Hydroponics used in WWII to feed US troops

Hydroponics used in WWII to feed US troops

In the late 1940s, a practical hydroponic method was developed by Robert B. and Alice P. Withrow working at Purdue University. Their hydroponics system alternately flooded and drained a container containing gravel and plant roots. This provides plants with an optimal amount of both nutrient solution and air to facilitate rapid and efficient growth.

During World War II, transporting fresh vegetables across the ocean was not practical, and remote islands where troops were stationed were not a place where they could be grown in the soil. Hydroponic technology was tested as a viable source of fresh vegetables during this time.

In 1945, the US Air Force built one of the first large-scale hydroponic farms on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, followed by additional hydroponic farms on Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific using crushed volcanic rock as a growing medium and, on Wake Island west of Hawaii using gravel as a nutrient medium. These hydroponic farms helped fill the need to supply fresh vegetables to the troops stationed in these areas.

During this time, large hydroponic facilities were established in Habania, Iraq, and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf to support troops stationed in these areas near large oil reserves.

The US Army and Royal Air Force built hydroponic units at various military bases to help feed the troops. In 1952, the US Army Hydroponics Special Branch grew over 8,000,000 lbs. fresh products for military needs. At this time, one of the largest hydroponic farms in the world was also established in Chofu, Japan, consisting of 22 hectares.

After the success of hydroponics in World War II, several large commercial hydroponic farms were built in the United States, most of which were in Florida. However, due to poor construction and management, many of these farms were unsuccessful. Although the potential of hydroponics was incredible, commercial hydroponics in the US was held back until hydroponic systems that were economical to build and relatively easy to operate became available on the market.

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