By Arjun Mayur
WHAT IS HYDROPONICS?
Hydroponics is defined as the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil. This process helps thousands of farmers around the world who live in drought damaged areas provide fodder for their livestock or to sell for profit.
Farmers in third world countries struggle to make ends meet and support their families. Typically, these farmers either own a small plot of land (~1 acre) or are tenant farmers. The tools and implements they use are antiquated and the sowing and reaping is all done manually. Seeds are lost to the birds and the wind, dramatically affecting the crop yield. Furthermore, the impact in drought areas is even worse because more seeds are lost from lack of adequate water. All of these problems with crop yield and water shortage are addressed with hydroponics.
MY STORY AND WHY I STARTED THIS
I have lived my entire life in rural northern California near the city of Salinas, the birthplace of the Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. I am surrounded by fields of artichokes and strawberries, vineyards and orchards. In this vibrant area is a large farming community of local and immigrant people. Living here all these years, I have come to realize how important a steady supply of water is for their very livelihood.
Rewind back to 2015 when the drought in California was at its worst. I was just starting high school and my commute was almost an hour each way. Listening to the daily news on the car radio, I was distraught by the havoc and destruction the drought caused to farmers, their families, and their homes. So, as my freshman Biology project, I chose to understand the effectiveness of different fertilizer media under drought conditions. To my pleasant surprise the research and project earned me third prize at the 2016 Monterey County Science Fair.
Also, in my freshman year, I completed my Eagle Scout project at the Salinas City Municipal pool. I have been a swimmer for many years, and my team practices daily at this pool which is primarily enjoyed by the local community. Over the years I watched the beautiful landscaping around the facility turn stark and bleak, and undesirable elements began to occupy the area. So I worked with the various Salinas City Departments (Parks, Water Supply, Mayor’s office) to approve my plan for drought resistant landscaping and installing a drip irrigation system to conserve water. The project required developing a plan, budgeting, coordinating the permits and approvals from the city, raising funds, finding volunteers, and finally the execution. All of us using the facility now enjoy a beautiful landscape. After the project was complete, I attended a public budget session at the Salinas City Council meeting to thank the Mayor and the City for their support, while petitioning them to continue supporting the facility and its surroundings.
Another place near and dear to me is Kurabara Halli (translates as Shepherd’s Village), a tiny village in southern India, where my mother’s family have lived and farmed for many generations and still do. I was in good spirits when we were visiting there in the summer of 2017, with California Governor Jerry Brown having announced an official end to the California drought in April 2017. So, when I overheard my grandfather and uncle still discussing water shortages around Kurabara Halli, I began to develop an uneasy feeling that our problems were far from over. My doubts were confirmed later during the visit when reading a newspaper article about two drought affected farmers in Maharashtra, a state in central India, who committed suicide because they were unable to support their families.
With the planet’s population only growing, I expect many more crises in my lifetime unless we become more responsible and inventive with the conservation of the precious and limited natural resources of our world. So when my grandfather and uncle were starting up on their hydroponics project this summer (2017), I found an opportunity to jump in and get involved over my summer holiday. I am creating this website because I want to spread the message of conservation to my generation and the ones that follow. I will continue to update this site as my discovery progresses.
Documenting the Setup and Continuation of the Grow System (a version of Hydroponics) in Kurubara Halli, Karnataka, India
This is the surrounding area and the area of land upon which the grow system will be built. The two slabs of stone are foundation upon which the system will be built upon.
Unloading the materials for the grow system which include the trays in which the seedlings will grow in, the tubing and pump to provide water for the seedlings, and the frame to hold up the trays and to provide protection for the seedlings.
Assembling the frame. (pt. 1)
Assembling the frame. (pt. 2)
Completely assembled frame made of PVC.
Protective mesh net is put over PVC frame.
Example of how the trays (that will soon be filled with seeds that will eventually grow into fodder) will be lined up in the PVC housing.
This is the water filtration system hooked up to the PVC housing. It uses UV light to disinfect the water of any harmful bacteria. Any excess water is recollected after the seeds have been watered and the cycle begins again.
This is the finished project of the grow system.
The product after five days of watering. The maize fodder is nearly ready to be fed to the cattle.
Outside view inside the grow system.
Overgrown first batch of fodder with root mat.
Fodder being fed to cows by Smt. Shubha Reddy
ALL ABOUT ME
Arjun Mayur, 17, Student at York School in Monterey, CA.
Swimming: I have been a competitive swimmer since I was 9 years old. I have also been a part of my varsity high school swim team from 2015 to date and in the 2016-2017 school year, my relay team and I qualified for the Central Coast Sectional regional swimming competition. The region extends from San Jose area to San Luis Obispo.
Water Polo: I have been a part of my varsity high school water polo team from 2015 to date, and we placed third in the league in the 2016-2017 school year.
Music: I have had 8 years of piano experience, having participated in many concerts in those years. I have also been a member of my school's choir from 2015, and a member of my school's exclusive chamber choir from 2016. Finally, I have participated in the Central Coast Section Honor Choir which has 100 members of which 300 auditioned to get in. The region extends from Santa Cruz down to King City.
Scouts: I have been part of the scouting program since the first grade when I joined as a Tiger Cub. From there I earned the Arrow of Light (highest award in cub scouting), became the Senior Patrol Leader of my troop (highest leadership position a boy can have in a Boy Scout Troop), and eventually the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank a boy can achieve in scouts.
ROV: ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicles) is an underwater robotics competition in which one has to design a robot which can complete specific challenges underwater. The team has to act like a business and sell your "product", or robot, to the judges, with its features displayed on a poster board. I was part of an ROV team for two years (2013-2015). In the first year I was the CEO of my team and we won the rookie of the year award and the best in the underwater mission award. This meant we had the fastest mission time. In the second year, I was the COO of my team and we received the best product demonstration award.
Physician Assisted Suicide Paper: In my freshman year of high school (2015-2016), I wrote a persuasive essay defending Euthanasia. In this essay I cited various sources including articles and interviews that I personally conducted with doctors.
JSA: I am part of a debate club in my school and a non-partisan organization called Junior Statesmen of America (JSA). JSA conducts an annual event called the Winter Congress. Prior to this event, you and a partner create a bill which needs to be approved by a committee before it can be debated. Then, you and your partner defend the bill and attempt to pass it in the mock House of Representatives and the mock Senate. My partner and I argued for a bill banning child beauty pageants for children under the age of 18 as it is harmful to their mental and physical health. We were both able to pass the bill in our respective groups and the bill became a JSA law. My partner and I were each awarded a "Golden Gavel" in recognition of this achievement.
Eagle Scout Project: I directed a team of volunteers to landscape the surroundings of the Salinas Aquatic Center with drought resistant plants and drip irrigation.
Science Fair Project: In the 2015-2016 school year, I conducted a project testing the efficiency of fertilizer media under drought conditions and found dramatic improvement with a solid fertilizer medium over liquid. The duration of the study was six weeks.
Hydroponics Project: This website is currently my ongoing project. The aim is to bring more awareness to this easy, low cost, and hydro-efficient type of farming to the general public and to struggling farmers. I plan to keep updating the blog on the construction of the grow system (a version of hydroponics) and the plants that will be grown in it.
Thanks for your interest in hydroponics. Get in touch with me for any questions or comments regarding the process.