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Soilless Culture for Agribusiness throughout Urban Farming in Indonesia

Written By

Ristina Siti Sundari, Lies Sulistyowati, Trisna Insan Noor and Iwan Setiawan

Submitted: November 22nd, 2021 Reviewed: November 25th, 2021 Published: April 1st, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.101757

Soilless Culture Edited by Metin Turan

From the Edited Volume

Soilless Culture [Working Title]

Prof. Metin Turan, Associate Prof. Sanem Argin, Prof. Ertan Yildirim and Dr. Adem Güneş

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Urban farming is proliferated worldwide related to large urban areas, and population in the city and people need food closer and healthier. Limited area forced urban dwellers to grow food on landless use or soilless culture to cultivate any agricultural commodities by the citizen in the urban area. An urban farmer is not a real farmer. Urban farmers are interested in growing plants or fish and have limited farming skills, but their curiosity becomes essential for urban farming activities. Urban farming has become more beneficial edible food that starts from interesting in the environment, green city, and planting hobby, but the soil and land are limited despite prohibited land scarcity and soil medium. However, urban farming used soilless culture for rooting medium. The soilless medium included less or minimum soil, hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponic. Soilless culture is now set as vertical farming, particularly in the urban area with finite land. Urban farming as an agribusiness is dominant for household self-demand than commercial. In the future urban farming, productivity can feed the city.


  • agribusiness
  • edible plant
  • urban farming

1. Introduction

Soilless culture is the cultivation system in the agriculture sector that uses less soil medium using another medium to grow the plant or fish. Soilless culture develops fast along with population growth and land conversion, whether we want it or not, planting edible food to feed, herbs, and medicines for urban population need to be sustained.

There have been dramatic changes in this, even along with pandemic hits. Urban soilless farming is a feasible production strategy for many plants farmed as specialized foods, herbs, or medicinal plants. Vertical farms have grown in popularity to integrate modern production systems into cities [1]. While there are various obstacles, it is apparent that this is a fast-increasing field of urban farming. The science of plant development in soilless systems is still in its infancy, and despite significant progress, many concerns remain unresolved. One of the goals of this book is to focus on the central issues of urban farming in soilless culture. Future research is needed to take full advantage of the economic, social, and ecological aspects to sustain. Typical soilless media are generally described by root limitation, restricted substrate volume, insufficient solution composition buffer capacity, and limited nutrient input. Commercially, substrate culture in plastic bags has been used effectively for fruiting crops. In deciding on a soilless culture method, the production size, crops, growth cycles and length of each cycle, cost, and managerial abilities, as well as environmental issues are examined. As a result, closed loop technologies have grown in importance to boost sustainability in soilless agriculture. The purpose of this presentation is to describe several soilless growing techniques and their potential for application in vegetable production [2]. Compared with soil-based production, soilless cultivation of plants in containers requires a limited root system and a lower root zone volume. It is vital to note that under these conditions, the physical and chemical qualities of the growth medium must be such that the plant can store enough water and nutrients while maintaining enough aeration. Plants in pots and containers were traditionally grown using resources such as locally available soils. Organic elements such as manures and composts were frequently utilized to augment the inorganic foundation materials, enhancing water retention and airspace while also providing nutritional advantages. Growing media used commercially in many regions of the globe in the early twenty-first century are primarily made from peat and other organic materials, with the notable exceptions being mineral wool substrates used for glasshouse crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and pepper [3].

The critical need is market demand for a particular product, differentiating between common greenhouse crops and other minor crops or regionally consumed items. In all circumstances, crop selection should provide an optimal fit between production and market delivery time, given rising production costs and the limited shelf-life of vegetable goods. Economic issues are concerned with the link between market pricing and farmer returns [4]. Soilless cultivation is used in almost all urban farming. The specifics will be detailed further below.


2. Urban farming activity by soilless medium

Almost urban farming carried out in West Java urban area cultivated in limited land, limited soil, and soilless medium depends on the capital they have, generally influenced by both horticultural and economic factors. This aspect is ultimately the primary motivator for designing a specific substrate mix that is used in a soilless production scenario. The financial aspect presents itself in the availability of supplies, processing costs, transportation costs, costs related to plant/crop production, and transportation and marketing. In some circumstances, the disposal of spent substrates is a crucial matter with environmental and economic significance [3]. Some are from the government grant program to secure community food.

Growers believe peat to be less expensive in nations where it is widely available, maybe even collected locally, than in countries where it must be imported from faraway regions. With raw material costs fluctuating, producers must decide whether to employ a “tried and true” component such as peat or a substitute [3] such as cocopeat, husks, and sawdust in a mix that has proved to perform well over the year. In some years, the financial circumstances may cause a modification to be considered. Because the qualities of all substrates and mixtures vary, replacing one component as cocopeat or peat with another may result in more expenses or inferior quality crops that have less value in the market, especially if the substitution is a material with which the producer has less expertise. Growers worldwide are faced with the task of building blends that will show as intended while costing the least amount of money overall.

Vertical farming is a popular method in urban farming, growing in a tight and narrow alley, along the side of a ditch, on a wall, in a hanging pot, on a rooftop, terrace, bareland, or in open space is an example of urban farming.

The research in Tasikmalaya and Banjar City found that urban farming in the open space is still dominant (37%) and followed respectively by narrow (tight) alley, ditch edge (12%), front terrace (7%), bare-land (6%), back terrace (5%), wall and rooftop (4%). On the household scale, there were no cultivated plants or fish in Greenhouse. It is due to not yet commercial produce (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Soilless urban farming location.

While used technology in soilless culture in pot medium was dominant (69%), followed by conventional (19%), hydroponics (7%), aquaponics (4%), and aeroponics (1%).

The irrigation can be used in various systems such as: sprinkler, direct watering, drip irrigation, pool, from the ditch, etc. The soilless culture in an urban farming medium often uses less soil, cocopeat, peat, sawdust, rockwool, hydroleca/hydro tone, charcoal, perlite, hydrogel, vermiculite, zeolite (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Soilless urban farming technology.

Soilless culture is not separated by applied technology as follows:

2.1 Pot medium

Growing plants with less soil then mix with compost, burned husks, cocopeat, sawdust, etc. World agriculture has changed considerably in the previous several decades, and this transformation will continue as long as the underlying reasons for these changes exist. The fast scientific, economic, and technological growth of societies throughout the world is one of these drivers. The world’s population is growing, and many countries’ living standards are improving. With improved living standards, there has been significant demand for floricultural crops such as cut flowers, pot plants, and bedding plants. As a result of these tendencies, the usage of a large range of covered agricultural systems, ranging from crude screen or plastic film coverings to fully climate-controlled greenhouses, had increased. Initially, this manufacturing took place in the ground, where the soil had been changed to allow for adequate drainage. Because the production costs of protected culture are greater than those of open field cultivation, growers were forced to raise their production intensity to remain competitive. Plant production was accomplished through various strategies, the most notable of which was the fast expansion of soilless output compared with overall agricultural crop production. Most such plants are grown in greenhouses, generally under near-optimal production conditions on a commercial scale. An inherent drawback of soilless cultivation over soil-based cultivation is that the root volume is unrestricted in the latter, while in containerized culture, the root volume is restricted. This restricted root volume has several significant effects, especially a limited supply of water [1] and nutrients [2]. The limited root volume also increases root-to-root competition since the medium has more roots per unit volume.

Container production systems have advantages over in-ground production systems such as pollution prevention since it is possible, and these growing systems are used for minimizing or eliminating the discharge of nutritional ions and pesticide residues. However, freshwater reservoirs should be conserved. Water and nutrient have been used efficiently that are significantly greater in container production and have clear economic benefits. More and more attention is being directed to reducing the environmental pollution especially in the developed country. In the countries, this type of production represents a large portion of agricultural productivity. Runoff from nursery and greenhouse must be minimized or eliminated by creating regulations to force recirculation from the nurseries and greenhouses (Figure 3).

Figure 3.

Urban farming throughout pot medium technology.

2.2 Hydroponics

Growing plant without soil: The process of growing plants in nutrient solutions is known as hydroponics. Furthermore, for systems that employ just nutrient solution and air such as deep flow technique (DFT), nutrient film technique (NFT), and aero-hydroponics, we include in this notion substrate-based systems in which the substrate does not provide nutrients or ionic adsorption or exchange. As a result, we define hydroponic production systems to use inert substrates such as rockwool or gravel. The term “hydroponics” is in conjunction with qualifying terms to clarify the distinction between “liquid-culture hydroponics” and “substrate-based hydroponics”; The latter involves a significant quantity of inert substrate with limited ion exchange capability, whereas the former contains none (or virtually none) of any substrate. Initially, scientists primarily employed hydroponics as a research tool to explore some aspects of plant nutrition and root function. Progress in plastics manufacture, automation, the fabrication of totally soluble fertilizers, and, most importantly, the development of many different substrates supplemented scientific breakthroughs and pushed soilless farming to a commercially feasible level. There are several types of soilless systems available today for producing vegetables and ornamentals in greenhouses. As a result, there is a vast range of growth systems. The substrate for hydroponics plants commonly uses hydroton or hydroleca, rockwool, perlite, vermiculite, and cocopeat (Figure 4) [3, 4].

Figure 4.

Urban farming throughout hydroponics technology.

2.3 Aeroponics

Growing plant without soil: Cultivating plants in an opaque that supports container in which their roots are suspended and showered in a nourishing mist is known as aeroponics. The type of the aeroponic, frequency of root exposure, and content of the nutritional solution are the essential features of the approach. Spraying typically lasts 30 until 60 seconds, and the frequency varies depending on the species, plant development stage, growing season, and time of day. The drainage from each nebulization is collected at the bottom of the modules and recirculated [5]. The aeroponic system also gave unique insights into storage root development by triggering the proliferation of auxin-dependent towards secondary xylem parenchyma cells to generate early root thickness and bulk. The created approach can aid molecular scientists, breeders, and physiologists directly throughout, allowing them to screen germplasm on root qualities that correspond with enhanced economic attributes (Figure 5) [6].

Figure 5.

Urban farming throughout aeroponics technology.

2.4 Aquaponics

Growing plant without soil: The demands to increase food production expand, and as the stresses on resources such as water, land, and nutrients become more significant when the world’s population grows. There is an urgent need to find alternative, sustainable, and reliable methods to provide this food [7, 8]. The current strategies for supplying more produce are neither ecologically sound nor address the issues of the circular economy of reducing waste while meeting the WHO’s Millennium Development Goals of zero hunger and poverty by 2015 [9]. Aquaponics is an aquaculture and hydroponics technology integration provides to reset the solution. Aquaponics has been identified as a farming approach that, through nutrient and waste recycling, can aid in addressing both planetary boundaries and sustainable development goals, particularly for arid regions or areas with nonarable soils [1, 10, 11]. Due to aquaponics technology needing more capital, some priority strategies such as upgrading any skill and knowledge deal with aquaponics, socializing system benefit, increasing aquaponics yield consumption and consumer expendable, implementing the food health by aquaponics system, and upgrading innovative agribusiness capacity to enhance distribution access and procure lower start-up cost [12]. The simple aquaponics in Indonesia is called Budikdamberthat means planting aquaponics in the bucket (Figure 6).

Figure 6.

Urban farming throughout aquaponics.

2.5 Anoponiccs

Growing plants without anything: neither medium nor nutrition we give. It is considered from air fixation to get nutrition. Spanish moss, for example, grows well in Indonesia. The ornament plant is not yet well known. So it needs further research about mechanism, metabolism and others related to it (Figure 7).

Figure 7.

Urban farming through anoponics.


3. Conclusions

Soilless culture is non-traditional farming. Soilless culture leads to urban farming that is based on capital, skill, and technology. Nevertheless, growing plant or fish under soilless culture gives much higher productivity even not for commercial. Soilless in urban farming is fast growing to provide food from home. The technologies used were pot medium, hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics. Soilless culture may be in various ways such as tight alley, along the side of a ditch, on a wall, in a hanging pot, on a rooftop, terrace, bare ground. We found the plant cultivation that grows without any medium, such as Spanish Moss.


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Written By

Ristina Siti Sundari, Lies Sulistyowati, Trisna Insan Noor and Iwan Setiawan

Submitted: November 22nd, 2021 Reviewed: November 25th, 2021 Published: April 1st, 2022