The nutrient film technique is an extremely adaptable hydroponic growing system that’s structurally similar to the ebb and flow system. It has traditionally been used with plants that grow quickly and relatively small in size, mainly lettuce, strawberries, herbs, and baby greens—but it’s proven to be an effective way to grow cannabis too.

WHAT IS THE NUTRIENT FILM TECHNIQUE (NFT)?

The nutrient film technique is actually quite easy to work with. It utilises a shallow stream of nutrient-filled water that is constantly recirculated over the plant’s root system. Yes, it’s that simple.

It’s very similar to ebb and flow in the sense that both methods use water pumps to provide nutrients to your garden. However, while ebb and flow first floods the plants then drains the water and repeats, NFT has a small, constantly flowing stream. For reference, a good flow rate is about 1 litre of nutrient-rich water per minute.

NFT was discovered by Dr Allen Cooper in the 1960s and has since become the standard and preferred method when growing certain hydroponic crops. It’s much more effective than other techniques like wicking or the Kratky method as it creates a healthier environment for the plants to grow in.

NFT Nutrient Technical Film

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NFT?

There are many benefits to using the NFT system—the main one being water and energy conservation. The water used in an NFT system is contained within the reservoir and recycled to use again and again, meaning that the only water lost is via transpiration of the leaves, and that’s a very minimal amount. This system also does not require any high-powered pumps to function properly, and the water (contained within the reservoir) is kept relatively cold. The ability to operate without a large pump and water chiller saves a considerable amount of energy—and money.

Now, let’s talk a little bit more about the water pump situation. NFT uses a pump to supply pre-fertilised water into the grow tray where the plants' roots are. The grow tray, which is placed at an angle, uses gravity to allow the water to continuously flow 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. The fact that gravity is used and this is an active system with continuously moving parts means that a large number of plants can be fed from only one small pump.

Another benefit of using this system, and perhaps one of the most important benefits, are the high yields that can be achieved. This method has withstood the test of time and is known to produce excellent results. And since the roots are watered directly, no medium is needed, making it much easier to harvest plants when they’re ready.

WHAT ARE SOME NFT DISADVANTAGES?

While the benefits of this system greatly outweigh the disadvantages, its unique challenges should be covered as well. The main issue with NFT is that since there is no medium for roots to grow in, there is nowhere for moisture to be stored. So, if the pump happens to burn out on you, your plants won’t get any nutrients whatsoever.

This will quickly cause the plants to dry out and die, especially if a more powerful grow light is being used. The best way to prevent this from happening is by checking your pumps and filters regularly and installing a water sensor, which will notify you if your plants are getting too dry.

Have you grown cannabis plants using the nutrient film technique? If so, how was the quality and yield? Drop a comment below and let us know how it worked out, we’d love to hear from you!

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