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Muddling Through Hydroponic Contingencies

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Old 04-24-2012, 02:16 PM
hammerpamf hammerpamf is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 34
Default Muddling Through Hydroponic Contingencies

Years ago I began doing hydroponics on a limited scale, making many of the mistakes typical to hobbyists with minimal experience in such a complex undertaking. Questions soon outpaced answers and the world was full of possibility, though murky at best. It didn't take long for me to discover that the answers to most of my questions were: "It depends." One of the defining characteristics of hydroponics, which is a complex system, is the contingent nature of plant-system interactions. Is peat moss a good growing medium? Yes and no: it depends. Is flood-and-drain a better growing system than aeroponics? Yes and no: it depends.

Over time, I developed my skills through a combination of experience and dedicated research. Currently, I make my living through a combination of hydroponic crop production, systems manufacturing, and consulting (e.g. experimental trials for media and nutrient companies); in addition, much of my free time is spent researching hydroponic questions, writing articles for both popular and academic journals, doing community outreach to spread the gospel-so to speak-of hydroponics, and preparing a textbook on the subject.

Going to chat rooms and grow forums are a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be entertaining and fruitful to discuss ideas and swap advice with our fellow growers; on the other hand, forums are generally decentralized regarding skill level and interests; in other words, it is difficult to foster meaningful progress on specific topics - that is, it's difficult to answer abstract questions (e.g. which media aspect is more important for plant growth: water holding capacity, air filled porosity, or cation exchange capacity?) when the group isn't focused on answering that question beyond offering their opinion briefly, then moving on to the next thread. This approach of muddling through questions has its advantages, but I also think we can gain a lot of knowledge by forming a group to tackle a small set of questions, in-depth, that apply to a large number of crops and system characteristics.

Now I understand that for many, if not most, of us on this website see hydroponics as a hobby and nothing more. But I can tell by the relative posting frequency of the participants that many are dedicated to the subject and interested in improving their hydroponic intellect and effectiveness as growers. How many of you would quit your job tomorrow and pursue a hydroponic career full time if the conditions were right? My guess: many. Even if you wouldn't go that far, wouldn't you like to be a part of knowledge creation for your hobby - perhaps be a coauthor of a magazine article?

Traditionally research is done in academia and business settings, but the Internet gives us the opportunity to conduct experiments in a decentralized fashion. Why can't we organize a research effort around a central question and report our findings to one another, ultimately writing up the results and publishing them as a group effort?

I have created the Theoretical Hydroponics Group, a social group on this site, the purpose of which will be to formulate a platform from which we can move forward this idea of translating theoretical questions into experimental results. This group will serve as a steering committee to analyze such questions as relevant data that needs to be collected and perhaps formulate a set of concrete questions that can be experimented. From here, new groups can be formed based on individual questions/experiments that anchor an interested community of growers. The point is, we can use this platform to push the envelope of our knowledge and get some enjoyment out of it as a community, rather than simply muddling through the contingencies...Please join the group if you are willing to donate a little bit of your time and effort towards furthering hydroponic sciences.

Last edited by hammerpamf; 04-24-2012 at 03:10 PM.
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