A Survey of Hydroponic System Designs

Here are several hydroponics designs that others have created. What is your assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each design?

Note that our requirements provide the performance criteria we’ll be using to evaluate any design we consider, not just the one we happen to create. Requirements are a design tool that just keeps on giving.

Trolley Cart
It’s mobile; it’s on wheels. Swivel it around to get at the plants on the other side, or move it from one part of the room to the other

Can’t disassemble for cleaning
Doesn’t use enough vertical space
Have to turn it around to get at plants in rear

Inclined Plane
None. Worst of the lot.

Same as Trolley Cart example, only it’s immobile, and only has plants on one side. Poor use of space.

Tiered Shelf
Lot plants in small area

Poor light penetration. Plants on top hog all the light
Awkward to get at plants. Lot of stoop labor
Rest of objections same as Inclined Plane example

Looks like the towers (vertical columns of plants) can spin around. I really like this feature
Plants are accessible, don’t have to bend down or reach high to get at them

This is just a sketch-up diagram. I’m not sure this ever got built.
It has significant construction challenges. Top-heavy, nutrient solution distribution from top channel into individual towers may be difficult, same for exit-path of fluid from bottom. Design is missing key details.

Good use of light, although the plants near the bottom of the spiral appear to be shaded.

Need to walk all the way around it to get at plants.
Some plants are low to the ground, have to bend over to get to them
Grow channels seem very long; will nutrients make it to the bottom plants?
Can’t tell if it’s easy to clean and disassemble. Doesn’t appear to be modular.

Light Carousel
High light density, from bottom to top. Look how green and healthy the plants are.

Lot of footprint for just a few plants
Lights and circular bars impede access to the plants

Easy access (unless you put two or more in a row)
Full light penetration of entire column

Lot of footprint for just one tower. Tank is wide because it’s providing stability for tall tower

High density
Good light distribution over all the plants

This is a greenhouse design, won’t work in your basement
It’s tough to reach the plants at the top of the pyramid. That would wear you out.

Here’s a few questions to mull over:

  • Did the requirements give us all of the criteria we needed to evaluate these designs?
  • Did you see any features in these designs that should be in our design?
  • Do you know of other significantly different / better hydroponic system designs that we should be evaluating, but aren’t on this list?
Author: Tom Pfotzer
I'm a retired I.T. worker who runs a farm. Like many of us, I'm trying to figure out how to respond to the slow-motion environmental and economic collapse we're engulfed in. I want to work with people who understand what's going on and are ready to do something about it.

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