How does an NFT hydroponic system work?

How does an NFT hydroponic system work?

More and more people around the world are now dreaming of growing their own gardens. Do you know why this is happening? Because it means access to healthy, nutritious, fresh food which is becoming a rare commodity, especially in the overpopulated urban areas. 

You might also want to grow plants in your apartment and office space because a garden, regardless of its size, acts as a calming presence in the middle of a concrete jungle. 

Furthermore, many people from a very diverse range of professions are taking it up as a weekend hobby. With the basic knowledge of the technique and a compact hydroponic farming setup, it is likely that you’ll be able to start growing fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs on your own.

Before we move on to the more advanced concepts, let’s understand what hydroponics is. It is the technique of growing plants without soil. You must be wondering how plants can grow without a basic necessity like soil, right? 

Turns out, plants don’t actually require soil. They just need a certain combination of nutrients to survive, which they usually get from soil. But if we can provide these nutrients through another medium, they will grow just as well if not better. Farmers are now trying out all kinds of combinations to use as this medium.

What is an NFT hydroponic system?

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a fairly popular and highly versatile hydroponics system. 

An NFT hydroponic system is quite similar to a system made using the Ebb and Flow technique of hydroponics. Both of them constitute the use of water pumps in order to deliver nutrients to plants. There is one significant difference, though. NFT hydroponics works through a constantly flowing system, unlike the Ebb and Flow technique which functions through the flood and drain mechanics.

People often say that other methods such as Wicking and The Kratky Method are better. That is true in the sense that they are passive, less complicated to build, and easier to run, but the conditions that they create are usually not as optimal for plants as NFT does. 

It is widely preferred amongst home hydroponic growers because it is well suited for smaller and rapidly growing plants, like the different varieties of lettuce. However, commercial growers have successfully managed to grow other plants like herbs, baby greens, and strawberries as well.

What do you need to build an NFT hydroponic system?

To build an NFT system, here are the components you’ll require: 

  • A channel for the plants 
  • A reservoir for the solution
  • A nutrient pump
  • Tubes that will distribute water
  • Net pots to contain plants and growing media to start seedlings in
  • A return system to guide the used nutrient solution back to the reservoir  

How does it work?

The grow channel, also known as the grow tray, and the reservoir are the two main components of an NFT hydroponic system. 
 
The grow tray is an enclosed channel. It has small openings where plants are placed. These plants are usually kept in the form of seedlings in small net pots containing growing media. The roots hang down to reach the floor of the channel.

A water pump thrusts nutrient water from the reservoir to the channels. So, a thin layer or film of this nutrient solution flows through each channel, providing nutrients to each plant as it does so. 

Restricting the nutrient solution to a thin film helps to prevent the plants from being entirely soaked. So, the upper parts of the roots remain mostly dry and can draw oxygen from the air. 

These channels are usually slightly tilted, to allow smooth flow of the solutions from one end to the other. The excess nutrient flows out of one pipe and then moves into another channel. Thus, recirculation of water in this manner saves a lot of unnecessary wastage of water. 

What are the advantages of NFT hydroponics?

The system has rapidly gained popularity amongst both commercial and hydroponic farmers for the wide range of benefits it provides. 

  • The simple yet effective design is very appealing to beginners. 
  • Because the water is recirculated, it promotes efficiency and reduces unnecessary consumption.
  • Since the roots are not completely submerged, it is easy to check for signs of diseases. 
  • It is comparatively easy to disinfect the equipment and the roots in this system. 
  • Unlike static systems, there is less risk of a localised salt build and thus plant roots usually maintain their pH level. 

What are the shortcomings of the system?

Like all systems, NFT has its own set of loopholes that any grower needs to be careful about. 

  • Since the system depends on a nutrient solution, you should ensure that the flow never stops. Otherwise, the roots will dry out pretty quickly. 
  • As compared to other techniques, the channels of a newly planted NFT system tend to heat up faster. This gets diminished gradually through the flow of the nutrient solution, though. 
  • Since the space is limited, it is not suitable for growing plants like carrots which have large tap-root systems.
  • If vigorous-growing plants are planted in this system, they could block the channel and restrict flow to the plants planted down the tray. 

So, what’s the conclusion?

On the whole, the plus points of the NFT technique definitely outweigh the shortcomings. Especially if you’re a new hydroponics grower who is itching to get started with the process and eat greens that you have grown, this is the way to go. 

Choose romaine lettuces, mustard greens, kales or herbs and within a short period of time, you’ll be enjoying fresh and nutritious salads!

As one of the leading companies in the space of hydroponic farming in India, we offer a variety of products and services to help you get started and then sustain a hydroponic farming system. 

If you are new to farming and just discovering the wonderful world of NFT hydroponics, we have a wide range of products for your convenience. Our hydroponics grower’s kit includes everything you will need, from NFT channels to a nutrient solution for the plants. 

We also conduct training to help the new age agripreneurs learn about hydroponics and reap its benefits. From the amateurs to seasoned farmers, we aim to make a hydroponic farming setup accessible to everyone. To learn more, get in touch with us.