Pioneering Hydroponics

Since 1976

History of Hydroponics

The earliest record of the history of hydroponics dates to around 600 BC with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were built alongside the Euphrates River in Babylonia.

In the 10th and 11th centuries, records of hydroponics were found in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan in Mexico. Marco Polo, a 13th-century explorer, noted similar floating gardens in China.

The 17th Century

Jan Van Helmont’s experiment discovered that plants obtain substances from water; however, he didn’t know that plants needed both oxygen and carbon dioxide. The former was only discovered in 1772 and the latter in 1754.

The earliest publication on growing plants without soil dates back to 1627, with Francis Bacon’s posthumously published book titled Sylva Sylvarum or A Natural History. John Woodward published his experiments with spearmints in water culture in 1699, finding that plants grew better in less-pure water (with the most soil) than in distilled water.

He concluded that certain substances in water that led to plant growth derived from the soil and not from the water itself.

The 19th Century

In 1804, De Saussure proposed that plants’ composition was chemical elements they absorbed from the air, soil, and water. French chemist Boussignault verified this proposition in 1851 through his experiment. He grew plants in an insoluble artificial media without soil, which was composed of quartz, sand, and charcoal.

Using only water, chemical nutrients, and media, he observed plants need water to get hydrogen. He also observed that plants’ dry matter has hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, which they get from the air. 

Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop, in 1860 and 1861, presented the first standard formula for nutrient solutions dissolved in water to grow plants. This marked the origin of what grew to be known as “nutriculture” and what we today call Water Culture.

Nutriculture saw plants’ roots completely immersed in a water solution containing phosphorus, sulfur, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. What are now called the macro and micronutrients.

The 20th Century 

Growing plants in water was typically regarded as an experiment and used in laboratories only until 1925, when the greenhouse industry emerged. The application of the nutriculture practice saw in increased interest, with researchers focusing on issues such as soil structure, pests, and more.

Nutriculture benefits were worked on extensively so that they could translate into large-scale yield production. W. F. Gericke experimented with nutriculture in the early 1930s for agricultural crop production. First called aquaculture, it was later dropped as it was used in the description of aquatic organism culturing. In 1937, W. A. Setchell recommended “hydroponics” as a term to Gericke, a combination of ‘water’ (hydro) and ‘labour’ (ponos), translating literally to water working.

The earliest famous use of hydroponic plant cultivation dates to the early 1940s. Wake Island, a soilless island located in the Pacific Ocean, used hydroponics to grow fresh vegetables.