What Is Hydrogel? The Benefits Explained

You may be more familiar with hydrogel as an insoluble polymer that expands in water and can be used to hydrate wounds. However, it has another use for hydrating plants, making it a highly effective plant growth substrate.

How does Hydrogel work?

Hydrogels can absorb and retain large amounts of liquid through three-dimensional polymer cross-linked networks. Incorporating this technology to improve the sustainability and product of crops by optimising input and crop resilience is an essential development for farming and crop procurement.

Moreover, Gelponics substrate, a non-synthetic hydrogel formulation, introduces a fully sustainable agricultural crop production approach.

Hydrogel substrate is formed sustainably from low-carbon products and does not require environmentally harmful synthetic polymers to produce the perfect base to farm crops.

Available as granules, sheets and plugs, the hydrogel products act as replacement substrates for rock, wool, coir and peat used in traditional agriculture. 

Hydrogel substrate benefits

  • Accelerated cultivation
  • 100% Natural
  • Biodegradable
  • Recyclable
  • Lower cost
  • Produces less waste
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to transport
  • Readily available
  • Reduces water consumption
  • Controls fertiliser use
  • Reduces the complexity of food production

Hydrogel-based substrates are a cost-effective way to affordable vertical farming solutions for food production. Hydrogel-based substrate allows worldwide growers to move forward and embrace vertical farming to change how they farm the food and crops we rely on. With peat likely being banned in 2023 and rock wool having a high carbon footprint, the planet and farming sustainability should change hydrogel-based substrates. 

How Can It Be Used?

Suitable for use in many agricultural settings through the range of products available, granules can be tilled and spread on arable fields to reduce soil erosion and improve water retention. Granules can also enhance the shelf life of plants in transit by maintaining a higher water content. The granules are biocompatible and will degrade naturally in the soil over time.

Hydrogel sheeting can be used within controlled agriculture, fitted to industry standard propagation units, and cut to fit carry trays to provide an environmentally friendly, cost-effective alternative to peat, coir and rock wool. Hydrogel plugs hold oxygen and water to support healthy root growth and plant development. They can be adapted easily for size and shape to fit pots and troughs commonly found in agricultural settings and urban farming, both commercially and domestically.

As we strive to find more sustainable ways to produce the food we need to survive, improving crop success and reducing the energy-intensive processing for food production have to be the way of the future. Significantly reducing the complexity of providing the correct nutrients and water required for optimum crop production, non-synthetic hydrogel formulations simplify food and crop production without increasing costs. This low-maintenance substrate alternative offers less carbon emission and automation for plant fertigation for the entire growth cycle. 

The ability to tailor the hydrogel substrate to precisely provide the water and nutrients that each crop demands enables agricultural and urban food and crop production to better meet the needs of the plants without compromising the environment. 

Why make the change to a hydrogel-based substrate?

Peat – notwithstanding the ban on peat use for commercial growers by 2030, peat use causes damage to the environment and is a factor in the rise in mass flooding.

Rock wool – rock wool production is highly carbon intensive, so its high carbon footprint quickly becomes unacceptable. It is also non-biodegradable.

Coir – uses aggressive cultivation techniques and is sourced from unstable supply chains, hindering the much-needed continuity within food and crop production.

Many points favour making an early change to hydrogel-based substrate solutions, including improved crop consistency, reduced growing costs and improved impact of crop and plant growth on the planet.

Written by Frederick Jace

A passionate Blogger and a Full time Tech writer. SEO and Content Writer Expert since 2015.

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