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How To Build Your Own NFT Hydroponics at Home

Jelena Maric
Agricultural Engineer

NFT hydroponics, also known as Nutrient Film Technique is a hydroponic system that utilizes a shallow stream of water to supply the roots with the nutrient solution. It has many advantages over other hydroponics, such as Drip Irrigation and Aeroponics. It is less expensive, easy to automate and maintain, does not require a drain system, and there is no risk of over-watering.

How to Make an NFT System

The first step is to get a container to hold your plants. You can use anything from a bucket or barrel to a plastic storage bin. Next, you will need a piece of window screen that can lay across the top of your container for support. It needs to be taught so it doesn't sag in the middle and allow water to flow through.

Now, you need to find a source of water like a garden hose or tap with an adjustable nozzle. The next thing you need is a source of nutrient solution. A hydroponic store will have these in abundance and they come in various forms such as liquid, powder, or gel.

Finally, you will need some weight for the window screen, which will help keep it taut and ensure it doesn't sag in the middle. You can buy this at any hardware store or even use something as simple as bricks if you do not want to buy anything new.

Step 1: Clear Your Work Area

First, clear your work area and gather all the necessary supplies. You will need a table or other flat surface to lay out your supplies.

Step 2: Prepare the Base for Your Tank

Now it is time to prepare the base for your tank. The dimensions of your tank should be no wider than the width of your trails and no taller than 18 inches. You will need to cut a piece of plywood or other material to fit these dimensions (roughly 16 x 18 inches) and drill or screw in 3 or 4 brackets on the top edge, which will serve as hooks for hanging baskets later on.

Step 3: Cut the PVC Pipe to Lengths

The final step to create your NFT hydroponics system is to cut the PVC pipe to size. You will need two lengths of pipe that are one and a half centimeters in diameter and four lengths of pipe three centimeters in diameter. The length of these pipes depends on how tall your plants are. Once you have cut the pipes to size, place them in a row with the narrower PVC pieces at the top and larger PVC pieces at the bottom.

Step 4: Insert the Pipe Into the PVC Fittings

Insert the PVC pipe into the PVC fitting. Make sure that the pipe is inserted into the fitting straight and not at an angle. If you are assembling a frame, insert your frame into the fitting first. Then insert your hydroponics tubing into the frame, then your hydroponics tube fittings, and finally your hydroponics pump or aeration system. 

Step 5: Drill a Hole in the Side of Your Tank

The hole should be about halfway up the tank and slightly to the right side. The size of 5 cm (1.97 in) will work well and make it easier to thread your pipes through it.

If you want to get creative with your hydroponic system, you can use any type of container at least 5 cm deep and has at least 1 liter of water space per plant. Rectangular tanks are more stable than round ones and allow better access, but round or square containers will work well too.

Step 6: Place Filter Media

It is important to place your filter media correctly in your NFT system so it will not affect the water flow or result in clogs. The filter media should be as evenly as possible, but you may want to adjust the position a bit during the first week of use to get a better feel for how it works.

A common type of filter media used for aeroponic systems is sponges. Medium-density sponges have about 1/4 inch (6 mm) pores and can hold about 1 liter of water per square foot (0.1 m2). You can also use other types of filters such as gravel, hydrocolloids, or activated carbon. However, sponges are proven to be the best solution for beginners.

When you first buy your filter media, it may seem too wet or dry. You may need to let it sit out in a warm room for a few days to allow it to dry out and become firm enough that it can be placed into your NFT system. The medium-density sponges we recommend are available at most garden centers or online. You will have to experiment with different types of sponges until you find the right one for your system, but this usually takes only a few days.

Step 7: Creating the System

Once you have all your materials, assemble the kit and start adding your plants. Remember to use the nutrient solution in their water channels every time you refill them with fresh water. 

With an NFT hydroponic system, the roots of your plants are on the surface of the nutrient solution, and it is important to make sure that they are submerged for at least 8-12 hours a day. To do this, make sure that there is always enough freshwater flowing through the system to submerge them.

Why would you want to have an NFT system at home?

NFT hydroponics is a system that lets you grow a large number of plants at once in a confined space. With an NFT system, the roots are grown in a nutrient solution, which recirculates throughout the tank. The process uses less water than traditional growing methods, and it is easier to control the temperature and humidity.

Building your NFT system from scratch is a great weekend project for the DIY-er. It is also a great way to save money and reduce your dependence on outside resources for food.

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