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Modular Farming 1.0
Modular Farming 1.1
Image by John Cameron.jpg
Modular Farming 2.0

Modular Farming 1.1  Vertical Hydroponics

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Following a successful pilot with aquaponics, I wanted to explore hydroponics as well. A key area that I needed to address were the high costs that I had to incur for the pilot. Currently, the only way for me to reduce my cost per unit of output was to increase my efficiency. The infrastructure I had in place for my aquaponics project was heavily underutilised for it was built with future expansion in mind. Going vertical was the ideal way to increase the efficiency of the system without adding substantial costs.

The Design


Multi-Tier NFT (Nutrient Film Technique)


NFT is a system design where a shallow stream of water flows in channels made out of pipes. Cavities drilled on one side of the pipe hold the plant in place as the roots stay in contact with the water. An array of such channels on multiple levels is a common design for vertical hydroponics. Owing to space constraints, I could not use this design.

Roof Hanging grow Towers

As the name suggests, these are channels hung from the roof and a slit is cut in the middle where the plants are held in place using supports. Water drips from the top, comes in contact with the roots and flows out from the bottom to be recirculated. This design is the best to optimise the space to output ratio. However it is an expensive affair and has very particular space requirements which I did not meet. 

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NFT Grow Walls

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A different design using the NFT system. Instead of arranging in an array, pipes are fixed to the walls on multiple levels.

Bucket Grow Towers

In a way this is the opposite of a roof hanging grow tower. Instead of suspending a channel from the roof, a pipe is fixed atop a bucket which is then filled with water. The water flows to the top of the pipe using a pump and drips down the plant roots and back into the bucket. It is easy to set up, costs very little and can be modified with ease. With the additional benefit of high mobility, this was my choice of design.

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Reasons for choosing Bucket Grow Towers: 

  1. Easy set up and installation

  2. Low set up cost

  3. High Mobility 

  4. Easy Modification

  5. Modular

Tower design Specifications: 

Materials and Equipment: 

  1. PVC pipe (4' x 4")

  2. Rubber Hose (5' x .5")

  3. Bucket (20 L)

  4. Net Pots

  5. Submersible Pump (18 W)

  6. Hack Saw

  7. Manual drill

  8. Heat gun

  9. Clamps

  10. Insert


The build process involved fabrication of a PVC pipe and fitting it on top of a bucket. The plant holding cavities were made by partially heating the pipe and giving it the desired shape using a wooden insert. A heat gun was used to carry out the process. Holes were drilled all along the length of the rubber pipe to regulate water flow. All the steps in the design process were executed by me.


Size and Dimensions: 

  1. Total Water: 15L

  2. Water Flow rate: 2 Litres/Min 

  3. No. of plants: 16

  4. Total Height: 5ft

  5. Weight without water: 2.5kg

  6. Weight with water: 17.5kg

  7. Water pH: 6.6-7.2

  8. Water TDS: 1100-1400

  9. Light: 6400k


Having practiced soil-less agriculture for two years, I can see a future where it is the standard form of farming. However there are a few short-comings that need to be addressed before such a future can be possible. 

The primary hurdle at the moment is the range of crops that can grow in a soil-less system. For now, the popular crops include leafy, watery crops such as lettuce, herbs and tomatoes. R&D to expand the scope to other crops is underway. 

The second hurdle is the cost. A high cost of soil-less systems is finding a way to justify itself in developed economies, but is struggling to find a place in an agrarian economy such as India’s. Since it concerns the agricultural sector, the govt has a major role to play. The policies that are framed as the technology develops will decide the fate of things. 

Another important facet to be addressed is that of education. Lack of awareness about the concept is an essential reason that it is failing to gain traction. Few efforts are going into changing that. My next venture addresses this aspect of the technology. Head to Soil-less Agriculture 2.0 to know more.


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