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Video: hydroponic gardening at Disney's Epcot Center

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(Read caption) Hydroponic agriculture at Disney's Epcot Center in Florida.

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A single tomato plant that has produced more than 32,000 tomatoes in a year. A sprout growing into a full head of lettuce in just four weeks. Pumpkins shaped like Mickey Mouse's head.

The fruits and vegetables on display at Disney World's Epcot Center in Florida sound like freaky genetic engineering experiments, but they actually rely on hydroponics, a technology used in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon more than 26 centuries ago.

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(OK, so maybe the Hanging Gardens didn't feature Mickey-Mouse-shaped gourds, but who knows? Perhaps they grew them to look like Nebuchadnezzar's head.)

Today, the technique of growing plants in a nutrient-rich solution instead of soil has potential to drastically increase agricultural output, particularly in areas such as deserts and cities that would not otherwise grow food. Hydroponic systems often give plants more nutrition and allow them to grow faster, while at the same time consuming less water, energy, and space. You can arrange the plants closer together, even stacking them on top of each other. What's more, hydroponic plants can be shipped live, allowing for fresher produce.

In this Agence France-Presse video, you can see how Epcot's growers are coming up with techniques that can help feed the world.