NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) Hydroponics Systems Explained

Are you familiar with NFT Hydroponics System? If not, prepare yourself to learn everything about it – from the system itself to pros and cons and setting-up process.

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Otherwise known as Nutrient Film Technique, NFT Hydroponics system is considered as the simplest types of hydroponic gardeners can use. It’s a recirculating system wherein the nutrient solution continuously flows down on a certain set of channels called as gullies.

In NFT, a certain thin film of nutrient solution does flow by means of plastic channels

In some DIY NFT hydroponics, a certain thin film of nutrient solution does flow by means of plastic channels.

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After that, this solution will be pumped right from a holding tank by means of irrigators situated at the topmost part of the sloping channel. Then, the runoff coming from the bottom part of the channel will be returned to the tank. But the thing here is that NFT hydroponics system perfectly fits for those that grow smaller quick plants such as lettuce and herbs.

The system works through providing a slow and steady stream of water down to the plant’s roots

The NFT grow system works through providing a slow and steady stream of water down to the plant’s roots.

Although there are several ways to construct an NFT hydroponics system, you should know that they all have the same characteristic of having a shallow nutrient solution that cascades downward by means of tubing. It’s the area where the roots of the plants come close to the water so that it can get sufficient amount of nutrients. Because no growing medium is utilized, most plants are typically held in a supporting collar or a growing basket.

NFT system is often used to grow the different types of lettuce

NFT system is often used to grow the different types of lettuce

Advantages Of Hydroponics Nutrient Film Technique

What’s great about this system, is that it supplies the plant’s roots with nutrients, water, and oxygen easily. Compared to other hydroponic systems, regulating one of these elements readily will lead to an imbalance to the plant’s nutrition. In addition to that, the channels within an NFT system won’t need you to clean a messy medium. Plus, the system itself could work in either vertical or horizontal setup based on the type of plants and grow space where you will grow your plants.

With NFT, your vegetable can enjoy a constant flow of water

With NFT, your vegetable can enjoy a constant flow of water

Disadvantages Of Nutrient Film Technique

Since the system demands a continuous flow of nutrients, one possible hindrance which may come down the road is a power outage. When the pumps don’t move water, your plants will start to go short of food and its roots will begin drying up. It could be mitigated through putting an extra reservoir right above the channel, as well as employing the pump to maintain a full reservoir.

Once the power cuts out, you will have until this specific reservoir drains. One more thing, since this method is a barefoot technique, the plant usually don’t have any support coming from root growth. Most probably, top-heavy plants will require artificial support such as a trellis.

When you use NFT system, you can easily check the plant’s roots

When you use NFT system, you can easily check the plant’s roots

How To Build a NFT Hydroponic System?

Now that you’re aware of the disadvantage and disadvantage of NFT hydroponics system, you may proceed to build one in your backyard. Keep in mind that an NFT system is divided into two major components, namely the reservoir and the channel. Remember, you need to keep away from heavy metals; thus, steel or PVC for channels, pumps, and cups are your best bet.

Majority of NFT setups do not require a growing media

Majority of hydroponic NFT setups do not require a grow media. Source: commons.wikimedia.org

  • Your channel can stretch not more than 40 feet and must be tilted by 2% to 3%. Don’t forget that the plants located down the channel would get fewer nutrients. Therefore, you should create a run longer than 40 feet and install a 2nd nutrient feel in order to replace the missing nutrients.
  • Oftentimes, the channel is created out of PVC; however, it can be made also from wood provided it has a waterproof plastic lining. It is recommended to use a flat-bottomed channel because curved based will only result to uneven root growth.
  • More importantly, the whole channel requires being enclosed everywhere with the exception of the ends where the water flows. By doing so, you’ll block sunlight from directly hitting the roots with the help of a system with a lift cover. This makes it easier for you to observe the roots directly and to search flow blockages. At the top, you can simply place netted basket so that you can manage your seedlings in the channel properly.
  • Furthermore, the basket must be situated right above the flow of the water but not within it. It lets the roots to hang from a certain basket. Therefore, the ends will be sitting in channel water, leaving them exposed partly in the air.
  • Underneath the channel is the nutrient reservoir along with a submerged water pump. That pump is the one responsible for pushing water on the top part of the channel slope as well as allows the gravity to flow back through the channel prior to going back to the reservoir. Your main target here to achieve approximately 0.3 to 0.5 gallons every minute or roughly 18 to 30 gallon every hour. Take note that the pump’s flow rate alters, basically depending on how high it needs to pump the water.

When the pump and the reservoir begin to move the water and the seedling are already prepared, the entire system is done. When that happens, you need to drain the system, keep the reservoir clean, and lastly, refill it with nutrients from compost bin and fresh water every 7-10 days.

Leafy vegetables grow quickly in NFT system

One Last Advice

With the convenience that hydroponic system brings, there are many people who prefer this transition of planting. For beginners out there, do not overboard in buying supplies that you think you need in the future. Just buy what is needed for your present gardening. To start the process of hydroponic planting, you will simply need few things. Most of the materials that you need can be already found in your house. This will give way for saving money before having the full tilt of hydroponics planting, may it be DIY NFT aquaponics or NFT aeroponics.

Also, it’s suggested that you create a dedicated area for plant growth. Most of the nuisance gardeners may either buy for an easy way installing of grow room or simply build the greenhouse outside the house. Small rooms for the starting grower usually entails a little bit larger closet. This can be installed completely for just an hour. The expenses may range to several dollars or more than. It will only depend on add-ons which you think will be a great need.

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NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) Hydroponics Systems Explained
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Lucy M. Clark
 

Hi there! I’m Lucy, and I’m a self-confessed garden fanatic. Gardening has always been a passion of mine and will always be my favorite pastime. Now that I am married and have one adorable son, I have the time to write and share my personal experiences with other garden enthusiasts like me.

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