How much does it cost to set up a Hydroponic NFT Farm in 1 Acre in India

14.07.18 05:05 AM Comment(s) By Admin

Update: May 2021

The below blogpost was written in 2019. The orientation covered here is horizontal tables (H Frames) which fits in 10,584 meters of NFT channels in 1 Acre. With our continuous research and effort to increase productivity, we have now moved to flat bed system that allows for 13,152 meters of NFT channel in 1 Acre (approx. 25% improvement in productivity). 

Further, though the concept and underlying principles remain the same, the pricing changes year on year. Do add an inflation of 8% to 10% year on year to arrive at current prices. We have updated the summary figures to reflect 2021 pricing below in green colour.

We have updated the summary figures to also include the pricing for NFT flat-bed orientation. The changes are captured below in green colour.

Original Post Follows

Last week, we had covered the cost for setting up a polyhouse in an area of one Acre and arrived at a figure of between 28 L to 48 L (32L to 55L in 2021). This week, we will try to arrive at a ballpark figure for setting up the hydroponic grow structures. 

Before we jump into the cost of the hydroponic structure, we should first decide on which particular hydroponic technology will best serve our purpose, i.e., grow excellent quality healthy crops. The crops that we would want to grow will eventually decide which growing structure we should use. 

On a macro level, we can categorize the hydroponic vegetables into two baskets.

Low Height Crops

Fast turnover, low shelf-life, low height crops like lettuce, spinach, kale, coriander, rocket, parsley, etc.

For leafy greens, the generally used choices are Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Deep Water Culture (DWC), and Ebb & Flow (E&F).

Tall Growing Crops

Slow turnover, better shelf-life, tall-growing crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, other vine crops, etc.

For vine crops, the preferred mode globally is the recirculating dutch bucket system. Other alternative is using grow bags with coco-peat or other inert media.

For the scope of today's article, we will focus on the cost of setting up a Hydroponic NFT system in one acre. 

NFT Channels

NFT channels are long gullies made from food-grade plastic. The commercial variants come primarily in a rectangular shape. You may also come across many DIY home projects using the circular plumbing pipes. If you go for a circular tube, do ensure that you buy a food-grade CPVC pipe and not the regular plumbing pipes, used for drain fittings. 

Since we are talking about setting up a farm in one acre, for the scope of this article, we will only cover commercial NFT channels. To determine the cost of NFT channels, we should first figure out the length of channels that we will need. Let us try to arrive at the same scientifically.

NFT Channel length for one acre

To get maximum yield, we will try to determine the maximum length of the NFT channel that we can practically fit into 1 Acre. 1 Acre is approximately 4,046 sq M, or 43,560 sq Feet. If we assume a perfect square site, that would be approx. 63 M each side. The entire space will not be usable for us. The boundary spacing, nutrient tanks, control unit, and structure walls, etc. will occupy some of this space. For simplicity's sake, let us assume a usable area of 3,600 sq M (60x60). Also, we will assume a horizontal bench-type layout of NFT channels in a single level instead of vertical or A-frame design to keep the calculations simple. 

The first step in this exercise is to calculate how many benches of Horizontal NFT Frames can we fit in the given area. Think of these benches like a standard classroom desk. The classroom is of size 60x60 M, and each desk is a hydroponic NFT frame. The desks are arranged into different rows and columns within the classroom. We will now try to calculate the number of distinct rows and columns that can fit within our 60x60 M classroom. However, before we can do that, we need to determine the size of the desk and the spacing required between different rows and columns.

Frame size for Horizontal NFT layout

To be able to tend to the plants, we should restrict the single bench width to approx. 4 to 5 feet so that an average human being can tend to the plants from either side. Also, The inter-bench spacing should allow sufficient walking/working space for a couple of workers/visitors between the two hydroponic NFT frames. As such, let us keep the spacing between two benches to be two feet. For the length part, we will go with the maximum length in which the channels come, which is 6 m. Using the above numbers, we can fit 252 NFT frames in a one-acre size.

NFT Channel length required for 1 Acre Hydroponic Farm

The next step is to figure out the number of channels in each frame. While deciding on this parameter, it is vital to understand the spacing needs and spread for the crop you plan to grow. Each plant should get sufficient light and space to produce foliage. This number would vary from crop to crop. 

Additionally, one would also need to take into account the size of the NFT channel and the spacing across both lateral as well as longitudinal dimension. Covering science behind this is beyond the scope of this article. Let us work with an average case number of 7 channels per bench (ideal case in specific crops may be + - 1). For 252 frames, the total number of channels we will use will be 1,764. At each channel length of  6 m, the total length of NFT channels will come at 10,584 meters.

For flat-bed orientation for a mixed farm, this figure would be13,152 meters.

NFT Channels cost for 1 Acre

At these volumes, the NFT channels may cost anywhere between 200₹ to 320₹ per meter at the going rates in 2019. The covered channels will cost less while the two-part channels (with openable top lid and separate base channel) will cost more. Further, the price will vary based on the grade of material used, thickness, whether it is lead-free or not, etc. 

Closed lid or fixed NFT channels can cost around 23 L for 1 Acre (35L for Flat-bed)
2 part or open lid NFT channels can cost around 32 L for 1 Acre (48L for Flat-bed)

In addition to the cost of NFT channels, there will be additional costs towards End-caps for these channels, plumbing connections, the stand or frame to support NFT channels, labor, and service charges of the experts that you will engage in the installation, etc. These all components may look small but when added in its entirety, can easily set you back by another 15L (30L at 2021 pricing - 25% more connections due to higher farm capacity + irrigation system (tanks and motors) included).

Thus, overall, an NFT channel based Hydroponic set-up in 1 Acre can cost approx. 38 L to 46 L (65L to 78L for flat-bed) for the NFT structure set-up. 

Based on the information that we have considered so far, a one acre Hydroponic NFT farm can cost between 66 L and 94 L (97L and 133L) for setting up the polyhouse and the NFT structure. Now we need to consider the third major head of cost which is towards technology, automation, and making this farm work. We will cover this component in one of the future articles. Till then



Share -