Nutrient Management in the Nutrient Film Technique

How to Build a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System

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Last updated on June 30th, 2023 at 08:36 pm

Nothing feels as good as growing your own fresh produce. But as modern houses get smaller and smaller, not many of us have the privilege to grow plants in soil-based gardens. That’s where the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) comes in. 

The highly popular hydroponic growing system is loved by gardeners and small-scale farmers worldwide. It’s simple, effective, and affordable and is ideal for growing fresh produce in small spaces or indoors. 

With NFT, you can grow different types of plants. The plants grow in a soil-less environment and are fed the nutrients they need by a shallow stream of nutrient-rich water. We already covered the Nutrient Film Technique in our comprehensive guide. This post explains how to build your own NFT hydroponic system. Create your own NFT setup and grow fresh and healthy produce at home.

What is Nutrient Film Technique?

The Nutrient Film Technique involves growing plants in a shallow film of nutrient-rich water. It derives its name from the film that runs through the plant roots, feeding them with vital nutrients and minerals. 

An NFT system comprises a sloping channel (trough) for growing the plants, a reservoir for the nutrient solution, a pump that circulates the solution, and a drainage for removing excess water. The plants grow in small net pots put inside the holes in the channel, but their roots hang down to easily access the nutrient solution.

Because a constant flow of nutrients and water is delivered to the plants’ roots, they get everything they need to grow and thrive. Growers love this system because it’s efficient. It uses less water and nutrients, minimal fertilizer and pesticides, and promotes faster growth and higher yields.

NFT Hydroponic System Design: Building A Nutrient Film Technique System

Materials Needed

  • A channel (trough) for the plants. You can get one or several, depending on the number of plants you’ll grow.
  • Net pots: These allow plants to be secured properly and ensure that the roots receive nutrients and water.
  • A nutrient solution reservoir: The reservoir holds the water/nutrient mixture plants need for healthy growth. If you’re growing consumable crops, ensure the reservoir used is food-grade.
  • A pump: The pump circulates the nutrient solution throughout the setup, making sure all plants receive nutrients and water.
  • Tubing or PVC pipes to connect the components
  • Adapters and fittings to attach the pipes and components

NFT Hydroponics Setup: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Choose a Channel (Trough)

The channel holds the net pots containing the plants and ensures they grow well. A channel should be shallow (2- 4 inches deep) and must be long enough to hold all the plants you’d like to grow. If you’re creating your own NFT setup, choose a waterproof material that can withstand exposure to the nutrient solution. Also, ensure the material you choose is food-grade, whether it’s plastic, PVC, or metal. Alternatively, you can get an NFT hydroponics kit to make your job easy.

Step 2: Add the Net Pots

Next, get the net pots that will hold your plants and put them inside the channel’s holes. Choose net pots that are ideal for hydroponic growing, such as mesh or plastic pots. The pots should fit securely in the channel’s holes and should have enough space between them to allow for adequate plant growth. Next, fill the net pots with a growing medium such as coco coir or rock wool. It will anchor the plants in the net pots and support the roots.

Step 3: Set up the Nutrient Solution Reservoir

NFT Hydroponic System Design

The nutrient solution reservoir holds the nutrient solution because a hydroponic NFT system is a recirculating one. It’s where you’ll put your nutrient solution so the pump can draw it and distribute it to the plants. The nutrient reservoir must be large enough to hold enough nutrient solution for your plants for several days. It should also be located beneath the channel to ensure the nutrient solution flows through the system via gravity.

Step 4: Connect the Pump and Tubing

The pump’s work is to draw the nutrient solution from the reservoir and deliver it to the roots of the plants. Get a submersible pump as it will stay inside the reservoir to pump water to the plants. Connect one end of the tubing to the channel and the other end to the pump. Make sure the tubing is securely attached in order to prevent leaks. Put the pump inside the reservoir.

Step 5: Add Adapters and Fittings

You may need adapters and fittings to connect the NFT system components. Some growers use T-adapters to split the tubing between multiple channels and elbow adapters to turn a corner. Be sure to choose adapters and fittings that are compatible with the type of tubing you are using.

Step 6: Add the Nutrient Solution

Fill the reservoir with water and add the right amount of hydroponic nutrient solution. Dilute it according to the type of plants you’re growing. Check the product box for directions or consult the manufacturer for guidance. Once done,  measure the pH and EC levels and adjust as necessary. Pour the nutrient solution inside the reservoir that contains the pump. Switch on the pump for the solution to flow through the channels and over the plant roots.

Step 7: Maintain the Hydroponic NFT System

Maintaining an NFT system isn’t a hard task. Here’s what you should do: 

  1. Monitor pH levels: Regularly check the pH levels of your nutrient solution and adjust them if they are high or low. The best pH range for plants is between 5.5 and 6.5.
  2. Check the nutrient levels: Nutrient levels can change because of factors like water evaporation and plant uptake, so check them frequently.
  3. Clean the system: This helps prevent the buildup of debris, algae, and other contaminants. Sanitize the system and remove debris with a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide and bleach.
  4. Check the water flow: Make sure the water is flowing smoothly through the hydroponic NFT system and that there are no blockages or leaks. A leaking or blocked system will create nutrient imbalances and plant stress.
  5. Inspect your plants: Check your plants regularly for signs of stress, such as stunted growth or yellowing leaves. Address issues quickly to prevent further damage.

Build an NFT System That Works for You

A Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system can help you grow plants hydroponically. Thanks to its low-maintenance requirements and simple design, a hydroponic NFT system can be set up by both beginner and experienced gardeners. 

If you have limited space but have been longing to grow fresh herbs and vegetables, build an NFT system. With some basic materials and a little bit of planning, you can set up an NFT system that gives you a constant supply of fresh, healthy produce.

Don’t keep postponing the project. Build your own hydroponic NFT system today and start enjoying the benefits of hydroponic gardening!

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