Hydroponics / aeroponics are “natural”. Period.

March 15, 2007

In any discussion / debate / argument, we may sometimes reach a point where we feel there is simply no point in pursuing the subject further, because the other person is either on a totally different wavelength, or being absolutely unreasonable.

I reached that point this morning (technically speaking, yesterday morning as it’s past midnight as I write this) when I read the following letter in the ST Forum:

Labelling of vegetables

I REFER to the letter, ‘Organic labelling for vegetables misleading’ (ST, March 12). The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority does not object to the use of the words ‘natural’ and ‘grown naturally’ to describe fresh fruit and vegetables produced using aeroponics or hydroponics, as these methods of farming adopt the same basic principles as conventional farming.

The methods of farm production are also not required by the Food Regulations to be labelled on prepacked fresh fruit and vegetables. However, fresh fruit and vegetables which are labelled as ‘organic’, ‘organically produced’ or words of similar meanings should meet the standards established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission for organically produced food.

Goh Shih Yong
Assistant Director
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority


The above was in reply to my letter published on Monday, about organic labelling of vegetables at the NTUC Fairprice Xtra hypermarket in Ang Mo Kio.

I was stunned and left speechless to read Mr Goh’s response. If our (highly paid) senior civil servants wish to assert that vegetables grown in water or grown suspended in air are “natural”, then I really don’t know what else to say.

Perhaps some of you who are less stunned and speechless than I would take the discussion to the next, higher or lower, level. Or maybe in a day or two, I might recover sufficiently to think of something non-expletive to say.

For now, let me share with you what I discovered this morning.

I went to www.dictionary.com and typed in “natural”. I was led to 22 results, of which the first had 38 meanings and definitions. The closest that comes to explaining how vegetables grown in air or water might possibly be considered natural was definition #34:

An idiot!


  1. Maybe it’s matter of sematics? Afterall, we coin new terms all the time, and Singaporeans do have a penchant to have non standard usages of words. You tried to help to clarify it but it is really up to the public to take care of themselves and not abdicate their responsibility to think for themselves believing that all will be looked after. You did your part 🙂

  2. Great. So now the AVA (and not Singaporeans in general) has added a 39th definition of ‘natural’.

    And yes, it is clearer now than ever before that consumers need to take care of themselves. The AVA letter states: “The methods of farm production are also not required by the Food Regulations to be labelled…”

    So here is one more thing that consumers don’t need to know.

  3. On further thought, perhaps it is a case of the AVA playing God, and re-defining what is ‘natural’.

  4. Organisations issue certifications, people make declarations (eg in an insurance policy). In both cases integrity is the issue at heart, something which can be challenged when necessary. All else eg labelling/sloganing etc have little credibility left these days. These ‘in-between’s can be manipulated to achieve its intended purpose resulting in consumers being misled. Hence authorities defending labelling only have to engage in a play of words (after all we see how ‘natural’ has already been re-defined!). And sloganing don’t even need justification because they seldom mean much anyway.

  5. […] – The Alternative HPB Commentaries – plus in-depth information – about health issues « Hydroponics / aeroponics are “natural”. Period. Hydroponic vegetables “like watching TV” March 15th, 2007 While the Assistant […]

  6. The aero-hydroponics system is the most advanced hydroponic method available. Using an aero-hydroponics system will give many hydroponics gardeners the chance to enhance their gardens further. Plants grow better in an aero-hydroponics system. Dissolved oxygen at the root boundary zone enables aero-hydroponically plants to grow better than others. In aero-hydroponics, the nutrient solution is sprayed through the air in order to infuse the nutrient with dissolved oxygen. Once the system is set up, it will run indefinitely without any additional investments in disposable components such as growing media and non-recirculating nutrients.

  7. The point is not how advanced aero-hydroponics is, but is it NATURAL?

    Also, does this “advanced system” produce more nutritious and health-giving vegetables?

    There are reasons to be believe that the interaction between roots and SOIL, including bacteria in the soil, plays a crucial role in imparting immune-enhancing properties to naturally and organically-grown vegetables. In a hydroponics/aeroponics setting, no soil is used.

  8. For many years probably no other word has been used more in food labelling to con the consumer than the word ‘natural’. I’ve never relied on it’s use in this context but am also not surprised that some people are fooled. Most governments steer clear of defining it’s use and I don’t blame them. The use of ‘organic’ on the other hand would benefit from a single, globally accepted definition.

    To be pedantic, most meat and vegetables consumed today are not ‘natural’ in a certain sense. Humans have used selective/cross-breeding/pollination of animals and plants for thousands of years.

    Both hydroponics and ‘geoponics’ can be organic or not and both have been used in various forms also for thousands of years. There are also recent forms of both.

    If you want to get to the crux of whether or not your veg is organic then scientific analysis of it will yield the result. Bias against a particular system that was used to grow it is best avoided IMHO.

  9. I also believe that there is too much room to use natural as a description of an authority.

    Is the planting and fertilizing with manure in the way that most farming is done now “unnatural” as compared to the way nature it self distributes seeds through wind or by animal, and leaving the chance of germination to luck of where the seed takes up root.

    To see anything as truly natural would be to of never had man alter its course………..but maybe thats just natural too………

  10. You are right. To see anything truly natural,it would be if no one changed it.

  11. We are in SIngapore Private Limited. We play by their rules.

    • You can play by their rules if you wish. I would seek to change the rules – and the rulers!

  12. all though good in information none of these blogs states how to prepare an nutrient solution. I believe relieving secrets in hydroponics will help it spread & prosper.

  13. Hydroponics and aeroponics are just as natural as conventional farming in soil. When it rains, water dissolves minerals from the soil that the plant absorbs. The difference between hydroponics and soil farming is that the water dissolves a nutrient solution instead of dirt. Seeing as conventional farming uses artificial dirt, it’s the exact same thing. By the way, most of the bacteria in soil can live in water.

  14. Aquaponics ( fish and plants ) is the organic and natural way of soiless culture versus the regular add chemmicaly derived nutrients standard hydroponics/aeroponics, Just as organic soil culture using manure is to using poor soil and adding chemically derived nutrients.

    Since the only input in the aquaponic system is feed to the fish that waste creating ladders of decomposing ( aquatic dinitrifying Bacteria ) which in turn decompose the waste a digestable state for the plants that finally eat and clean the water for the fish. it is very natural, seem familiar (nitrogen cycle) this is the basic model of earth, as the same occurs in organic soil culture but through decomposing manure. same denitrifing bacteria do the job.

    Both organic soil and organic aquaponics depend on manure that depends on the original diet of the manure source. i.e the cow/horse/sheep/etc in the soil case and Fish in the soiless aquaponic case. So a good diet is a must for the animals in order to achieve true organic nutrition . Nutrition is basically recyced, so you eat what the fish ate or what the cow ate. ( very simplified)

    If Grown naturally is allowed to be put on plants grown in poor soil with chemical fertilizers just because its grown in “in soil naturally”, then using that label for standard hydroponics and aeroponics is justifiable as the chemicals used in hydroponics are of much higher purity, quality and acurracy than the low quality high waste chemical junk mix used for soil. just my 2 cents

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