How to build a nft hydroponic system

How To Build A NFT Hydroponic System At Home

Want to know how to build a nft hydroponic system?

Here I have compiled detailed guide to idea on building the nft hydroponic system.

In this guide I have also included a list of things that you would need while buiding the system.

Before we go to the steps, lets first understand what NFT system is in brief.

What Is the NFT Hydroponic System?

The NFT, or Nutrient Film Technique is the hydroponic process where a saline layer of solution is treated as the growing medium. This solution layer is transferred in narrow pathways called channels. Plant roots are directly bath in the moving layer of this nutrient solution.

An ideal NFT hydroponic system has its channel slanted correctly. There isn’t any competition for nutrients, as the roots are directly exposed to a constant supply of water. Moreover, plants grown in NFT aren’t deprived of dissolved oxygen.

Materials You Need For Building The System

Building NFT systems requires a wide range of tools and knowledge. It is perhaps the most important segment on how to build a NFT hydroponic system. Below listed are the materials you need for building an NFT system.

1. PVC Pipes

You’ll need a PVC pipe of diameter 4 inches. This pipe will be used for building the channel. Therefore, any pipe you purchase must be of high-grade PVC. 

Well, there are other options available, but a PVC will make your system more durable. Don’t go for the virgin plastic pipes, as it will degrade soon on bright sunlight. You can purchase it from your nearest retailer, or online.

2. Lamp

Many know that sunlight is the ultimate source of light. However, hydroponics isn’t supported fully in regions deprived of sunlight. The systems in such regions require a light installation.

There are two alternatives for the light source, where most beneficial is the UV light. The ultraviolet radiation will add some elements of the sun.

The other alternative is the halogen bulb. However, it won’t be as beneficial as a UV light but can provide an adequate amount of heat.

3. Two wooden Planks

Wooden planks provide a framework for the water channel. It provides the necessary tilt to make the nutrient flow. The recommended measurement or the planks is 2 by 4”.

There are many sources of wood. But, for the framework, hardwood will be the best. If there is the unavailability of hardwood, you can still opt for plywood.

4. Two Black Vinyl Tubes

Vinyl tubing is essential for transporting the solution from the reservoir. Choose two good quality vinyl tubes each of ¾” thick and 6 feet long. Black colored tubes are more durable than ordinary tubes.

Before purchasing the vinyl tubes, inspect the quality by checking it’s elasticity. Press the mouth of the tube with your forefinger and the thumb. Avoid stiff tubes, as such material isn’t durable.

5. Reservoir

 A reservoir in hydroponics is where you store the nutrient solution. It needs to be maintained regularly to receive the maximum yield. Choosing the incorrect material for your reservoir will be harmful to you and your plants.

A plastic reservoir is recognized as the best storage facility for hydroponics. Plastic being neutral to chemicals doesn’t react with the nutrient solution. Therefore, it doesn’t form toxic oxides.

On the other hand, metals react with the nutrient solution forming concentrated oxides. Choose the volume depending upon the scale of your farming. For home use, a reservoir with 5-gallon capacity is ideal.

6. Plastic Pods

Just like the reservoir and the channel tubes, the pods must be of plastic too. This is where you have to sow your plant seeds for germination and the vegetative process. Being inert, plastic is the most preferable material for a sowing holder.

Size depends on your plant of choice, and farming scale. For home gardening, select any pod which can accommodate up to 3 lettuce plants. Here, you’re advised to purchase three pods of equal volumes.

7. Submersible Pump

 The submersible pump is the heart of a hydroponic system. When it comes to the NFT system, you better choose the most suitable pump. You’re recommended to purchase a 160gph submersible pump.

Many other NFT system guides recommend a low powered motor. But, any motor within the range 145-160gph will serve you best.

8. Nutrient Solution

 The basic foundation to grow hydroponic plants is the nutrient solution. The right nutrient solution will benefit you with optimum yield, but selecting the wrong one will lead all efforts to vain. For an NFT system, prefer a liquid nutrient medium than solid ones.

Also, choose a nutrient medium that has an adequate amount of nitrogen and calcium. Don’t choose mediums with Phosphorus content higher than nitrogen.

9. Growing Medium

 The next expect that must be taken into account seriously is the growing medium. This is where you have to put your seeds into. There are different types of growing medium in the market.

For the NFT system, you will need a loose growing medium like Rockwool, perlite, clay balls, coir, etc. If you want to green leafy vegetables in the NFT system, you can choose vermiculite. 

10. 5” PVC Flat Cap

Flat PVC cups are used to join the Vinyl tube which connects to the reservoir. There are many metal alternatives in the market but always choose a PVC flat cap. Coming to the size, a 5” cap will be more suitable for the following setup.

You’re recommended to select only a white cap. It is durable and provides you further options for decoration. Don’t go for 3” flat caps, as the connection between the reservoir and the tube might clog.

11. Drill Bits

To make the NFT system watertight you will need some drill bits. According to the setup, drill bits of three sizes are required. You are advised to purchase each of 3/8”, 3”, and 1” bits.

All 3 bits are employed to drill at the flat PVC cups and the reservoir. Therefore, purchase good quality bits which are sturdy and proportionate.

12. Drill

To drill holes in the above-mentioned areas you will need a drill. There are many options for corded and non-corded drills available in the market. Non-corded drills are trending worldwide.

Due to its low power consumption, non-corded drills are perfect for this job. In case you have a corded one, handle it carefully.

13. pH Test Kit

The general full form for pH is “positive hydrogen ion.” pH values depict the molar concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution. To check the pH level of your nutrient solution, you’ll need a pH test kit.

Some times even the EC meter gives you idea about the pH of the nutreint soluton.

There are different choices of pH test kits available in the market. Many prefer digital meters, but it would increase your budget. One of the best ways to test the pH is the testing drops, which are easily available nearly.

14. pH Regulators

Different plants demand different pH values for their growth and vegetation. To simply test the pH isn’t enough. The inappropriate pH will not allow your plants to grow to their full potential.

Nutrient solutions and pH regulators come in liquid and solid forms. It would be better to use liquid regulators, as it mixes uniformly.

How To Build A NFT Hydroponic System?

After you have gathered all the materials, it’s now time to build the system. For a detailed and better understanding, this section is divided into steps.

Step 1: Selecting The Location

Selecting a location for the NFT hydroponic system plays a crucial role in plant yield. Usually, this technique produces optimum yield under humid conditions. Due to this fact, many install a sprinkler on top of the channel.

Humidity can also be controlled easily in a greenhouse. Therefore, NFT systems are commonly installed in greenhouses. Moreover, it is also important to take care of the sunlight as well.

Plants grown in NFT systems demands adequate sunlight to carry out photosynthesis. To maintain both aspects, you’ll have to inspect the temperature before choosing the location. For NFT systems, the temperature range between 5°C-30°C is the most suitable.

Setting an NFT system at home is perfect in areas that receive sunlight half throughout the day. Therefore, your backyard or balcony might be a good place to start.

Step 2: Setting The Channel

First, it is important to start the process by setting the channel. To build the channel properly, you’ll have to do some cuttings. Start by trimming the long PVC pipe to 1’8”.

This length is recommended by keeping the material into account. However, if you want to put additional net cups in the stem, extend the length. Now, place the pipe horizontally on an even plane surface.

Now, take the drilling machine, and insert the 3” drill bits properly. Drill 3” holes on the surface of the PVC, at equidistant positions. This is where you’ve to set the plastic pods with injected seeds.

Keep at least 2” gaps between each hole, as narrow holes might make the system clumsy. The ultimate aim of drilling these 3” holes for water drainage within the channel. Now, eject the 3” bit, and fit a 3/8” bit in your drilling machine.

Drill a hole near the center of any one of the PVC caps carefully. This hole will allow the vinyl tube for the supply of the nutrient solution from the reservoir. Now, your drilling work is paused for some time.

Next, you’ll have to cut the two pieces of hardwood (recommend above) near the top. Remember to shape the cutting like an isosceles trapezoid. The intention of cutting the wood is to provide a more stable framework.

So, even if your pet messes with the system, don’t worry. Moreover, the blocks will provide the necessary inclination to encourage the water flow. But, before you slice the wood, you must know the required inclination.

You can know the required slope you can apply the 1:30 proportion technique. In this technique, drop the clamp level to 1” for every 30” of parallel length. Don’t extend the vertical drop beyond 1.5”, as doing such might lead to nutrient overflow.

Step 3: Preparing the Reservoir

As you might know, the reservoir is the place for storing your nutrient solution. Therefore, the construction must be done neatly and accurately. Start this phase by taking the drilling machine in your hands.

Take a 3/8” bit, and attach it to the drilling machine properly. Before drilling, rev the machine to inspect the bit fitting. Now, you’ve to drill a hole near the periphery of the reservoir.

Don’t drill just near the periphery, rather take a marking of about 3 inches from the edge. Doing such might make a disproportionate hole due to vibrations. It would be more creative if you mark the drill spot with a pencil.

This hole will be connected to a larger hole by the 10″ vinyl tube. Next, detach the 3/8” bit from the drilling machine, and reattach a 1” bit. Similarly, rev before using the drilling machine to inspect a tight-fitting.

This time drill at the opposite face of the previous hole you’ve drilled. Remember that you’ve to drill slightly towards the right. Just like before, mark the drilling spot with a pencil to ensure proper drilling.

This 1” hole will pave a way for the power plug of your submersible pump. You can increase the size of the drilling bit, but your system will have a poor fit and finish. In case you’ve drilled an unsymmetrical hole, use a sealant to cover the extra space.   

After your drilling work for the reservoir, it’s time to clean it. Since, it will be a storehouse for the nutrients, use a mild detergent to clean it. First, make the surface wet by washing it with water.

Then, add some detergent granules on the wet later. Rub the plastic surface with your hands softly. It would be best if you use an exfoliating scrub to rub the surface.

After rubbing about 5 minutes, wash the surface with clean water. Now, your reservoir is ready to hold nutrients.

Step 4: Assembling All Things

After setting the channel and preparing the reservoir, it’s time to integrate the segments. To build the foundations of your NFT system, start with the tubing. Join the 4’6” tube to the hole that is nearest to the outlet.

Now, join the 10” tube to the farthest hole at the end. Then, install the submersible pump on the reservoir floor. To continue, connect its outlet to the longest tube piece. A longer tube ensures that the pump sits flat on the floor without tension in the tubes.

Complete the pump setup by running the outlet through the 1” hole. You can plug the pump whenever your remaining setup is complete. Now, place the more sharply cut and inclined piece of wood towards the farthest end.

But, remember that the end is where there is only one hole on the PVC cap. Then, place the other wooden piece directly opposite to the former one. The main intention behind this setup is to add more inclination towards the hole for drainage.

In other words, you can think of this as a strategy to make the circulation more dynamic. Now, you can enter the channel without any hassle. It is now important to connect the 10” tube to the hole situated at the base of the PVC tube.

After doing such, put the remaining longer tube into the PVC end cap. Make sure that the altitudes of the tubes inside the channel, and the base of the pots are equal. Without this set-up, your NFT system will not fit in its general definition.

In simpler words, tubes of similar height will ensure a uniform moving layer of the nutrient solution without drowning the roots. Now, it’s time to mix the nutrients with water to make it a suitable solution. To make the correct solution, mix the concentrated nutrient in the right proportion.

In general, people use 100ml of nutrient solution for every liter of water solvent. However, depending on the constituents, the proportion varies in the reach packet. All nutrient packages come with ratio instructions on each side.

It would be best if you follow the proportion as mentioned in the packet. After mixing the raw nutrient solution, agitate the mixture well with a clean stick. After a minute, your solution would have achieved its maximum molar conductivity.

Before turning the pump on, don’t forget to install the plastic pods on the channel. Add loose nutrient mediums like Rockwool and coir in your plastic pod. Don’t stuff the material hard, but just make sure that the medium remains intact.

Now, inject the sprouts and seeds of your plant of choice to the growing medium. Don’t them too deep, as they might get deprived of air. After injecting the seeds, you are ready to turn the pump on. Wait for the required days, and witness your system supporting life.

You Can Also checkout our post on best plants for nft hydroponic system.

Final Thought

Due to its innovative design, the system yields results faster. However, you must turn the pump at any time to keep the solution in motion. Just know how to build a NFT hydroponic system won’t be enough you have to learn how each crop behaves with the system to ensure you have best yield.  

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