‘Seasons don’t matter’: How hydroponic farmers are cultivating crops Texas normally wouldn’t see in the summer

Hydroponic farming is a type of farming that doesn’t use soil

SAN ANTONIO – The summer season is starting to heat up in Texas.

Harvesting is underway for many farmers across the state, but others are losing their livelihoods to the drought.

Farmer and Pristine Produce Owner Drew Steans said long-term stability sent him looking for alternative farming styles.

“Not everybody’s able to sustain the back-to-back years of drought and high heat,” Steans said.

He settled on hydroponic farming, or farming that doesn’t use any soil. Stationed inside an old storage container, Drew started his hydroponic farm in September of 2022.

Rows of lettuce leafs grow inside a Hydroponic garden in San Antonio. (KSAT 12 News)

Nearly a year later, Steans said he’s harvested hundreds of pounds of produce and saved 95% more water than if he had planted them on a traditional farm.

“You’d be lucky to get a percentage of that crop right now outdoors in this type of environment,” Steans said.

Steans said in his repurposed shipping container, where plants are growing vertically out of the wall linings, that he’s got enough crops to take up three to four acres of a typical farm. He said one of the perks of hydroponic gardening is sustainability, something he sees in day-to-day operations and overall water usage.

Once a month, he refills the 88-gallon water tank that supports his garden. Throughout the month, it’s reused to water the thousands of plants he has lining the unit.

Mitch Hagney at LocalSprout has a similar setup inside his shipping container. Hagney is only focusing on growing kale right now.

He said when he started his garden nearly 10 years ago, he was focused on creating a more sustainable practice.

“We were looking for no pesticides, no herbicides and really conservative with water,” Hagney said. “Now we can grow right next to where consumers are.”

Hagney said there are significant upfront costs to getting hydroponic gardens up and running, but he said the product makes up for it.

“Our kale is a lot more tender and less bitter because of the lighting and the controlled temperature,” Hagney said. “Especially as the summers get stronger, it’s harder to grow crops in really serious high temperatures.”

The USDA reported that over the past year, the number of farms across the United States decreased by nearly 10,000 farms. Hagney said hydroponics is the future of farming.

“We decide what the seasons are,” Hagney said.

And he said you don’t need a facility like his to get started with this type of farming. Hagney said there are over-the-counter hydroponic systems and gardening setups that you can buy at any local gardening store.

About the Author:

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!