Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) For A Better Hydroponic System

nutrient film technique hydroponics

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The nutrient film technique (NFT) is one of the most widely used methods of growing crops hydroponically. NFT is considered as a “top feeding” hydroponic system where plants are grown in a shallow stream of water that delivers nutrients via a thin “film”. 

In this post, we will dig deeper into Nutrient Film Technique or NFT and discuss what are the pros and cons of this system and What you need to set up the system.

So let’s begin…

What is Nutrient Film Technique: 

The nutrient film technique is a method of growing plants in soilless mediums. In this method, a thin layer of nutrient solution is applied to the growth medium and allowed to evaporate. The excess solution drains off through the medium pores.

NFT is an ecological growing method based on the natural principles of how plants grow in nature. Instead of using artificial fertilizers or harmful pesticides, NFT uses plant nutrients dissolved in water to create a stable, film-like environment, where plants can grow and thrive.

Pros and Cons of NFT:

There are sev­er­al good rea­sons to opt for NFT if you are plan­ning to set up a grow room in your own house. However, like everything in this world this system also has some drawbacks.

So let’s begin by identifying the pros and cons of the Nutrient Film Technique systems.

Pros:

  • NFT does not take up much space or needs very little maintenance. 
  • It is easy to set up, you don’t need much experience to operate the system. 
  • NFT is a low-waste, versatile hydroponics system. You can reuse the unused nutrient solution.

Cons:

  • The system is so dependent on the proper functionality of the pump that if the pump malfunctions or stops working it can kill the all the crops within hours. 
  • The NFT system does not work well with plants with large tap-roots.
  • If you are planning to grow a plant that needs support, NFT system might not be your choice. 
  • Sometimes roots can overgrow and intertwine along the channel.

What’s Unique About NFT?

The main idea of NFT is to have your roots bathed in a shallow “film” of water. This way, they’ll receive all the nutrients they need and more: oxygen and beneficial microorganisms to support their growth and health.

Nutrient film technique hydroponics

Unlike most timer systems, the NFT does not use an automatic timer plugged into your water pump. This is because the pump runs constantly, which is usually a better option. However, there is always the risk of power outages and blockages, so keep an eye on your pump and fill tube and have a backup ready.

Which Plants You Can Grow On NFT System?

The NFT system works best for lightweight, fast-growing crops that can be harvested frequently, especially leafy greens. It’s also great for growing perennial plants like strawberries for commercial growers.

For growing heavy fruits like tomatoes or squash, use a trellis system. because the NFT system can’t handle the weight of heavy fruits. 

NFT Setup:

If you’re looking to grow plants hydroponically without spending too much money, then you should build your own Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydroponics system. 

There are many ways to build a Nutrient Film Technique system, it all depends on your space and the types of plants you want to grow. 

if you’re building your own system, there are several hydroponic parts you’ll need to get started.

Reservoir:

To house the plants in your hydroponics system, you need a reservoir. It is the first component of the system. The plants sit comfortably in the reservoir, and the nutrient solution flows gently past their roots.

The reservoir is placed in the grow tray and holds nutrient-rich water. It is connected with a pump on the high end and a drain tube on the low end. 

Choose a reservoir that is UV protected, remember you are growing food in this? 

Grow Channels:

In the NFT hydroponics system, the grow tray is made up of narrow channels instead of flat trays. Now, you can also opt for PVC pipes. They are easy to buy and use. But using PVC pipes in NFT can cause uneven distribution of nutrient water to the roots. 

NFT channels2

This means that the roots in the middle will have access to a deeper depth of solution, but plants at the edges will receive only a shallow depth of the solution. And this may result in weak plants. 

The best way to dodge the problem would be to invest in good quality NFT channels.

Air Pump:

An air pump is a small device that helps pump air into the hydroponic reservoir. This air keeps the plants alive and growing even when the water is changed or during a cleaning cycle. 

Air pumps are not mandatory for NFT systems since a lot of air already exists in the channels, but it’s recommended that you use it in the system to make sure the right amount of oxygen reaches your plants at all times. Air pumps are not very expensive to buy.

Air Stone:

An airstone creates small air bubbles when placed in a container of water. Those air bubbles rise and eventually hit the plant roots at the top of the hydroponic garden. Without an airstone, your hydroponic garden will suffer. Here is a good one you can try out.

Airline Tubing:

When sourcing tubing for your hydroponics system, go for black or dark-colored irrigation tubing. This will avoid the issue of algae growth within the tube. 

Water Pump:

A small system is easy to start with a simple water pump like this. For a larger system, a larger pump will be more appropriate for the job.

Net Pots:

You can plant seedlings either in holes in your channel directly or in net pots and then place the pots in the holes of the channels. This enables you to conveniently transplant your seedlings and also gives you more stability. Some people also prefer to use some growing medium on net pots to support the plants.

Net pots and growing mediums are optional in the NFT system. You can use it if you like.

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prasenjit

Hi there! My name is Prasenjit and I’m an avid gardener and someone who has grown a passion for growing plants. From my hands-on experience, I have learned what works and what doesn't. Here I share everything I have learned.

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