There are those who believe that hydroponic gardening for most purposes is just as good as organic gardening. That statement is not a fact, it's an opinion. There are many growers that organically produce their crops in soil the way nature intended that would beg to differ.
As a matter of fact the Organic 'snobs' actually fight to keep hydroponic produce from being classified as Organic. The USDA has so far refused to consider allowing hydroponically produced food from being labeled as 'certified organic produce'. Hydroponic growers strive to feed their plants everything nature provides in the correct dosage via soluble nutrients added to a solution.
Hydroponics utilizes customized nutrient solutions to envelope plants with a perfectly calibrated nutrition at all times. Organic growers on the other hand seek to feed the soil which in turn feeds the plant that feeds us.
Hydroponics expedites plant growth. Lettuce can be taken from seedling to harvest in a month while it takes twice as long in soil. Spinach takes less than 3 weeks when grown hydroponically but 6 to 8 weeks when grown in soil. Tomatoes, peppers, garlic, fruits grown hydroponically all yield a harvestable crop at breakneck speed in comparison to conventional soil based gardens.
It is fairly well established that Hydroponically grown food is produced faster and with higher yields than soil based organic gardens, the question remaining however is quality.
In the arena of quality I fear hydroponics must tip its hat to mother natures organic growers. Organically grown produce in my humble opinion tastes better and some would argue is more nutritious.
In nature there are bacteria's and fungi, beneficial ones that can not always be replicated in a hydroponic system. Various microorganisms need to work symbiotically with the root system to produce high quality, healthy, and tasty produce. Minerals and nutrients are broken down from rock and dead and decaying organic matter in soil, they all interact with one another in a fashion hydroponics seeks to replicate in an artificial setting. Unfortunately hydroponics can never fully match Mother nature who has been perfecting her art for many millennia.
Flavor and quality in produce is achieved by a complex combination of nutrients that produce and or interact with sugars, acids and gasses to produce the taste and aroma we experience in our food. Other factors include breeding and climatic conditions such as temperature and humidity. Flavor all too commonly gets sacrificed for higher yields at quicker intervals. Hydroponically grown food is awesome, it produces a reasonable high quality fruit or vegetable much quicker. If you want the highest quality fruit or veggie - nothing beats soil based organic produce. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature.
Update: January 18, 2019 Legal action taken to force USDA to revoke certification of container, hydroponic, and aquaponic production systems