Nutrient Film Techinque (NFT)

NFT ChannelAs the name implies, the Nutrient Film Technique is a hydroponic system based on a moving film of nutrient solution.

This system is widely used in commercial hydroponic installations and can just as easily be used in your homemade hydroponic system.

A NFT hydroponic system can be as small as a single 1m channel to as big as you entire yard, give it a try and you will amazed at how well it works.

Basic Design

The basic components of a NFT system are a sloping trough or channel, a reservoir, a pump to circulate the nutrient solution and some plumbing.

Basic Operation

The nutrient solution enters the raised end of the sloping channel and flows in a thin film to the lower end of the channel where it flows into the reservoir.  The nutrient is recirculated to the top of the channel by means of a pump.

Image by chooyutshing via Flickr

Design Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when you design your NFT hydroponic system

  • The nutrient needs to flow not puddle around the roots of the plants to keep the roots from rooting
  • The nutrient needs to be kept in a dark reservoir to stop algae growing, you can paint the outside of the container to stop light getting in
  • The plants require air around the roots

Design Components

Channel

There is an almost endless number of items that you can use as a channel to grow your plants in, here are some of the ones I have used

  • Plastic roof guttering
  • Plastic down pipe with hole cut for the plants
  • A plastic film called Panda Film, this is black on the inside and white on the outside.  I lay the film on a board and fold the two edges up to form a triangular shape.

Reservoir

The size of the reservoir is dependent on the amount of channel that you are installing and the amount of plants you are planning to grow.  A small reservoir with a large number of plants will require dosing daily, a large tank with a large number of plants may only need dosing every two or three days.  Try and set up your channel so that as the nutrient drain from the channel they drop a distance causing bubbles in the nutrient solution, if this is not possible it may be necessary to use a fish tank air pump to aerate the nutrient solution.Reservoir for your Homemade Hydroponic System

Ensure your reservoir does not let light in and that it is not susceptible to corrosion.  Good reservoirs are made of plastic, glass or stainless steel, other materials are fine if you use a plastic liner.

Pump

Submersible Pump for your NFT System

There are a number of pumps that you can use, one of the easiest is a submersible pump.  The pump simply sits on the bottom of the tank with the pump intake on the side, a spigot is provided to attach some pipe to deliver the nutrient to the top of the channel.

Ensure you check the height that the pump is capable of pumping to, this needs to be more than the height of the high end of your channel.  This measure is generally known as the Head.

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