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How Deep Flow Technique (DFT) Hydroponic Systems Work

Hydroponics has revolutionized modern agriculture by enabling efficient and sustainable crop production. Hydroponics is the art of growing crops without soil, but there are many methods that growers use when growing hydroponically. Among the various hydroponic designs available, Deep Flow Technique (DFT) stands out for its simplicity, versatility and high yield potential. In this blog, we will delve into Deep Flow Technique, discussing its benefits, working principles, suitability for beginners, ideal crops and more.

What is Deep Flow Technique?

Deep Flow Technique is a hydroponic system that suspends plant roots in a nutrient-rich water solution. In a DFT system, growers place plants in trays or channels where the nutrient solution continuously flows at a shallow depth. This ensures the roots receive adequate water, oxygen and nutrients.

Deep Flow Technique is often confused with another type of hydroponic system: Deep Water Culture (DWC). The two are different in a few key areas:

  • DFT systems use a growing tray and a separate nutrient reservoir. DWC systems typically combine the growing area with its nutrient reservoir.
  • DWC typically has a deeper reservoir than DFT systems.
  • DWC floods the root zone of growing plants, while DFT systems typically leave space for air.
  • DWC systems heavily rely on their air pumps. If the pump fails, crops growing in a DWC will die quicker than in a DFT system.
  • DFT systems typically work better with plants with short lifespans. However, DWC works better with plants that have multiple growing seasons.
Deep Flow Technique infographic
In a DFT system, growers place plants in trays or channels where the nutrient solution continuously flows at a shallow depth.

Who Uses Deep Flow Technique?

Deep Flow Technique is suitable for a wide range of users, including home gardeners, hobbyists, commercial growers and researchers. Its simplicity and efficiency make it an appealing option for anyone interested in hydroponics, from novices to experienced growers.

How Does Deep Flow Technique Work?

In a DFT system, plants grow in containers or net pots filled with a growing medium like clay pellets or rockwool cubes. These containers are then placed in trays or channels filled with nutrient solution. Plant roots have breathing room at the top of the grow tray, with the nutrient solution just touching the roots. An air pump and air stones maintain oxygen levels in the solution, preventing root rot and promoting healthy plant growth.

The nutrient solution is continuously circulated through the system using a pump, ensuring a steady supply of nutrients and oxygen to the roots. The excess solution drains back into the reservoir, maintaining a shallow water depth in the growing trays. This continuous flow of water promotes optimal root oxygenation and nutrient uptake.

How Can Hydroponic Beginners Use the Deep Flow Technique

Deep Flow Technique is beginner-friendly due to its straightforward setup and maintenance requirements. Here are some key steps for beginners starting with a DFT system:

1. Set Up the System

Install the growing trays, connect the pump and air stones and prepare the nutrient solution by mixing it in water according to the proportions listed on the bottle. Test the pH and ensure the level is appropriate for the plants you want to grow.

2. Plant Selection and Placement

Choose appropriate crops for DFT systems (discussed in the next section) and position them in the net pots or containers, ensuring to immerse the roots with nutrient solution.

3. Monitor and Maintain

Regularly check the pH and nutrient levels of the solution, ensuring they remain within the optimal range. Monitor plant health, adjust the flow rate, and perform necessary maintenance tasks like cleaning the system and replacing or replenishing the nutrient solution.

What Crops Work Best with Deep Flow Technique?

A wide variety of crops thrive in Deep Flow Technique systems. Some examples include leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale), herbs (basil, parsley, mint) and strawberries. These crops benefit from the constant supply of water and nutrients, leading to rapid growth and high yields.

Basil harvested from a DFT system
Basil and other leafy greens grow well in DFT systems because of the system’s low operational costs, high plant count and increased root space.

Differences Between DFT and other Hydroponics

DFT systems differ from other types of hydroponic systems, such as Deep Water Culture (DWC), Ebb and Flow (or Flood and Drain) and Nutrient Flow Technique (NFT). DWC systems share similarities with DFT systems as they involve submerging the plant roots directly into a nutrient-rich solution. However, the main difference lies in how the solution circulates. In DFT systems, the solution flows continuously, while in DWC systems, it remains stagnant.

This continuous flow of nutrient solution in DFT systems ensures a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to the plants, promoting vigorous growth. On the other hand, DWC systems require an additional air pump to provide oxygen to the roots, making them slightly more complex in terms of equipment setup.

Ebb and Flow systems operate differently from DFT systems. In Ebb and Flow systems, plants are periodically flooded with nutrient solution and then drained away. This cyclic process ensures that the roots receive nutrients and oxygen during the flood phase and allows them to breathe during the drain phase. In contrast, DFT systems provide a constant flow of oxygen and nutrients without flooding and draining cycles.

Nutrient Flow Technique (NFT) systems, like DFT systems, use a continuous flow of nutrient solution. However, the main difference lies in how the plants absorb the nutrient solution. In NFT systems, a thin film of nutrient solution flows through a sloped channel or tube, allowing the roots to absorb the necessary elements.

On the other hand, DFT systems involve floating rafts that house growing plants. The plant’s roots hang directly into the flowing nutrient solution. This distinction in the method of delivering the solution gives each system a unique set of advantages and considerations in terms of plant support, maintenance and nutrient uptake.


Deep Flow Technique offers an accessible and effective means of harnessing the potential of hydroponics. Its simplicity, high yield potential, and versatility make it an appealing choice for beginners and experienced growers. By providing an optimal balance of water, oxygen, and nutrients to plant roots, DFT systems promote vigorous growth and healthy crops. Whether you are a gardening enthusiast or a commercial farmer, consider exploring Deep Flow Technique to unlock the benefits of hydroponic cultivation.

If you’re interested in learning more about our hydroponic systems and how they can help optimize your growing operation, reach out to us, and we’d be happy to inform you.

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