While it seems futuristic, hydroponic farming has been around since the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, according to Farm Hydroponics. Hydroponic farming is the growing of crops and plants in mineral-rich water, without the use of soil. Growing plants directly in water that has all the minerals a plant needs to grow means the roots do not have to work as hard finding nutrients. This leads to faster-growing plants and more frequent harvests. Farmers wanting to undertake hydroponic farming often need start-up capital and can find it through special grants.
Value-Added Producer Grants
Hydroponic farming grants come from government agencies like the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division, which offers Value-Added Producer Grants. The VAPG program prefers to award grant money to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers as well as to small or medium-sized farms and farming cooperatives. Recipients of a VAPG grant can get up to $75,000 for planning projects and up to $200,000 for working-capital grants. The USDA requires that grant recipients have matching funds lined up that are equal to or greater than the amount of the grant they are receiving.
Specialty Crop Block Grant
State-level governments also provide grant programs. In 2014 the California Department of Food and Agriculture and its Specialty Crop Block Grant program awarded over $19.88 million, with individual grant amounts ranging from $68,000 to over $1.5 million. Depending on the type of project, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program awards the money upfront or reimburses the recipient throughout the life of the project. Recipients must submit project progress reports to the California Department of Food and Agriculture every six months during the project. Those interested in finding a grant for hydroponic farming should contact the agricultural department in their state for information.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
Agriculture associations, like Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, are a source of grants for hydroponic farmers. The SARE program has several grant programs for recipients such as farmers, researchers, graduate students and youth educators. The Farmer and Rancher Grant Program is open to individual, partner and group hydroponic farms. SARE grants award $7,500 up to $200,000, depending on the program. Farmers wanting to apply for a SARE grant can go through their region's SARE office to submit a proposal, as well as project plans, project budget and letters of recommendations.
School Hydroponics Projects
Professional farmers are not the only ones who receive hydroponic farming grants. Schools and community groups starting hydroponic gardens can find grant money from organizations like the National Gardening Association, Progressive Gardening Trade Association and Southwest Florida Water Management District. The Southwest Florida Water Management District sponsors the Splash! School Grant that awards $3,000 to schools working on a water conservation project, which includes hydroponics gardens. The National Gardening Association and the Progressive Gardening Trade Association collaborate on the Hooked on Hydroponics grant program that gives winning schools a hydroponics garden starter kit.