Develop a sound understanding of the theory and practice of hydroponics.

This is a serious grounding for working in the hydroponic industry and concentrates on the horticulturally valuable crops, such as cut flowers and vegetables.

Who this might benefit:

  • It can be the first step for a grower toward converting from soil to hydroponic growing;
  • A basic training course for staff on a hydroponic shop or supply business
  • If time is limited, and you have little prior experience this can give you a foundation to help better plan a business or career move into hydroponics

Do you want to learn:

  • how to grow using hydroponics?
  • how to start a hydroponics business?
  • how to set up hydroponic systems?
  • how to use nutrient use in hydroponic systems?


There are ten lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction Including: hydroponic systems; global industry; comparison to growing in soil; resources and contacts.
  2. How a Plant Grows Including: plant structure; biochemistry; biochemical cell processes; mechanisms of nutrient uptake; photosynthesis; minerals and nutrients; the role of pH in plant growth; hydroponic nutrient solutions; preparing nutrient solutions.
  3. Hydroponic Systems Including: location; equipment; systems; soilless mixes; rockwool; rockwool manufacture; rockwool properties; development of propagating blocks; propagation applications; recommended practices for propagation; nutrient film techniques; alternative layouts for NFT; methods of solution dispersion, closed and open systems; techniques.
  4. Nutrition & Nutrition management Including: understanding nutrient formulae; atoms, elements & compounds; chemical names; what does a plant need; calculating formulae; mixing nutrients; symptoms of nutrient deficiency; recommendations; adjusting the pH; using electrical conductivity measures; conductivity; conductivity and hydroponics.
  5. Plant Culture Including: flow charting the crop; controllers; salinity controllers; pH controllers; post harvest storage; cooling; drying; canning/bottling; controlled atmosphere storage; relative humidity; vacuum storage; freeze drying; freezing; pest and diseases in controlled environments; fungi, common fungal problems; cultural controls; current legislation; biological and integrated pest management; beneficial agents; economic thresholds; methods of introduction; major pests, diseases and disorders of crops identified; problem solving and identification of illness; difficult to diagnose problems; leaf hoppers; thrip; virus; bacteria; caterpillars; harlequin bugs and more.
  6. Hydroponic Vegetable Production Including: commercial cultivation of vegetables; propagation; temperatures required for seed germination; optimum monthly temperatures for vegetable growth; harvesting vegetables; growing vegetables hydroponically; vegetable families; fresh-cut herbs in hydroponic culture; nutrient solution; materials and handling; notes on selected crops.
  7. Hydroponic Cut Flower Production Including: growing flowers in hydroponics; carbon dioxide; automation; flower varieties; indoor plants.
  8. Solid Media vs Nutrient Film Including: growing media; NFT system choices; header tank or direct pumping; construction materials; solution delivery; capillary matting; channel width and length; slope; temperature; types of media; vermiculite; sand; perlite; expanded plastics; scoria; expanded clay; organic media; sawdust; peat moss; coir fibre; composted bark; indoor plants; plant directory; transplanting a pot grown plant into a hydroponic 'culture pot'.
  9. Greenhouse Operation & Management Including: growing crops in greenhouses; solar energy; greenhouses; nature of active solar heating systems; examples of solar greenhouse facilities; greenhouse management; what you can grow; greenhouse and other growing structures; environmental factors that influence plant growth; plant needs; temperature control; heat loss; heaters; light factors; artificial light; horticultural management in a greenhouse; greenhouse benches; greenhouse cooling; fog.
  10. Special Assignment Including: plan a hydroponic enterprise.


  • Explain different hydroponic systems.
  • Select appropriate media for specified hydroponic crops.
  • Describe the equipment used in hydroponic systems.
  • Determine the management of nutrition in hydroponic systems.
  • Explain the management of a greenhouse in the production of a hydroponic crop.
  • Plan the establishment of hydroponic facility to satisfy specified criteria, both commercial and cultural.
  • Develop a management plan for a hydroponic facility

Certain Systems Work Best with Certain Types of Plants

For outdoor systems, the local climate will not only govern which type of crops can be grown satisfactorily, but will also impact upon design. Each system would have to be designed in accordance with local factors. A supply of seasonally-appropriate seedlings must be ready to replace each crop which is harvested.

It may, for example, be better to grow cucumbers on horizontal supports rather than vertical ones in areas prone to strong winds, or it might be that only low-growing crops such as lettuce can be grown.  

Humidity will provide an indication as to how widely individual plants can be spaced out and the distance required between rows, to avoid the promotion of fungal diseases. This may also impact on how frequently crops need to have their foliage pruned back. 
Outdoor plants will also lose moisture more readily through transpiration because climatic conditions are more variable. That is, moisture is lost through evaporation from the leaves to keep them cool. This increases with increased temperatures, stronger winds, more light, and so forth.  

The natural drainage of the land may not be sufficient and so underground drainage channels of pea gravel or shingle housing perforated drainage pipes may be needed. In areas of high rainfall, solution concentrations will need to be regularly monitored after downfalls. If solutions become too diluted, this will affect the growth of crops. On the positive side, heavy downfalls may help to flush out salts which have built up in the system. Outdoor systems will need to have provision by way of drainage holes at a given level in the grow beds to remove excess water and prevent flooding.  

For active outdoors systems using pumps, timers, and other electrical components - the main power supply and connections to it will need to be housed in a waterproof structure or building for safety reasons.

The main disadvantages of outdoor systems are that is not possible to control the temperature, and it is difficult to control the amount of light the plants receive. Frost and snow will restrict the growing of many seedlings to frost-free times of year. Even hardier crops may be killed if the nutrient solution freezes. Whilst having plenty of daylight may be an advantage in the summer months, the lack of daylight can be a limiting factor during the winter in terms of the variety of crops which can be grown.

For greenhouse systems, the climate can be modified making it possible to grow a wider variety of crops throughout the year. The types of challenges here may be in deciding which crops can be grown optimally in the same greenhouse environment using the same hydroponic culture. Most crops have their own preferred nutrient uptake and environmental conditions. It may be wiser to use different growing systems for different plant species within the same greenhouse, or to use separate greenhouses (and possibly different systems) for different crops. A satisfactory solution may only become evident after trialing different crops.