Hydroponic vegetables are grown in a nutrient solution without using soil. In traditional agriculture, soil provides nutrients and minerals to growing plants, but it is not absolutely necessary to the process. Hydroponic systems may replace the soil with a growing medium or may simply involve growing plants directly in a nutrient bath. The hydroponic solution contains all the necessary minerals and nutrients for the plants to grow and thrive.
The major benefit of hydroponic gardening is that it allows plants to be grown anywhere, even areas where fertile soil is rare or nonexistent. Hydroponic farms can be created inside and on top of buildings in dense urban areas or even aboard spacecraft. A number of Space Shuttle and ISS experiments have shown the potential for growing plants in space, and the Veg-01 experiment launched in 2014 is designed to provide astronauts with fresh food grown in an orbital hydroponics lab.
Hydroponic systems use a fraction of the water of traditional agriculture and allow growers to tailor their nutrient systems and growing conditions to provide maximum benefit for their crops. By increasing the ratio of nutrients available to growing plants, farmers can actually alter the nutrition profile of the plants themselves, creating crops that offer additional vitamins or minerals to combat hunger and malnutrition.