-life so the less we have to wash, the better for our customers.

Although we also grow many of our vegetables in the ground, we love growing hydroponically.