Hydroponic Supply and Consultancy

Learn to start or manage a hydroponic business or consultancy.

Course Code: VHT119
Fee Code: S1
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to be a Hydroponic Consultant

Develop a foundation of skills and knowledge, enabling you to confidently advise customers buying hydroponic supplies; and provide support through developing guidelines for the successful culture of plants.

A Course For

  • Hydroponic Shop Managers and Staff
  • Hydroponic Equipment and Materials Manufacturers and Suppliers 
  • Others working with hydroponic growers who need a better knowledge of hydroponics; such as irrigation suppliers, greenhouse suppliers, environmental equipment suppliers.

This course does overlap significantly with Hydroponics I and with Home Hydroponics, and you should avoid doing more than one of those three. The difference is that Home hydroponics is a less intensive academic load, and geared to the hobbyist; while hydroponics I is a broad based course, while this course is written specifically for people who are in a position of supplying services or products to hydroponic growers, both amateur and trade.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Hydroponics – Nature and Scope
    • What is hydroponics.
    • Providing for support, water, air and nutrients.
    • Advantages over other horticultural techniques.
    • System components.
    • Other equipment.
    • System types - Wick, Water Culture, Ebb and Flow (or flood and drain system), Drip (with either a recovery or non-recovery process), NFT (Nutrient Film Technique), Aeroponics.
    • A global industry.
    • Resources.
  2. Types of Hydroponic Systems
    • System location.
    • Containers or beds.
    • Watering/nutrient application equipment.
    • Trellising.
    • Root media.
    • Two simple systems.
    • Types of systems - solution culture, aggregate culture.
    • NFT - alternative layouts.
    • Pond, raft, float, raceway systems.
    • Aeroponics.
    • Aggregate coir system.
    • Rockwool culture.
    • Gericke method.
    • Bengal system.
    • Sand culture.
    • Bucket and gravity feed.
    • Hanging baskets.
    • Solution dispensation methods.
    • Sub irrigation.
    • Ebb and flow systems.
    • Techniques -drip, slop, misting, wick, injector,etc.
    • Soil-less organic mixes.
  3. Introduction to Plant Nutrition and Understanding Nutrient Labels
    • Plant growth factors.
    • How plants grow.
    • Plant structure -roots, stems, leaves, reproductive parts.
    • Mechanisms for taking up nutrients.
    • Plant nutrients for growth.
    • Macronutrients.
    • Micronutrients.
    • Role of pH - acidity and alkalinity.
    • Extreme pH effects on plants.
    • Understanding nutrient formulae.
    • Writing chemical names correctly.
    • Nutrient solutions.
    • Mixing nutrients.
    • Nutrient deficiency symptoms.
    • Summary of fertilisers used in hydroponic nutrient mixes.
  4. Introduction to Growing Media
    • NFT system choices.
    • Capillary matting.
    • Types of media.
    • Water-holding capacity.
    • Air holding capacity.
    • Drainage (this is different to air holding capacity).
    • Nutrient holding capacity.
    • Vermiculite.
    • Sand and gravel.
    • Perlite.
    • Pumice and scoria.
    • Expanded plastics.
    • Expanded clay.
    • Rockwool.
    • Sawdust.
    • Peat moss.
    • Coir.
    • Composted bark.
  5. Basic Hydroponic Systems and Components
    • Choosing an appropriate sized system.
    • Materials for NFT systems.
    • NFT channel size and solution volume.
    • NFT channel slope.
    • NFT delivery and drainage.
    • Size of tanks and nutrient reservoirs.
    • Materials for substrate systems - concrete, metal, timber, plastic.
    • Irrigation design.
    • Pumps and pipes.
    • Aggregate materials - sand, gravel.
    • Materials to use with rockwool.
    • Materials to use with sawdust.
    • Aeroponics.
  6. Nutrition Management
    • Fertiliser salts for formulations.
    • Nutrient formulations.
    • Nutrient formulation stock solutions.
    • Formulas for different systems.
    • Growth versus bloom formulas.
    • Making up stock solutions from nutrient salts.
    • Adjusting solutions using electrical conductivity measurements.
    • EC on hydroponics.
    • pH adjustment.
  7. Climate Management Equipment
    • Greenhouses.
    • Growing plants in a greenhouse.
    • Other growing structures.
    • Environmental control equipment.
    • Environmental factors that influence plant growth.
    • Plant needs - optimum, tolerated, not tolerated.
    • Temperature control methods.
    • Understanding heat loss.
    • Types of localised heaters.
    • Centralised heating systems.
    • Temperature control principles.
    • Light factors.
    • Short day length plants.
    • Long day length plants.
    • Day length neutral plants.
    • Artificial light.
    • Horticultural management in a greenhouse.
    • Pollination.
    • Ventilation.
    • Carbon Dioxide enrichment.
    • Greenhouse Cooling.
    • Fans.
    • Fog.
  8. Common Pests and Diseases
    • Hygiene.
    • IPM.
    • Common Pests in hydroponics.
    • Common diseases in hydroponics.
    • Bacterial diseases in hydroponics.
    • Viruses in hydroponics.
    • Nematodes in hydroponics.
  9. Deficiencies, Toxicity and pH Control
    • Nutrient mobility and deficiencies.
    • Other modes of detection.
    • Nutrient toxicities.
    • Salinity controllers.
    • Nutrients and pH.
    • pH controllers.
  10. Troubleshooting Systems
    • EC (CF) and nutrient solution levels.
    • EC and TDS meters.
    • Maintaining nutrient levels.
    • Nutrient solution management.
    • Nutrient temperatures.
    • Organic hydroponic nutrient solution problems.
    • Water reticulating systems.
    • Water in run to waste systems.
    • Water treatments.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Understand the nature and scope of hydroponics and hydroponic systems.
  • Compare a range of hydroponics systems.
  • Understand plant nutrition requirements and interpret nutrient solution labels.
  • Compare different types of growing media for use in different systems.
  • Describe the components needed for different types of systems.
  • Explain the basic management of nutrient solutions in a hydroponic system.
  • Become familiar with methods of climate control and equipment required.
  • Develop awareness of common pest and disease problems in hydroponics and products to control them.
  • Describe means of controlling plant deficiencies, toxicities and system pH levels.
  • Review methods for controlling problems to maintain system and plant health.

Hydroponic Services are a Big Industry

Understanding hydroponics is essential to anyone who works in the industry whether in sales, marketing, system design and installation, or growing produce. Even those who sell components online or part time will benefit from a sound understanding of what successful hydroponics involves.   

Anyone who grows hydroponically, hobbyist or commercial grower, needs to buy equipment and materials not only to build their system; but also to operate it. Hydroponic suppliers are the shops and manufacturers who provide these things that are needed to grow hydroponics.

So, what is hydroponics? Hydroponics can simply be said to be the process used to grow plants without soil. It literally means ‘working water’. The grower is taking ‘control’ of the plant's root environment, and losing the benefit of 'mother nature's' finely-tuned mechanisms which normally control that part of the plant's environment. A hydroponic grower provides the optimal levels of food and water that plants need for growth in the form of nutrient solutions. They can also control the environment in a variety of ways to influence plant growth, such as by providing artificial light, humidity, or by manipulating temperatures. 

Hydroponics is not an easier way to grow plants! It is a more controlled way of growing plants!

Although all the various components of a hydroponics enterprise can be bought ready made and imported to the site for use, some components such as grow beds or benches for NFT channels, reservoir tanks, sump tanks and crop support can be made on site. It very much depends on the grower's budget and the availability of materials. Other components such as pumps and pipes will need to be purchased but these can be installed by the grower to save on outside labour costs if required. The choice of materials required will also be governed by the type of system to be installed. 

A wide variety of different components can be used to create a hydroponics system. These include specially constructed tanks which could suit commercial grade systems as well as small home systems, through to plastic barrels or bottles for introductory and backyard systems. Some growers recycle materials for use in homemade systems but they should not use anything which has been in contact with poisonous chemicals, anything which has been painted, or anything which has corrosive metal parts since these might all harbour harmful residues. Plastics such as PVC which are safe for use with drinking water are best. Other plastics may degrade and break down over time releasing harmful chemicals.

Choosing the Right Sized System

 Obviously, the size of the system a grower chooses will be dictated by factors such as the amount of available space, the amount of produce they wish to harvest, material costs, construction costs, running costs, maintenance costs, and so forth.

If they only intend supplying produce for themselves, family, or friends, then clearly a small system is all that is needed. If they are looking to sell produce, then they might need to have a good idea of how much they can realistically offload for profit without having wastage.


  • Hydroponic equipment and materials manufacturers
  • Managers and senior staff of hydroponic shops
  • Any other suppliers who service hydroponic farms or growers; and who need to develop a greater ability to understand and interact with hydroponic growers.
  • Horticultural consultants, teachers, or anyone else providing advice, who want to expand their knowledge into the area of hydroponics.

ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Marie Beermann

Marie has more than 10 years experience in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M. Sc. Hort., Dip. Bus., Cert. Ldscp.

Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

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