Hydroponic agriculture, the growing of plants without soil and adding nutrients in water, is a relatively new method of production in California, but it shows promise as a growth sector for farmers seeking to produce more efficiently while utilizing fewer natural resources, a challenge and opportunity recognized by all of agriculture as it moves through the 21st Century.
CDFA staff recently had an opportunity to visit a hydroponic operation at Archi’s Acres, a diverse farming operation in San Diego County. Archi’s Acres is already well known for its commitment to retrain returning members of the military for careers in agriculture, and it’s now also developing a strong reputation for its work in hydroponics.
Archi’s Acres is a certified organic greenhouse operation, growing fresh basil, kale, and other herbs and produce using highly efficient crop production methods to maximize use of natural resources while focusing on local sales distribution channels.
The farm’s proprietary nutrient cycling system, which is verified through the annual organic inspection to meet required standards, employs nutrient cycling practices that provide ecosystem services through conservation of scarce water resources.
Using Archi’s Acres’ unique hydro-organic methods, a plant only takes what water it needs and the rest is recycled for use again and again – an important benefit in a state still dealing with drought. The farm’s entire basil greenhouse, with 6,000 plants growing at a time, uses only about 100 gallons of water a day due to recycling.
The system at the farm is actually known as hydro-organics, a hydroponics system that includes the use of organic fertilizer as the key nutrient.
At CDFA we strive to continually gain a greater understanding and appreciation for all models of farming in California. Our scientists, responsible for review and analysis of both conventional and organic fertilizer materials, benefit greatly from opportunities to broaden their understanding of farming systems and inputs. When coupled with their scientific background, these ongoing educational experiences help our staff at CDFA make sound, informed decisions for the fertilizer products they oversee.