While it’s easy to imagine this kind of process being labeled as a bunch of new age science fiction, hydroponics has actually been in use for thousands of years. The famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are largely believed to have functioned according to hydroponic principles. Built around 600 B.C. in Babylonia, or Mesopotamia, the gardens were situated along the Euphrates River. The area suffered from a dry, arid climate that rarely saw rain, and it’s believed that the lush gardens were watered using achain pull system, which carried water up from the river and allowed it to trickle down to each step or landing of the garden structure.
During the 10th and 11th centuries, the Aztecs developed a system of floating gardens based on hydroponics. Driven out of their land, they settled at Lake Tenochtitlan. Unable to grow crops on the lake’s marshy shore, they built rafts out of reeds and roots. These rafts were topped with a bit of soil from the bottom of the lake, and then floated out to the center of the water. Crops would grow on top of the rafts, their roots reaching through the rafts and down into the water. Marco Polo’s writings indicate he witnessed similar floating gardens while visiting China in the late 13th century .