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3 Types of Hydroponic Farming Systems

Hydroponic farming is a soilless method of cultivating plants, where nutrient-rich water is used to deliver essential nutrients directly to the plant roots. Instead of traditional soil, hydroponic systems rely on inert growing mediums, such as perlite, coconut coir, or hydroton, to support the plants.

This method provides precise control over growing conditions, allowing for optimized nutrient uptake, water usage, and environmental factors.

In hydroponics, the plant roots are submerged or come into direct contact with the nutrient solution, ensuring they receive a well-balanced mix of essential nutrients required for growth. 

The key components of a hydroponic system include a nutrient reservoir, a pump to circulate the nutrient solution, a delivery system (like drip irrigation or nutrient film technique), and a method of supporting the plants.

There are several types of hydroponic systems, each with its advantages and suitable applications. Some common types include:

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT):

 Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a popular and efficient hydroponic system that allows for the continuous flow of a thin film of nutrient-rich water over the roots of plants. This technique provides a controlled and oxygenated environment for plant roots, promoting optimal nutrient absorption and vigorous growth. Here’s an in-depth exploration of the Nutrient Film Technique and its key components:


Key Components of NFT:

Channel System:

NFT systems consist of channels or gutters typically inclined at a slight angle. These channels are usually made of materials like PVC or plastic and serve as the conduit for the nutrient solution.


Nutrient Solution Reservoir

A nutrient solution reservoir holds a mixture of water and essential nutrients. This solution continuously pumps into the channels and flows over the plant roots.

Pump and Delivery System:

A pump is employed to circulate the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the highest end of the channels. From there, the solution flows in a thin film over the roots, and any excess is collected at the lower end to be recirculated

Support Structure

Plants are typically placed in individual containers or net pots within the channels. These support structures hold the plants securely while allowing their roots to be bathed in the flowing nutrient solution.

How NFT Works:

Continuous Flow

NFT operates on the principle of a continuous and shallow flow of nutrient solution. This film of water typically has a depth of around 1-3 millimeters, ensuring that the roots have constant access to water, nutrients, and oxygen.

Gravity-driven Movement

The channels are set at a slight downward slope, leveraging gravity to guide the nutrient solution along its path. The force of gravity ensures a consistent and controlled flow without complex pumping mechanisms.

Root Oxygenation

As the nutrient solution flows over the roots, it delivers essential nutrients and provides oxygen. This oxygenation is crucial for healthy root development and helps prevent root rot, which can occur in stagnant water conditions


Excess nutrient solution reaching the channels’ lower end is collected and returned to the reservoir. This recirculation ensures that the nutrient solution remains in use, promoting resource efficiency.

Advantages of NFT

Water Efficiency

NFT systems are known for their water efficiency as the thin film of nutrient solution is continuously recycled. This is especially important in regions facing water scarcity.


The continuous flow of nutrient solution in NFT systems ensures that plant roots receive ample oxygen. This oxygenation promotes robust root development and overall plant health.

Space Optimization:

NFT systems are well-suited for space optimization, making them ideal for small-scale and large-scale hydroponic operations. The inclined channels can be arranged to maximize the use of available space.

Suitability for Certain Crops

NFT is particularly effective for growing small, fast-growing crops with shallow root systems, such as lettuce, herbs, and strawberries.

Considerations and Challenges

Risk of System Failure

NFT systems require careful monitoring, as any interruption in the nutrient flow can lead to rapid dehydration of the plants. System failures, such as pump malfunctions, need to be addressed promptly.


Crop Selection

NFT is best suited for certain types of crops with shallow root systems. Larger plants or those with extensive root structures may not thrive as well in NFT systems.

Nutrient-rich water is continuously circulated over the roots in a thin film, providing a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen.

Deep Water Culture (DWC) 

Deep Water Culture (DWC) is a hydroponic system that submerges plant roots directly into a nutrient-rich water solution. 

This technique creates an oxygenated environment by using air stones or diffusers to ensure a constant oxygen supply to the submerged roots.

DWC is known for its simplicity, efficiency, and ability to support the growth of various crops. Let’s delve into the key components, workings, advantages, and considerations of the Deep Water Culture hydroponic system:

Key Components of DWC:


The nutrient solution reservoir holds the water mixed with essential nutrients. The reservoir is typically made of plastic or other materials resistant to corrosion.

Air Stones or Diffusers

Air stones or diffusers are used to inject oxygen into the nutrient solution. They are crucial for preventing oxygen deprivation in the root zone, and ensuring healthy root development.

Net Pots or Floating Platforms

Plants are placed in net pots suspended above the nutrient solution. The net pots hold the growing medium, such as hydroton or Rockwool, and support the plants.

Submersible Pump

A submersible pump circulates the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the plant roots. It ensures a continuous flow of nutrients and oxygen.

pH and EC (Electrical Conductivity) Monitoring Tools:

Regular monitoring of pH levels and electrical conductivity is crucial in DWC systems to maintain optimal nutrient concentrations and acidity levels for plant uptake.

How DWC Works:

Submerged Roots

The plant roots are suspended in the nutrient solution, allowing direct access to the water and essential nutrients. The constant oxygen supply from the air stones prevents anaerobic conditions and ensures root health.

Continuous Circulation

The submersible pump circulates the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the roots and back. This continuous circulation facilitates nutrient absorption and oxygenation, promoting rapid plant growth.

Monitoring and Adjustments

PH and EC levels are monitored regularly. Adjustments are made to maintain the desired pH range and nutrient concentrations, ensuring that plants receive the right balance of nutrients for optimal development.

Advantages of DWC:

Rapid Plant Growth

DWC is known for promoting faster and more vigorous plant growth. The direct access to nutrients and oxygen accelerates the plant’s metabolic processes.

Simplicity and Low Cost

DWC systems are relatively simple to set up and are cost-effective. This makes them accessible to both beginners and experienced hydroponic enthusiasts.

Efficient Nutrient Use

Nutrient efficiency is high in DWC systems because the plants have constant access to nutrients. This can lead to reduced nutrient waste compared to other hydroponic systems.

Suitable for Various Crops

DWC is versatile and suitable for various crops, including herbs, lettuce, and certain fruiting plants. The system’s adaptability makes it popular for both hobbyists and commercial growers.

Considerations and Challenges:

Oxygenation is Critical

Adequate oxygenation of the nutrient solution is crucial in DWC. Lack of oxygen can lead to root problems and negatively impact plant health.


pH and EC Management

Regular monitoring and adjustments of pH and EC levels are essential to prevent nutrient imbalances, which could affect plant growth.

Risk of System Failure

DWC systems are dependent on the continuous operation of the submersible pump. Any pump failure or interruption in nutrient circulation can quickly impact plant health.

Plants are suspended in a nutrient solution with their roots submerged in the water, promoting oxygenation through air stones.

Drip System 

The Drip System is a widely used hydroponic technique designed to deliver precise amounts of nutrient-rich water directly to the base of each plant.

This method is renowned for its efficiency, resource conservation, and suitability for a variety of crops. In a Drip System, water and nutrients are distributed through a network of tubes, pipes, or hoses, ensuring that plants receive the necessary hydration and nutrients for optimal growth. 

Let’s explore the key components, workings, advantages, and considerations of the Drip System:

Key Components of Drip System:


  • The pump is responsible for circulating the nutrient solution from the reservoir through the system. It ensures a continuous flow of water and nutrients to the plants.

Tubing or Hoses

Tubes or hoses transport the nutrient solution from the pump to the delivery points. These are often made of flexible materials for easy installation and movement.

Emitters or Drippers

Emitters, also known as drippers, are devices that control the release of the nutrient solution. They are strategically placed near the base of each plant and vary in types, such as pressure-compensating drippers or adjustable flow emitters.


A timer regulates the frequency and duration of nutrient solution delivery. This ensures that plants receive water and nutrients regularly, optimizing growth conditions.

Growing Medium

Plants are typically placed in containers filled with a growing medium like coconut coir, perlite, or vermiculite. The growing medium provides support for the plants and helps retain moisture.

How Drip System Works:

Nutrient Solution Mixing

The nutrient solution is prepared by mixing water with the appropriate concentrations of nutrients. This solution is stored in a reservoir.

Pump Operation

The pump is activated based on the timer settings. It draws the nutrient solution from the reservoir and pressurizes it for distribution.

Delivery through Tubes

Pressurized nutrient solution flows through tubes or hoses to reach the emitters. These tubes are strategically laid out to cover the entire cultivation area.

Precise Delivery at the Base:

Emitters release the nutrient solution near the base of each plant. This precise delivery ensures the roots receive the required water and nutrients, avoiding wastage and promoting efficient uptake.

Excess Solution Collection

Any excess nutrient solution not absorbed by the plants is collected and returned to the reservoir for recirculation. This recirculation minimizes waste and contributes to resource efficiency.

Advantages of Drip System:

Water Efficiency

Drip systems are highly water-efficient, delivering water directly to the plant roots. This targeted approach minimizes water wastage and is particularly beneficial in regions with water scarcity.

Nutrient Precision

The controlled release of nutrient solution ensures that plants receive a precise and consistent supply of essential elements. This promotes healthy growth and maximizes nutrient absorption.


Drip systems are scalable and can be adapted to various sizes, making them suitable for small-scale and large-scale hydroponic operations.

Automation Potential

Using timers and automated control systems allows for efficient and hands-free operation. This is especially advantageous for commercial hydroponic setups.

Considerations and Challenges:

Clogging Risk

Emitters may be prone to clogging, especially if the nutrient solution contains particles or sediment. Regular maintenance is required to prevent clogs and ensure consistent water flow.

Regular Monitoring

Continuous monitoring of the system, including the pH and nutrient concentrations, is essential to address any imbalances promptly.

Initial Setup

While drip systems offer efficiency, their initial setup may require careful planning to ensure proper coverage and uniform nutrient solution distribution.


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