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Open access

Elisa Solis-Toapanta, Andrei Kirilenko and Celina Gómez

Social media platforms such as Reddit, centered on user-generated, anonymous discussions, can facilitate the exchange of information and resources across niche online communities known as “subreddits.” Using data mining tools and content analysis methods, our objectives were to identify recurring questions and characterize comment (“response”) accuracy from four subreddits focused on hydroponic indoor gardening (r/hydro, r/Hydroponics, r/UrbanFarming, and r/Aerogarden). A total of 1617 original posts (OPs) were classified into one of ten topics and 4891 primary responses were analyzed for accuracy. The three topics with the most OPs (production systems, plant lighting, and root-zone environment), which accounted for 50% of the total OPs, were subcategorized and inductively analyzed. Most posts in the analyzed subreddits related to confusion regarding the design and implementation of appropriate hydroponic production systems. In addition, misinformation about plant lighting is a major part of discussions about growing plants indoors. There are also knowledge gaps regarding nutrient solution management, particularly about fertilizer formulation, pH balance, and on the impact that solution temperature has on plant growth and development. In general, there were no differences among response accuracy for all topics included in our analysis. However, regardless of topic, responses for most OPs had less than 50% accuracy, which demonstrates that misinformation can be disseminated in social media platforms such as Reddit. As suggested by the results of this study, targeted, open access research and outreach efforts offer an opportunity to address knowledge gaps among consumers interested in indoor gardening.