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The History of Hydroponics

Hydroponics is a technique for growing plants without soil. It is always stated that hydroponics is the future of farming. Yes, it definitely is as it has so many advantages when we compare it to traditional farming. But, have you ever thought that our ancestors also might have used this technique to grow plants with the help of water? Yes, it is not a new concept and hydroponics does have a long history. This method has been found in some of the ancient civilizations and is being considerably used in modern food production. Hydroponics can be used in harsh environments also for raising high-value products in controlled situations.

Well, science already says that the plants evolved in the ocean, which can be said as the first soilless growing nutrient medium. It also means hydroponics definitely came before soil-based plants. Coming to the hydroponic farming method do you know when we’re the first traces of hydroponics found? Many people believe it all started in the ancient city of Babylon that was famous for its hanging gardens. 

Hanging Garden of Babylon is also listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Experts and researchers have found out that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were in fact an elaborate hydroponics system. Then there is an example of Chinampas in Lake Tenochtitlan in which the tribe built its own floating garden to fulfill their hunger needs. Then there came a time when scientists started to work on this method and the name Hydroponics was formed. Now, let us look at the History of Hydroponics.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Now only the traces of this historical city have been left, but once upon a time, Babylon was one of the greatest cities to flourish beside the river Euphrates. Certain descriptions of the Hanging Gardens have been found that were written by Greek scholars- Strabo and Philo of Byzantium. They have talked about how great the city was and how they grow plants with the help of running freshwater. 

Let us look at some excerpts from their accounts-

“The Hanging Garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns”.

The Babylonian Irrigation System

“Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels”

“These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches”

“This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators”.

The city of Babylon is situated in present-day Iraq and after many archaeological excavations in this ancient city, the foundation of the palace was discovered. There have been many other findings that support the use of hydroponics techniques. A Vaulted Building with thick walls and an irrigation well was found near the southern palace by a group of archaeologists.

However, Strabo had said that the gardens were situated by the River Euphrates, but in actuality, the site is very far away from the river. So, it has become a topic of debate as some support this theory and some don’t. Also, researchers found 25m thick walls on the banks of the river. It may have been used to form terraces; the ones described in Greek references.

Chinampas in Lake Tenochtitlan

Aztecs are a nomadic tribe in Central America. They were denied arable land by other powerful tribes and were driven onto the marshy shore of Lake Tenochtitlan. Lake Tenochtitlan is located in the great central valley of what is now Mexico. They were treated very roughly, but the Aztecs found a new way to survive. With no land on which they could grow crops so they invented a new style.

They made rushes and reeds to build rafts that would float on the water. Then they dig up the soil from the bottom of the lake and pile it up on the rafts. The soil was rich in nutrients which had a variety of organic debris, decomposing material. They then planted crops, flowers, and even trees in the rafts that were called Chinampas. The roots of these plants went through the rafts straight towards a source of water into the lake. 

These rafts were so well built that they never sank, and would often join them together to form floating islands as big as two hundred feet long. Not only did they grow vegetables for themselves instead the method was so successful that used to even sell those vegetables to customers.

Earliest recorded study

Among all the recorded history of hydroponics earliest study about discovering plant growth came in 1600 when Belgian Jan van Helmont proved in his classical experiment that plants obtain substances from water. In his experiment, he took a 5-pound willow shoot and planted it in a tube containing 200 pounds of dry soil. He covered it up to keep out the dust. For 5 years he watered the plants with rainwater and he found that the willow shoot has increased in weight by 160 pounds. He also found that the soil had lost less than 2 ounces. His experiment that plants need water for their growth was successful. But he did not realize they also require carbon dioxide and oxygen from the air.


When did the term Hydroponics form? It was in the late 1920s and early 1930s when Dr. William F. Gericke of the University of California completed his experiments. He was working on plant nutrition on practical crops growing outside for large-scale commercial applications. While doing his experiments he termed these Nutriculture systems “hydroponics”. The word Hydroponics has been derived from two Greek words, hydro, meaning water, and ponos meaning labor. It literally means “water working”. His work is considered the foundation for all forms of hydroponic growing farming.


The history of Hydroponics has been quite long and it is now returning back to its full glory. As there are many problems with the traditional methods of farming Hydroponic techniques can prove to be very advantageous to the world. To know more about the benefits of hydroponics click here. Head over to our blog section for more information about hydroponics. ‘We at Himalayan Greens offer fresh vegetables and fruits in Haldwani that are grown with Hydroponics techniques. To order healthy and nutritious veggies click here.



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