The hydroponic space requirements vary by system and method of installation. A question that comes up pretty often is, “Does hydroponics really take up less space than traditional soil-based agriculture?” I mean, depending on the system you use, plants still NEED space to grow so how can hydroponics really be that different than planting in soil? The reality is that hydroponics allows for greater flexibility in how you provide space for your plants to grow. Horizontal systems can be suspended and stacked, and vertical systems can grow many plants in a very small footprint. Let’s see how that math works out…
Premise for Spacing
Using square foot gardening method to layout the planting locations for plants in our 8’x3’ raised planters, it’s clear that we could plant 5 rows of plants with 6” of spacing between plants, rows, and the sides. The length of those rows would actually be 7’ with the 6” in from the edge on both ends. So the actual plant count would be 75 (15 per row, 5 rows).
The same plant spacing in hydro towers would be 10 per tower or 80 total plants. Hydroponic systems give us more space because we can plant to the edges of the medium at the top and bottom. Worse case, the two systems offer the same space for plants.
Solve for footprint (space used in Lab for each system)
Using a rendering, show the space needed for each system so the total square footage can be calculated to determine which system uses less space to house the same number of plants.
In our flagship Edible Learning Lab in Buffalo, WY we used a traffic buffer of 3 feet on front side of the 5” ZipGrow hydroponic tower sets and on all sides of the raised planters to allow for students and staff to move around and access the stations.
Each raised planter covers a total area of 126 sq ft while each of the hydroponic tower sets including the light suspension system only occupy 28 sq ft.
Our 5” ZipGrow hydroponic tower sets use almost 80% less space in the Edible Learning Lab to produce the same number of plants. The yield is actually greater in the hydroponic towers when compared to soil-based raised planters. But that’s a discussion for another lesson!