Hydroponics is the process of cultivating plants without the use of soil. The roots are immersed in a nutrient rich water solution which delivers the essential nutrients directly to the plants. Hydroponics saves considerable amounts of water compared to traditional methods. It uses less space, and can be easily grown out of direct contact with the sun by using indoor lighting.

This is becoming a crucial technology as the population of earth grows at an exponential rate. Fresh water supplies are dropping, the demand for food is increasing, and the need for energy and space efficient farming methods is at an all time high. Hydroponics offers the solution to all of these demands, and is quickly becoming a standard in the horticultural sector for crop production of all kinds.

This makes for a great university or school project to demonstrate the effectiveness and technique involved with this important technology. Here is a breakdown of how to do it.


Hydroponic room

1. Building The System

To begin, the system that the plants will be grown in will need to first be constructed. There are several different types of hydroponic systems that can be built, which you will need to decide on before starting the project.

Once you have decided on the type of system you want to build, the materials will need to be sourced. Most hydroponic systems can be built from materials obtained from a hardware store. PVC tubing, 5 gallon buckets, and water pumps are a staple in hydroponic design.

It will be useful to consider how you plan to transport your system to your school or university. Will you be building it at the campus or building it at home and transporting it in? If building at home and transporting into school, it will be easiest to build a deep water culture system (DWC), or drip system. These systems are self contained, and easy to transport. Systems like NFT, and underwater current are much more difficult to transport, and are generally built directly in the area they will be operating.

Vertical hydro setup

2. Adding Plants Into the System

Once the system is built, you will need to add your plants to the system. This can be done from seedlings, or using soil grown plants from the shop. If sprouting from seed, try starting them in rockwool first. This is a perfect way to propagate plants and trains them to grow the right kind of roots for hydroponics right from the beginning. The rockwool can then easily be added to the hydroponic setup of any kind.

If using store bought, soil-grown plants, the only thing you need to do is carefully remove the plant from the pot, and in a sink rinse away all of the soil from the root zone. If soil gets into the hydroponic system it may clog the pumps and tubing so it is important to remove as much soil as possible before adding into the system.

Remove the soil

3. Feeding The Plants

Feeding hydroponic plants is done using special, water soluble hydroponic nutrients which can be added to the water directly. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle when adding to the water to avoid adding too much. As a general rule, it’s better to add too little, than too much. Hydroponic nutrients come in the form of a water soluble salt, which can buildup on the roots and become toxic.

Check out our wide range of hydroponic nutrient solutions here.If you’re overwhelmed by the selection and unsure of where to start, we recommend starting with this product by Shogun. It has a great formula, suitable for a wide range of plant species. The A + B formula involves adding both at the same time to your reservoir about once per week with water changes.

Another important step when feeding your plants is to ensure the pH remains between 5.5 and 6.2. This is because outside of this range, nutrients will begin to lock out and cause deficiencies in your plants. You can use pH test kits, and buffer solutions to control the pH of your water.

Sensi bloom


4. Maintenance

Maintaining the hydroponic system for your school or university project is fairly easy and straightforward. Always keep an eye open for discolored or misshapen leaves, insects, mould or slimy bacterial growth, and strange smells coming from your plants. Your plants should be clean, deep-green colored, and fresh smelling. Anything else will indicate something is wrong and will need to be identified and fixed as soon as possible.

It is important to check the pH of the water at least once per day to keep it within range, and trim off any dead leaves to prevent any opportunistic moulds or insects from using them as a source of shelter or food.

Healthy leaf

5. More Information

There is a ton of information that can be found online including in our blog which can be found here.

Depending on what you want to achieve with your school or university hydroponic farm there are numerous different demonstrations or techniques that can be done. Hydroponics has seen incredible growth and innovation in recent years, and there is a huge community of people behind it. Try reading through some of the online forums on the topic, or stop in at your local hydroponic shop to speak with industry experts.