Most think of gardening or crop production in the traditional sense, using sunlight, water and an abundance of rich soil and land. However, hydroponics has revolutionized the farming and food industry; it also  creates an opportunity to address many problems faced by island nations. If you have taken the end of a heart  of romaine and placed it in a glass of water to see if it would grow roots, then you have dabbled with hydroponics. Simply put, hydroponics is a way to grow plants without soil using a nutrient rich solution. There are several methods used to ensure the nutrient rich solution is supplied to the plants, but regardless of the method, in hydroponics, the plant is suspended with a net pot allowing the plant to grow above the water while the root system extends through the netting into the solution.

When the term comes up for the first time, it is easy to assume hydroponics are difficult, or only for those interested in producing food on a large scale, but creating and sustaining a hydroponics garden is incredibly simple, economical and quick. Some of the benefits include a higher harvest yield, using less water than planting in soil, and using less space. The hydroponics method allows for plants to be put closer together because the root systems do not spread or need to compete for nutrients. This method also allows the plants to grow and produce much faster because they do not need to search for nutrients. Plants can be stacked in rows horizontally or even vertically, results in a much smaller spatial footprint with more plants per square foot. If environmentally controlled, plants can be grown year-round, in all parts of the world, especially those where traditional planting is difficult due to lack of nutrients in the soil, lack of water, or perhaps because of natural disasters.

The Blue Atlas Project is taking hydroponics to the Abaco Islands that were destroyed during Hurricane Dorian in 2019. During that disaster, the flooding lasted for days, soaking the soil with salt, increasing its alkalinity and toxicity. Although mother nature has ways of returning the soil to a healthy state, it can take years before the rains leech out the excess salt returning the soil to back to normal. Hydroponics will allow the community to grow their own food quickly without relying on soil or traditional planting methods. We are working directly with local farmers, organizations, schools, community organizers and relief efforts to create a hydroponics community garden and training center that will become an accessible self-sustaining centerpiece for the Abacos over time. We hope providing the infrastructure for a sustainable local method to grow nutrient dense food will help sever reliance on imports and return control of the food system to the community and individual families. Knowing where your food comes from provides security and stability while stimulating the local economy by allowing funds that would otherwise go towards expensive imported goods to stay in the community. This retention allows for each dollar to make a greater impact and strengthen the fluid economy.

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Written by Michael Robb