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How to Build Your Own Nutrient Film Technique At Home? A Step-By-Step Guide

Written by AgFunnel


Are you wondering what is nutrient film technique and how does nutrient film technique work? The hydroponic nutrient film technique (NFT) is a simple yet effective way to grow plants.

The system we will build in this tutorial is very basic and can be used for any small plant. With the right equipment, anyone with basic experience in hydroponics should be able to set up!

What Is Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)?

The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a hydroponics technique that is very popular with home gardeners and hydroponic farmers.

NFT is an excellent choice for someone who wants a simple, low-maintenance hydroponic system. It requires relatively less space and can be set up in your garden or in a greenhouse.

However, if you are a newbie to hydroponics, this isn’t the system to start out with just because it may be little complex to build for starters.

For beginners, a little simpler methods such as bottle hydroponics, deep water culture may be good options. And once they get their hands on, they can move to more complex systems like NFT.

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How Does Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Systems Work?

The NFT system comprises a shallow channel filled with nutrient water on which the plant roots are suspended. The plant roots get all their nutrients from the solution flowing within the channel.

As the water level in this system never exceeds that of plants' roots, it's suitable to grow almost anything from lettuce all the way through winter vegetables like spinach or even strawberries.

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What Are The Pros And Cons Of Nutrient Film Technique?

Pros of Nutrient Film Technique:

Here are some advantages of Nutrient Film Technique:

  • Need less water and nutrients, especially if it is a circulatory system.
  • Flexible to scaling
  • Easy to setup and to maintain
  • Easy to check roots and clogging
  • Relatively less salt build-up because the water is flowing constantly.

Cons of Nutrient Film Technique:

Here are some disadvantages of Nutrient Film Technique:

  • A broken pump or a leakage in the pipe can lead to plants to dry out and die quickly.
  • Plant with large tap root systems can cause the pipes to clog quickly
  • Cannot support growth of bulky plants with large fruits. If you need to grow such plants, make sure you use plant supports such as trellises.

How To Build An NFT System At Home?

If you are wondering, "How do you make a nutrient film technique", there are several easy NFT Hydroponic Grow Kits available in the market.

Let's see how we build NFT hydroponics systems in your home!

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So the first thing you're going to need, as with many systems, is a container or a reservoir.

You can use any tubes lying around or the ones that you can find at stores (such as Home Depot), or even a five-gallon bucket.

Your reservoir basically depends on how big your garden is and what crop you are trying to grow.


The next thing you're going to need is something to oxygenate the water consistently.

These include:

  • air stone
  • water pump and an
  • tubing

Air Stone

If you are not growing your hydroponics crops on a huge scale, you can use a simple and cheap ones like the Petco ones that work well.

You can also use one of those circular air stones with suction cups.

The number and length of the air stones depend on your reservoir size.

Whatever you use, just make sure that you're oxygenating the water as much as possible.

Water Pump and Tubing

The next thing you will need is a water pump and tubings.

Unlike in a deep water culture where the roots just grow straight down and you may not may not need any air stones you will definitely need a water pump to pump the nutrients up in the channel in NFT systems.

Grow Tray (Channels)

NFT uses tubes or channels (such as PVC pipes) instead of flat trays to use as the grow tray.

The channels are usually set in angles so that the nutrient solution flows directly through the roots without wasting the valuable nutrient (especially since most of these systems circulate the nutrient solutdion).

The flow rate of nutrient through the channel and its slope is one of the most important factors to consider while building NFT.

There are many types and styles for channels. Most people built out theirs with PVC pipe because it is easy to find and to clean-up.

The NFT system is one of the best systems if you want to scale up in future.

It is pretty modular in a sense that you can add more channels into it, so that your growth could significantly increase in size, if needed!

How To Transplant From Germination to Propagation in NFT?

A plug of seedlings must have roots emerging from the bottom before they could be transplanted into an NFT channel.

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What Is The Best Time To Harvest in NFT System?

Greens such as basil and lettuce can be harvested multiple times in a year.

However, some plants can grow so massively that their roots block nutrient flow through the channel.

Therefore, it is necessary to frequently clean the systems to clean from clogging and also the algae growth within the channel.

Net pots can be reused after a good wash and rinse!

Want to learn about "How To Maintain A Hydroponic System: Flushing And Cleaning Strategies"?


What Is The Best Growing Media And Nutrients For NFT System?

Coir, clay pellets are all viable options to use as the growing medium in NFT.

Each growing media have their pros/cons in terms as to how they store water or interact with nutrient solution. However, Stone Wool (coconut fiber) is probably one of the best choices when using NFT hydroponic systems.

Stone Wool is a great growing media as it stores water well and also has the ability to wick up nutrient solution without clogging.

How To Clean NFT System?

  • Blocked Channel

Make sure roots or the media substates are not blocking the channel. Harvest crops if necessary to clean the channels.

How to clean nft system
  • Blocked Irrigation Line

Check regularly for blocked and leaked irrigation lines. Try to use the pressure wash by closing all valves except the blocked one and see if the pressure helps to remove the clog. If not, replace the irrigation line!


What is NFT and DFT?

Deep Flow Technique (DFT) is a variant of Nutrient Flow Technique (NFT). Unlike in NFT, where a thin film of nutrient solution passes through the roots, the roots of the plants in DFT systems are rather surrounded with larger volume of nutrient solution (as much as 4 cm thick). This large volume nutrient, surrounding roots in DFT system protects roots from drying even in case of pump failure and thus is much safer than NFT.

Which is better NFT or DWC?

In Deep water culture (DWC), plants are held on a floating raft placed over a solution tank whereas in Nutrient film technique, plants are grown on a series of shallow channels/troughs and a thin film of solution is applied to these channels/trough with the help of pump. DWC is easy to build and could be small to large in size whereas NFT is relatively complex to build and could be medium to large in size and may require much larger area than DWC. NFT is beginner friendly system and can be built without lights, pumps etc. NFT is somewhat difficult and is not ideal for beginners. NFT requires pumps and other equipments but is very easy to scale up by adding additional channels.

Who invented nutrient film technique?

Dr. Allen Cooper developed the NFT in 1960.

What are Dutch buckets?

Duch bucket (also known as bato buckets) are square buckets or regular 3-5 gallons buckets linked up in a row. These buckets consist growth media onto which the plants are grown. The nutrient is pumped via drip hose to all these buckets. The flow through is collected on a drainpipe, which is placed underneath the buckets, collected in a reservoir and recirculated.

What is the best growing medium to use in an NFT system?

There are several growing media that can be used but Stone wool is the best growing medium to use in an NFT system.

Which is the most efficiently used recirculation system in hydroponics?

Dutch bucket, DWC, NFT, DFT, all these systems recirculate nutrient solution.

What is the difference between active and passive hydroponics?

Active hydroponics is the systems in which the nutrient solution is circulated with the aid of pump whereas in passive hydroponic systems pumps are not used.

How to clean NFT system?

If you are using nutrient film technique, make sure the roots or media substrates are not blocking the channel and harvest crops if necessary to clean the channels. Check regularly for blocked and leaked irrigation lines. Try to use pressure wash by closing all valves except the one that is blocked with a clog. And if it does not help remove the clog, replace the line.

What is the best way to commercially grow spinach using hydroponic methods?

The nutrient film technique is a great way of growing spinach and other leafy green veggies.

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