Although it cannot be said with certainty how the future of hydroponics is going to look, the experts attending 2021's GreenTech have no doubts that “the future is bright for hydroponics.”
A future of hydroponics
Veronique Savelkoul, Global Crop Sales Manager at BASF Vegetable Seeds, started the session by saying that, although the seeds BASF produces at the moment are enough to feed 500 million consumers, the challenge of feeding an increasingly growing world population is a serious one.
“Hydroponic production is one of the keys,” to solving this problem, she said. However, she also said that “hydroponic production, we are not there yet, we have to think how we can make it more diverse, more sustainable, more healthy.”
"The demand for hydroponically, locally, clean produce from greenhouses is increasing at the retailer and at the consumer level,” Patrik J. Borenius, CEO of Green Automation Americas continued. He added that the situation for growing on fields is deteriorating, and due to the pandemic, governments, too, “want a more local, sustainable, resilient food system.”
Opportunities in hydroponics
The conversation then turned to the future of hydroponics. "Spinach is the next big challenge and opportunity," believes Adnan Tunović, Manager Research & Business Development at Havecon.
As for regions with a bright future in hydroponics, Adnan agrees with Patrick’s assessment that Europe is the leading region at the moment, but also said that the US market is emerging rapidly and that the demand for hydroponic greenhouses in Asia is high. In fact, he even expects Asian countries such as “China, Singapore, and perhaps even more to the south” to be “the next growth market”. Although there is potential in Africa, the yield is not yet enough to cover the costs.
Safety and labor
“In open field production, obviously there is a lot of risk for all kinds of different ‘outbreaks’, and when you have a controlled, closed environment, you get to a point where your product is safer and guaranteed in a steady supply. Those elements of greenhouses are becoming more and more relevant,” Adnan continued. These factors are most likely “one of the main reasons why field growers are moving towards closed environments.” Veronique added that the highly automated greenhouses solve the problem of labor also, adding yet another benefit to hydroponic greenhouses.