Hydroponics III

Learn to manage hydroponic systems and equipment; compare different options (including organic hydroponics, with tuition from experts incl. Dr Lyn Morgan and John Mason, author of Commercial Hydroponics.

Course CodeBHT321
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn more about Managing Hydroponic Systems

For people who already understand a lot about hydroponics
This course has been developed by industry professionals with decades of experience advising hydroponic businesses and farms.
It was developed to complement Hydroponics I and II; and is intended as training for serious growers and industry professionals.

It takes you through a carefully constructed process of learning; to help you understand the management of a hydroponic system; embed that understanding, raise awareness of the broader industry and help you to connect with sources and resources that are relevant to hydroponics, and will assist you in maintaining a "currency" in your perspective on the industry.
Learning to manage hydroponics is more than just gathering factual information: it also requires an ability to choose the right information to apply to the situation at hand; as well as an ability to understand and apply that information appropriately. A book or web site can give you information; but you need to move through a process of learning, and be guided by competent teachers in order to properly learn something: and that is what this course can do for you. 

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Options for Managing Plant Culture
    • different approaches to cultural operations in hydroponics
    • Organics vs. hydroponics:Nutrient differences in food products
    • Is hydroponic food more or less healthy than organic?
    • How feasible is organic hydroponics?
  2. Planning a Hydroponic Operation
    • site and crop selection
    • matching a system with a crop, materials, resources & services required.
  3. System Design Components
    • pumps, hardware, media, pipes, size, type, and so forth
    • Components for different types of culture.
  4. Managing a Hydroponic System in Hot, Humid Conditions
    • tropical, subtropical climates
    • greenhouse environments
    • summer in temperate areas.
  5. Water Management
    • water quality measures
    • treatments
    • runoff
    • testing
    • purifying water
    • water in recirculating and run-to-waste systems.
  6. Nutrient Formulation
    • standard formulations
    • detecting toxicities & deficiencies.
  7. Controlling Nutrient Levels
    • using EC and pH measures of concentration levels
    • solution temperatures
    • maintaining nutrient levels.
  8. Pest and Disease Management
    • nutrient and pH manipulation for control of pests & diseases
    • integrated pest management
    • common pests and diseases.

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.


  • Describe different approaches to cultural operations
  • Demonstrate an awareness of similarities and differences between organic and hydroponic production techniques
  • Describe how to plan a hydroponic operation through site and crop selection, matching a specific crop, materials, resources and services required, and site layout; for different specific crops.
  • Discuss system design components such as pumps, grow beds, solution tanks, media and pipes in terms of size, type, and options for different cultures and specific crops.
  • Provide details of how to manage a hydroponic system in hot, humid conditions such as in tropical or subtropical areas, or in summer, in temperate areas, for specific crops.
  • Explain options for water management such as water sources, quality, testing, treatments, and use in recirculating and non recirculating systems.
  • Recommend awareness of natural and other methods of pest and disease control such as biological controls, as part of IPM and nutrient and pH manipulation for different pests and diseases.
  • Explain and recommend different standards of nutrient formulation, and advanced methods of detecting toxicities and deficiencies in specific crops.
  • Recommend methods to control nutrient level concentrations by taking EC, pH and temperature measurements, and maintaining nutrient levels for different specific crops.

What You Will Do

  • Learn about the following:
    • Hydroponics versus Organic Crops
    • Feasibility of Organic Hydroponics
    • Hydroponic Food Health
    • Types of Hydroponic Culture -Water, Sand, Aggregate, Rockwool, Sawdust, Other
    • Planning a Hydroponic Sustem
    • Site Appraisal
    • Climate -temperature, frost, snow, humidity, light, dust, wind
    • Water Supply
    • Other Resources
    • Site Preparation
    • Site Layout
    • Matching a System with a Crop
    • Grow Bed and Tank Construction
    • Pumps and Pipes
    • Materials for Different Types of Culture based Systems
    • Materials for use with Sand Culture
    • Materials for Use with Aggregate Culture
    • Materials for Use with Rockwool Culture
    • Materials for Use with Sawdust Culture
    • Materials for Use with NFT
    • Aeroponics
    • Water
    • Chilling
    • Humidity and Temperature
    • Pest Control
    • Types of Tropical Culture
    • Sand Culture in Hot Humid Places
    • Ebb and Flow Systems
    • Modified Dynamic Root Floating (DRF) System
    • Deep Flow and Chilling
    • Water Sources -mains water, rain, underground, surface
    • Water Quality
    • Hard Water
    • Water pH
    • Water EC
    • Sodium Chloride
    • Turbidity
    • Smell and Colour
    • Iron Content
    • Carbon Dioxide
    • Water Recirculating Systems
    • Water Treatments
    • Compounds for Formulations
    • Dutch Classification of Nutrient Formulae
    • Nutrient Formulae
    • Nutrient Deficiencies and Toxicities
    • Nutrient Mobility
    • Detecting Nutrient Deficiencies
    • Toxicities
    • Nutrients and pH
    • EC and Nutrient Solution Levels
    • Maintaining Nutrient Levels
    • Nutrient Temperatures
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Common Pests and Diseases


The type of components required in a water culture system will depend on the scale of the operation. For instance, jars may be appropriate in amateur and home hydroponics setups but are unlikely to be required in a commercial scale operation, save perhaps for storing nutrient solutions in. Generally speaking though, a commercial scale water culture venture will have a greater number of components, and in larger sizes.

Water culture systems are the simplest in terms of the types of components required. In a basic system, plants may sit in polystyrene rafts which float on top of tanks containing water enriched with nutrient solution. An alternative is to use a litter tray which sits on the top of the tank. This has a wooden frame and the base is made from plastic with holes for plant roots to pass through. The crown of the plants can be supported with polystyrene pieces.

An air pump is needed to oxygenate the solution and provide air to the plant roots. The pump is connected to an oxygenating stone or perforated pipe. This type of system lends itself well to growing head lettuce.

A recirculating water culture system is slightly more complicated. In this type of system, the nutrient solution is pumped through the beds and is returned through PVC pipes to a main reservoir. As the solution leaves the beds it passes through baffles which also help to aerate it. At least one change of solution is needed per hour for a large 30m bed with 10-12cm of nutrient solution.

In a continuous flow system, nutrient solution is pumped continuously over the plant roots to ensure that the solution reaching the plant roots is perpetually oxygenated.

In some commercial systems, UV sterilising units have been used to kill pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the solution as it is returned to the grow beds from the reservoir tank. However, these units do not combat all pathogens. For instance, pythium is unaffected. They also appear to reduce some of the micronutrients in solutions and, in particular, they precipitate iron into hydrous ferric oxide.

Sensors can also be included to measure levels of electrical conductivity (EC) and pH. The EC can be increased through automatic injections of calcium nitrate triggered by sensor readings. Injections of potassium hydroxide are used to increase the pH reading (raise the alkalinity), and injections of sulphuric, phosphoric, or nitric acids can be used to lower pH readings (make it more acid).

Water chillers can also be installed to reduce water temperatures of solutions during hot conditions. These also oxygenate solutions and circulate them in addition to chilling. Those with stainless steel drive shafts are better in nutrient solutions.


This course has been developed for either:

  1. To be used as part of a sequence of study (combined with Hydroponics I & II; to provide a college or more advanced academic level of training in hydroponics); or
  2. For someone who already understands the mechanics of hydroponics; or the growing of plants, but needs to learn more about how to connect these two skills together.

Graduates will learn more about how different plants should be managed in a hydroponic system. You may know how to grow vegetables in soil, but translating that knowledge to hydroponics requires a different mindset to working with soil.

Your knowledge of both hydroponics and of plant culture will expand as you proceed through this course, and as that happens, you will begin to see more possibilities for growing crops hydroponically in commercial situations.

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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.
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.
John Mason

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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