After losing all their vegetable crops to a 100-year-flood during the summer of 2008 in Indiana, traditional farm couple Darin and Deb Kelly decided to try a soil-less farming system known as hydroponics. Their first system was made from a plastic bin and a 400-watt lightbulb in their basement and could only hold six lettuce plants.
When the Kelly family first made their transition to hydroponic farming, they were still growing a small number of crops with traditional farming, proving that having a hydroponic system while still farming traditionally is manageable. The small system they developed in their basement made them fall in love with hydroponics, and their farm only grew from there.
Overall, traditional farming combined with hydroponic farming is manageable when you put your mind to it, especially because hydroponic systems do not require as much maintenance as traditional farming. Hydroponic systems can be rewarding year-round, especially in Indiana where there are harsh winters and humid summers.
Hydroponic systems, depending on the size, can range anywhere from $50 on the lower end to $100,00 on the upper end. “You do not have to find hydroponic markets before you start growing, and the systems do not require as much maintenance as traditional farming does,” says Petrus Langenhoven, a Purdue University horticulture and hydroponic crop specialist.
Langenhoven adds that plants take roughly four weeks to grow in the system, which is much quicker than traditional soil-growing methods. This also provides the ability to grow more plants year-round, even in the harsh Indiana winters.
Harvesting for hydroponics is also much easier and not as costly. For example, if you had a 300-acre farm in Indiana with various farm animals, you would still be able to maintain a hydroponic system because the system does not require daily maintenance, experts say.