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William F. Gericke | The Inventor Of Hydroponics

September 11, 2023 2 min read

William F. Gericke | The Inventor Of Hydroponics

William F. Gericke is attributed with being the father of modern hydroponics.

Born on a Nebraska farm August 30th, 1882. Educated at Ohio State, Johns Hopkins, California. He was a professor and plant physiologist at UC Berkeley.

Building upon the work of many before him, he brought it all together in 1929 and came up with the name, "hydroponics." He used sawdust as his growth medium and brought together all the key nutrients needed for plant growth. William grew incredible huge plants, getting the media attention needed to bring it to the masses.

He used two greek words to make up the name, "hydros" for water and "ponos" for work. So the name means, "water working". Originally he called it aquaponics, but changed it to avoid confusing it with the existing aquaponics.

His wife, Grace described his lifework as "to solve world food problems in the most efficient, productive and economical way. He was interested in helping humanity find a way to be able to feed itself."

In his book "The Complete Guide to Soilless Culture", produced in 1940, Gericke pointed out, "The fuel of the future, after our stocks of coal and oil have been depleated, may well be made from carbohydrates produced by the hydroponic method."

When journalists asked whether he expected to make a lot of money out of hydroponics, he just smiled.

William wasn't the first to grow in water, people had been doing various forms of this for thousands of years.

The famous Hanging Garden's of Babylon were rumoured to have used hydroponics to create the incredible lush growth they're so famous for. However modern historians doubt that.

Similarly, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to several hundred years BC depict the growing of plants along the Nile River without soil, as do the floating gardens of the Chinese, as described by Marco Polo in his famous journal.

The Aztec "chinampas" were a form of hydroponics, floating rafts of reeds loaded up with sediment from the lake bottom. Roots of the plants grew through the reeds allowing constant water source and root oxygenation. Some chinampas were up to 60 metres long!

What are the benefits of hydroponics?

  • Hydroponics grows plants 30-50% faster, some plants up to 500% faster
  • Hydroponic plants yield 30% more than soil
  • Hydroponics uses 90% less water than soil
  • Hydroponic plants can be planted far closer together