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Hydroponics: Understanding NFT

Nutrient Film Technique. Source:

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is one of the five types of hydroponic systems. Simple backyard systems or commercial crop production can be done with this system setup.

The name ‘Nutrient Film Technique’ suggests that plant roots are not completely submerged but instead the plant is inserted into a netted cup where the roots are exposed to the film of the nutrient solution. NFT involves the use of:

PVC (circular or squared) as growth channels. The size of PVC is chosen according to the type of crop being grown. 2” PCV lengths are ideal for lettuce and herbs whereas 3” PVC can be used for patchoi, kale and any larger leafy vegetable.

A reservoir filled with a mixture of water and nutrients creating a nutrient solution. For a small system, a barrel can be used as the reservoir; and for commercial systems, tanks are essential. Based on the type of crops being grown, the nutrient mix will vary since some plants will require more of different nutrients than others.

A submergible pump to circulate the nutrient solution throughout the system. For a backyard system, a small pump with a low GPH (gallons per hour) can be used, however for commercial systems you will definitely need a pump with a high GPH. For someone who would like to start off with a backyard system and gradually increase to a commercial system, an adjustable pump should be invested in where you can manipulate the GPH according to the system’s size.

An air pump with air stones to keep water oxygenated.

Netted cups to support the plant. The size of the netted pots will vary according to the size of PVC being used due to the type of crop being planted.

A frame to secure the growth channels which can be built using PVC or iron. The material used on your frame is based on your budget. PVC is cheaper however metal is more durable.

Electrical Conductivity (EC) meter and a pH meter are essential to test the EC and pH of your nutrient solution to ensure that the optimum levels are kept daily for proper growth of your crops.

There are many variations to this type of hydroponics. You can design your system based on how many plants you require, the size of area that you have, the type of crops and even an indoor set up using grow lights.

In another article, we will explore the materials list for the design of a backyard system while sticking to a low budget, how to maintain your system, and pest and disease management.

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