Indoor and Outdoor Hydroponic Gardening

Indoor and Outdoor Hydroponic Gardening

With the advent of commercial hydroponics and other soilless methods of farming, indoor cultivation has gained a lot of traction. India has a few areas such as Bangalore where the weather is mild enough to suit gardening with hydroponics outdoors for the entire year with good management practices, and appropriate crop selection. However India has a lot of places where it is difficult to grow a large variety of crops due it’s harsh climatic conditions outdoors. The main impediment to farming indoors is the lack of sunlight which is required for plant growth. With a climate controlled polyhouse you can operate just like an indoor garden, with the exception that you will have access to an abundance of sunlight and easy air exchanges to keep your hydroponic crop healthy and happy above the root system. If however you wish to grow indoors where there is no access to sunlight, you will need to use grow lights. With the help of grow lights and a climate controlled setup, one can ideally grow any crop at any time of the year irrespective of the natural climate.

The same hydroponic system which you would use to grow outdoors can simply be moved indoors and grown on with the help of grow lights. Please check out our blog posts on how to choose the best lights for your hydroponics system if you’re looking to move your hydroponic plants in India indoors. Apart from the access to light, growing indoors or outdoors with hydroponics entails more or less the same kind of effort and maintenance. The primary drawbacks of growing outdoors is that you’re limited to choosing crops which will grow well in your prevailing climate and since you’re not in a protected environment your plants face the threat of pest and fungal attacks. While indoor growers don’t face these issues, it is a far more expensive method of hydroponic farming both in terms of capital expenditure and operating costs.

Both methods of Hydroponic farming have their limitations and benefits. While outdoor hydroponic farming is cheaper, it is subject to climate and may fall prey to pest attacks. Indoor hydroponic farming albeit more expensive gives a farmer more control over their growing conditions and hence can achieve better and faster growth. If you have a hydroponic kit in Chennai, try outdoor farming in the winter months and move your system indoors for the Summer. Compare your results and let us know which works better for you!

How to improve Hydroponics Lighting

How to improve Hydroponics Lighting

Using Artificial lighting in growing crops is a fairly new concept when you consider that agriculture itself is an age-old practice that led to the development of modern society. There is still a lot of data being gathered on the efficacy of lights for indoor growing especially to do with spectrums and optimal use of electricity to maximize growth while not stressing out the plants. Lights are increasingly being used in both Commercial Farming and Home Hydroponics to let growers overcome the restraints of nature and enable growth in indoor closed and controlled climates and environments. The use of lights to remove the need for sun and land-based agriculture is the future of urban food production, in this post we will discuss methods to optimize the use of these lights in indoor and controlled environment agriculture.

The first thing to look at is the type of light, older less efficient lights are the HPS(high-pressure sodium) MH(Metal Halide) and CFL(Compact Fluorescent light) which have been used extensively in the past in grow rooms. These types have a lot of disadvantages ranging from the inefficient use of electricity too high heat generation or low light output. These early experiments have led to the invention of the efficient LED bulbs that put out a lot of light without eating up electricity and needing too many accessories to run. LED’s can also be designed to put out light in specific spectrums and hence if a grower has access to good quality LED’s then that would be the best pick.

The second thing is the grow room or grow area itself which should act conducive to increasing light absorption by the plant and so high reflectivity must be achieved. This can be done by painting the walls of the grow room with highly reflective paint such as pearl white or using a reflective material like mylar or foil. Light placement is also important, most LED’s come in a configuration of throwing light at 90 degrees or 120-degree angles and so the plants to be grown should be placed directly below the lighting system and larger areas may require multiple light fixtures. Towards the outer edge of the lit area, the lux values could fall drastically hence a lux meter to reduce low lux spaces between light fixtures would be recommended to have a larger more uniformly lit grow area. Daisy chaining which is the capability of controlling multiple light fixtures with a single control unit, this is a useful feature when having multiple lights and this can be used to control on/off cycles and optimize electricity use. It is also useful to have height adjustable rope ratchets to be able to adjust the height as per the plant type.

Heating is a common issue when it comes to growing rooms and this can be mitigated with exhaust fans and circulation of air inside the grow room. It is imperative that a grow room has an even in-out flow of air to remove hot air and let more fresh air into the grow room. Circulation between the plant canopy is also crucial and can be achieved with the help of simple fans. Advanced climate control methods like air conditioners also help mitigate this issue.

Lights must simulate the sun’s natural process in order to nurture the plant through its life cycles. A plant that flowers or matures only with the change in the seasonal availability of sunlight will not thrive well in an overly light stimulated environment when it is in its flowering cycle. To counter this some growers use timed light cycles for the various stages, for example for vegetative growth an 18(on)-6(off) cycle is used and for flowering they use 12on-12off cycle, this puts the plant into a false sense of seasonal light change (summer-winter).

For someone doing hydroponics in Gurgaon or other areas with extreme summers, indoor growing could mean a steady supply of off-season crops without the use of pesticides and the ills of soil growing. Agriculture is a constantly improving method for sustenance with the availability of more and more energy sources for us indoor growing will soon become a norm at every residence and commercial farming ventures.

Types of mediums that are used for hydroponic gardening

Types of mediums that are used for hydroponic gardening

Hydroponics by definition does not use any soil, soil which has traditionally been one of the core components of farming/gardening was the best format for nutrient delivery. The soil plays 2 important functions, the first it breaks down the fertilizing agents so that the plant can absorb the same via its roots, second, it also supports the plants so that they can stand upright. Hydroponics omits the use of soil altogether. They instead use different media for different purposes, techniques, systems etc. A “medium” refers to the substance that is used to replace the soil and provide support to the plant. This medium can be made from different materials, either man made of synthetic in nature. Coco peat is a natural material that is made using crushed coconut, it has very high wicking ability and water retention property thus allowing it to retain a significant amount of water this allows the root zone to be kept cool in hot climate zones. Another example is rock wool which is a man-made material that.

It’s created from rocks that have been melted and spun until it’s become fiber much like fiberglass. They are fashioned into cube-like shapes and are preferred in commercial farming as they can be used directly from the seeding stage and no transplanting is required thus reducing the labor required. The ultimately the choice of media for NFT hydroponic systems is one that has a high wicking ability and is easily available for large-scale consumption as this is essential for commercial hydroponic farming. Some of the most popular choices for mediums are as follows. LECA or lightly expanded clay aggregate these are clay balls that are very light, nontoxic and infinitely reusable. This is preferred by a commercial farming as unlike a lot of other media options this one is reusable, hence this is good for commercial farming. Rockwool is another popular medium choice, the advantage is that they come in slabs and are very easy to work with, they can be seeded very easily and the same plug can be used right from the nursery till harvest, eliminating the need for transplanting. The drawback with rock wool is that it is not reusable and they are not biodegradable this is a concern for some growers, the plugs are also expensive and in some cases may increase the cost of production. Cocopeat is a low-cost option that can be used, they have superior wicking ability and great water retention ability this helps cool plants while growing in higher temperature zones.

Other options included sand, perlite, vermiculite etc there are so many grow mediums to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics. Choosing the right to grow medium can make the difference between success and failure in the commercial farming. While making the right choice for you, always look for consistent supply, low cost and wicking ability, retention ability and aeration.

Types of Hydroponic Gardening Methods

Types of Hydroponic Gardening Methods

Since there are many different options when it comes to hydroponic systems, it can be hard to decide what method may work best for home hydroponics or commercial farming. Here’s a quick overview of some of the different types of hydroponic equipment and systems.

Nutrient Film Technique

One of the more intricate hydroponic arrangements is known as nutrient film technique (NFT). This also involves the use of a reservoir and pump system. The plants are situated in net pots that allow the root system to hang down, and these pots are aligned in a row down the center of a channel. The channel resembles a hollow tube with a flat bottom and holes in the top for the plants. The nutrient solution is pumped up from the reservoir to the top of the channel. The channel must be positioned at an angle so that the water flows over the lower tips of the roots and back into the reservoir. The flat bottom on the channel allows for an even layer of solution to cascade over its surface, feeding the root system on the way down.

Due to the size of the channels, NFT hydroponic systems work best for plants that have a small root system like leafy greens and herbs. NFT is the most scalable hydroponic system available which typically makes it a go-to method for commercial farming. At Future Farms, we have the Leaf Station Series for NFT home hydroponics.

Deep Water Culture

With Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponic systems, the plant’s roots are suspended in the nutrient solution and the air is provided directly to the roots with an air stone or diffuser. Plants are placed in net pots with growing media like light expanded clay aggregate (LECA) to help secure them.

DWC works well with almost all plants but is especially useful for growing large plants with extensive root systems like fruiting vegetables. The Future Farms Air Buckets Series is an ideal DWC solution for home hydroponics.

Wick Hydroponics

A wick system is basically a pot connected to a reservoir by a large wick that soaks up the nutrient solution and delivers it to the root system. As the root system absorbs the solution, more is pulled up from the reservoir below. The best media to use in a wick system is coco peat or perlite, as they have a high level of absorption and water retention. However, wick systems are more basic than other types of hydroponic systems and they have their drawbacks.

Unlike other mechanisms that deliver water to the root system, the wick method does not always provide enough water to completely saturate the media. So, even though wick systems are simple to use, they are best reserved for small plants or if you have limited space.


Plants are suspended in the air and nutrient solution is sprayed over the plant’s root system. The nutrient solution is pumped into piping that’s fitted with mist nozzles. As the pressure builds the misters spray the plant’s roots and the solution falls back into the reservoir.

With the right setup, aeroponic hydroponic systems can grow just about any types of plant. The difficulty lies with making sure the mist nozzles are able to spray the entire root system. Aeroponic systems are fairly simple in design but can be expensive and tricky to put together, so they are not ideal for a beginner to hydroponics or for home hydroponics.

Drip System

A drip system is another more advanced hydroponic system. It has a reservoir system that utilizes an air pump to keep the reservoir solution moving and a nutrient pump that sends your solution up to the plants. In this case, the root system is not exposed. The plants are grown in your standard hydroponic medium like coco peat or vermiculite.

When the water is pumped up from the reservoir, it is fed to the plants through from hoses above the top layer of medium. The water literally drips from the hoses onto the medium and is controlled by a timer to go on and off at specific intervals. Set up can be complicated, so they should probably be reserved for more advanced hydroponic gardeners.

Ebb and Flow

In this hydroponic method, the plants are placed in large grow beds filled with growing medium. The grow bed is flooded with nutrient solution until it reached a certain point. A drain allows the water to only get a few inches below the top of the growing medium to keep it from overflowing. The pump is controlled by a timer which shuts the pump off after the grow bed has been flooded, to drain it completely.

These hydroponic systems work great for all types of plants including root vegetables. Ebb and Flow hydroponic systems are popular with home hydroponic gardeners.

In conclusion, it’s important to consider what plants you wish to grow and how much space you have available before choosing the ideal hydroponic system for your home hydroponic needs or commercial farming. At Future Farms, we cater to the needs of both and also supply hydroponic equipment for those looking to build their custom solutions!

How to build Hydroponics system?

How to build Hydroponics system?

Building a hydroponics system can be as easy as placing a strainer over a bowl and sprinkling some fenugreek seeds on the top. Proof of concept apart when building a hydroponics system one must first decide on if they are looking to do this as commercial farming set up or to do hydroponic farming at home.

Someone with the plan of doing hydroponic farming in Bangalore would have to look at a commercial farm from the angle of where, how and what. The location, the technique of hydroponics and the what needs to go into this farm. For the purposes of this post, we will look into the what as it directly deals with the how to build aspect.

The first thing to do is to choose the crop, long rooted crops need larger vessels to hold this complex and fibrous root matter and shorter rooted plants can be manipulated to produce relatively lower plant material and maximize their usable growth. Hydroponic techniques consist of the following:

1.Nutrient Film Technique – Leafy greens and herbs

2.Deep water culture– Fruiting vegetables and vine crops

3.Ebb and flow tubs– Nursery growing and leafy greens.

4.Media beds– Microgreens and tender tubers.

Each of these methods is specialized or give the best growth with some crop varieties but does not work as a “one size fits all” method. This, in turn, brings out the beauty in hydroponics as it means that each growing method’s application can optimize resource use, material requirements, and cost.

To explain the principles of building a hydroponics system let us take a look at the NFT growing method.

An NFT system will require to grow channels or pipes with holes to place the plant holders, these pipes will have to be outfitted with inlet and outlet drainage to create a flow of water from one end of the growing channels to the other, the movement of water can be done with a pump. The grow pipes will have to have caps that dictate the level of water maintained in the pipe at the ends and plumbing to bring the water down into a central reservoir.

Having a central reservoir is a good idea as it reduces the need for parameter checks in multiple locations. The water parameters that are of utmost importance in hydroponics are pH and Electrical conductivity/ ppm/ TDS of the water.
The TDS dictates the number of dissolved nutrients and this varies with the age of plants. As with all living beings plants need more food as they grow and thus the TDS of a hydroponics system will increase over time.

pH is a factor that influences the individual uptake of growth necessary plant nutrients, pH levels for hydroponics are recommended to be between 5.5 and 6.5 as this is the optimal range in which all the 18 essential micro and macro elements plants require are taken up by the roots most readily.
Hydroponic systems also need to grow media the classical nature of these media is that they are inert and as such give no nutrition or boost to plant growth but rather touch upon other important aspects such as aeration, root support, and stem support. Commonly used inert media are washed coco peat, hydroton or Light expanded clay aggregate and rock wool. It is also important to note that some media are better for some types of systems and crops than other. For ex( media beds for microgreens usually have cocopeat whereas ebb and flow systems for nurseries of fruiting crops usually contain hydroton. Rockwool cubes are used commonly as seed starters.

Building a hydroponics system works best when reverse engineering from the needs of the plant, their life cycle and stages and to tie that into maximizing efficiency and output. Building a hydroponics system can be as simple or complex as you would like it to be.