We have a bit of a water crisis here in California. We have gotten a little bit of rain recently, but we are still hovering near the minimum rainfall that we've had in recorded history. About 80% of our water goes to agriculture. Unfortunately, that water is not used efficiently. Most of it just soaks into the soil and is gone. Hydroponic systems, on the other hand grow crops with recycled water. In fact the Aeroponic system they use at Tribe Awesome uses as little as 2% as much water as traditional farming. If we could convert large crops over to these systems it dramatically help reduce our water needs.
Another interesting part of hydroponic systems is the nutrients they use. They can be managed to optimize for different parts of a plant's lifecycle. They are also much more efficient because they have very little run-off - all the nutrients go to the plants. One type of system, aquaponics, uses fish to generate the nutrients for the plants. The entire system is closed. The fish muck up the water and fill it with nutrients for the plants. The plants then filter the water and clean it up for the fish. The result is a recirculating system that is extremely efficient.
The guy in the video below has a lot of plans for starting to scale up some hydroponic systems. He makes a compelling case and he looks to be making great progress, just using pieces and parts that anyone can get. He uses Arduinos to sense and control the system. The whole system connects to the net so he can monitor and control it over the web. It is quite impressive.
Spring is coming up, so its time to make the plans for your hydroponic garden.
Learn more here: http://rik94566.wordpress.com/category/agponics-com/
Build your own aeroponic system here: http://tribeawesome.com/project/aeroponics/build-your-own-aeroponic-garden/