Evaluation of Growth Responses of Lettuce and Energy Efficiency of the Substrate and Smart Hydroponics Cropping System

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Smart sensing devices enabled hydroponics, a concept of vertical farming that involves soilless technology that increases green area. Although the cultivation medium is water, hydroponic cultivation uses 13 ± 10 times less water and gives 10 ± 5 times better quality products compared with those obtained through the substrate cultivation medium. The use of smart sensing devices helps in continuous real-time monitoring of the nutrient requirements and the environmental conditions required by the crop selected for cultivation. This, in turn, helps in enhanced year-round agricultural production. In this study, lettuce, a leafy crop, is cultivated with the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) setup of hydroponics, and the growth results are compared with cultivation in a substrate medium. The leaf growth was analyzed in terms of cultivation cycle, leaf length, leaf perimeter, and leaf count in both cultivation methods, where hydroponics outperformed substrate cultivation. The results of the ‘AquaCrop simulator also showed similar results, not only qualitatively and quantitatively, but also in terms of sustainable growth and year-round production. The energy consumption of both the cultivation methods is compared, and it is found that hydroponics consumes 70 ± 11 times more energy compared to substrate cultivation. Finally, it is concluded that smart sensing devices form the backbone of precision agriculture, thereby multiplying crop yield by real-time monitoring of the agronomical variables.

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