Carbon Negative Farming: Can Hydroponics Help?

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carbon negative farming

Today agriculture is a massive contributor to carbon emissions, According to EPA, in 2018, agriculture only accounted for 10% of the US greenhouse gas emissions, These come from livestock like cattle, agricultural soils, and rice productions. However, the problem is much bigger than this number suggests. This article is about Carbon Negative Farming and how hydroponic farming can help.

traditional farming

Traditional agriculture is the primitive type of farming that involves the intensive use of indigenous knowledge, traditional tools, natural resources, organic fertilizer, and the cultural beliefs of farmers.

About 50% of the agriculture still uses this type of farming.

Traditional agriculture has an impact on the environment and it involves:

  1. Depletion of Nutrients
  2. Soil Erosion
  3. Deforestation
  4. Soil degradation

Traditional Agriculture and Carbon Emissions

The carbon emission as a result of agriculture is only the beginning of the story.

After harvesting crops, they need to be transported to other areas that are the far way to reach grocery stores on areas where there is not much agriculture or certain crops are out of season.

Moreover, a long transportation chain means that there is an increase in greenhouse gases that are related to the shipping process.

carbon negative farming 1

Engineers around the world are aware of the increasing problem and actively working towards a future that can reduce the carbon footprint within the vertical farming systems.

The goal, therefore, is Carbon Negative Farming.

But what is it and how it works? Read on to find out more.

Carbon Negative Farming

Carbon negative farming or simply carbon farming is any farming method that involves the absorption of carbon that it creates.

The basic cycle of carbon production and absorption in our world works in the following steps:

  1. People and animals exhale carbon dioxide every time they breathe
  2. Plants take in carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis.
  3. They are able to absorb carbon dioxide each year. However, most of it winds up cycling back into the atmosphere because of over-tilling and erosion.

Carbon itself is not the root cause of problems that lead to greenhouse gas and carbon footprint.

It is a vital element that all life on the Earth needs to survive. However, the damage comes from excess carbon that makes its way into the atmosphere, where it absorbs the heat of the sun.

carbon negative farming 2

Rather than releasing carbon into the air, one of the best places of its release in the soil.

Unfortunately, traditional farming turn over the soil, carbon is released into the air. Moreover, over-tilling accelerates the surface degradation of organic matter into the soil.

This otherwise releases its carbon back into the ground as it decays.

Think of just adding the effects of wind and water erosion on the top of the soil and there is a large-scale crisis on hand.

In short, carbon-negative farming practices seek to reverse this problem, storing carbon in the soil rather than releasing it into the air.

Working of Carbon Farming

An amazing thing about agriculture is that is not just our solution and slowing down the process of carbon emissions but also reversing them,

Carbon negative farming involves using best practices that pull more carbon out of the air than the farms put into it.

If we are able to do this efficiently, we can more effectively reverse one of the world’s most crucial dangers.

One common way of doing this is through the practice of Composting,

Compost increases the amount of carbon that is stored in the soil, improving the previous top soil’s quality and creating carbon storage as deep as meters from the surface.

carbon negative farming 3

Interestingly, it does this when we apply to the top of the soil only, which means that most of that carbon storage is safe from erosion and tilling.

Another practice farmers are exploring is grazing. This is counterintuitive as grazing cows and other livestock are some of the biggest produces of carbon emissions in agriculture.

However, the reason this problem is there in the first place is that we are doing grazing all wrong.

With rotational grazing strategies, cows and livestock can improve their grazing land and soil.

Hydroponic farming also uses a fewer amount of fertilizers and needs fewer pest management systems. thus is because hydro crops are protected from many pests and plant diseases found outdoors in soil-based farms.

Hydroponics May be the Answer

The third option involves not tilling the soil at all to produce crops. How? By growing plants without soil, by leveraging hydroponics system.

Hydroponic farming is a system that involves growing crops without soil. In this system, the roots of the plants grow in a solution that is rich in nutrients.

carbon negative farming 4

They may also grow inside most inert materials like Rockwool and Vermiculite. These solutions are a mixture of important plant nutrients in the water.

The plant’s roots are either in the static liquid solution or in a continuous flowing mixture. Moreover, this growing system requires continuous attention to crops, unlike in the traditional farming system.

Learn more about Hydroponic Farming vs. Traditional farming here.

Advantages of Hydroponic Farming

Hydroponic farming absorbs carbon content from the air, without disturbing the Earth because plants grow directly in water, with no requirement of the soil.

Not only this, because hydroponic farms can grow indoors with little space required for them to grow. These farms can thrive in urban environments or areas where farming conditions are not ideal for traditional methods.

Moreover, these indoor urban farms solve the challenges of both transportation and eliminate soil erosion,

Another interesting fact about Hydroponic Farming is that it is a sustainable farming method.

Through these sustainable methods, farmers are able to feed the growing population of the world.


As hydroponic plants are grown indoors, they can exist in areas where the climatic conditions do not suit the traditional farming methods. This means that farmers are able to bring the local crops into the communities where fresh crops are scarce.

Therefore, it helps to lower the carbon emissions due to excessive use of fossil fuels in transportation across the country or around the world. This moreover, reduces the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as well as the effects of Global Warming.

Another advantage of using hydroponic farming is that it uses far less water than traditional farming.

The water can be recycled time and time again in this system. It uses systems like drip irrigation for irrigation of water, which makes sure that there is almost 90% less water usage.

This is an effective way of conserving water.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

The growing methods of each type of crop can be different, however, when choosing between the types of various hydroponic farming systems, knowing about the facts and their basics will help you.

Here is a quick go through some of the systems of Hydroponic farming systems:

Standing Aerated Nutrient Solution

This system is commonly known as DWC, a deep water culture system.

Standing aerated nutrient solution is a hydroponic system in which the nutrient solution is static, and the plants are suspended into the solution.


Replacement of nutrient solution is important every 5 to 10 days and the frequency depends on the number of plants and system volume.

Moreover, A crop like lettuce can be successfully grown in this system on Styrofoam sheets floating in the solution.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient Film Technique, gully channels are used in this system to grow plants, the nutrient solution keeps flowing in these gully channels.

A pump connected to the reservoir pumps the nutrients to the NFT channels.

One of the advantages of using the NFT is the easy installation of the system and the relatively low cost of the materials.


There are two different types of NFT systems:

  1. Horizontal NFT System

  2. Vertical NFT System

Aeroponic System

Aeroponic System reduces the amount of water used in growing crops.

In this system, plant roots get their nutrients and water through the aerosol mist the farmers spray on them.

aeroponics system

Plant roots get oxygen from the air while suspending.

Aeroponic System is comparatively challenging to manage however, much more economical in the use of nutrients and water.

Dutch Bucket Grow System

As the name suggests, this system uses buckets to grow plants.

These buckets can vary in size and depends on the requirement of the grower. Moreover, the bucket has a growing media like vermiculite to support the growing plant.

dutch bucket grow system

Plants having much larger roots can be grown with the help of this system like tomatoes and cucumbers.


While vertical farms still require carbon and produce carbon to farm successfully, is there a way to reduce the carbon entities and reuse them?

The truth is the process of hydroponics and its usage are still under study and will more research, we are better able to understand the advantage of Hydroponic farming.

Carbon credits, carbon neutral, carbon sequestration, and tons of carbon dioxide are emitted by cover crops.

It might not be the ultimate solution, however, carbon farming and hydroponic is one step forward to reduce the carbon content in the atmosphere, therefore, leading to less carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, and global warming which is one of the crucial dangers to the atmosphere of the Earth.

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