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What is Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)?

What is Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)?

NFT is basically a continuous flow hydroponic system. It was discovered in the early 1960s by Doctor Allen Cooper. Today, NFT is among the most productive single hydroponic systems. It features a small, shallow stream (film) of nutrient-rich water provided to plant roots via a long channel, gutter, or tube. A large separate container holds the pump and nutrient mixture and creates a continuous flow of aerated nutrients to the roots in a long narrow channel.

The runoff nutrient mixture is led back into the main water container. NFT is structurally similar to ebb and flow with the slight distinction of having the solution flowing over the roots instead of soaking them. Also, a tube system with holes bored for the plants is used instead of trays, this way, you can easily angle the plants for proper flow over the roots.

Why NFT?

Once set up, NFT is pretty simple to operate. The water is recirculating and self-contained so water loss is kept to an absolute minimum. Plants are accurately fed; they can absorb as much nutrient and oxygen as needed without soaking or drying up. With no growing medium, you are free of pests and harvesting is much easier. NFT has a flow rate of around a litre of rich nutrient water per minute. You can expect up to three times the yield of regular soil growing.

How does NFT work?

NFT uses a shallow stream of nutrient-filled water to feed the plants. This stream is continually recirculated over the roots along the bottom of the troughs. Roots are aerated through permanent exposure to the air. A pump supplies pre-fertilized water into the grow tray holding the roots. The grow tray, placed at an angle, uses gravity to continuously run the water over the roots and into a drain pipe. The water then flows through the drain pipe and back into the reservoir where the pump pulls it out again and the process repeats.

What you need for your NFT setup

There’s a ton of ready-built NFT systems available on the market. There are a few things to consider before buying one;

  • Space available- should be enough for system, the plants and working around them
  • Grow light used- the system should match the output of the lights

If you choose to DIY your NFT system, you'll need to fully understand NFT concepts. In terms of equipment, you will require;

  • Drain tube
  • Fill tube
  • Air stone
  • Reservoir
  • Air & water pump
  • PVC tubing or Downpipes to act as the channel element of the system
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