The New Forward Farming Technologies NFT microgreens system has been developed in order to provide nutrient rich, antioxidant rich, anti-microbial and succulent root crops to the vegetable garden. This unique system will enable the production of fresh, quality vegetables that are easy to maintain, and very healthy to eat. The NFT microgreens technology is based on two concepts. One is that the roots of the plants are harvested as they grow and then a suspension of nutrient water is added so that the roots can survive. The second concept is that the nutrient water is not added directly to the roots but is contained within a partially permeable medium that allows for the nutrients to be delivered to the root system.
When harvesting the leaves from the plants, the stems are removed. The green leaves are then finely ground up, which will release the essential oils. These oils, along with a suspension of mineral salts is then added to the nutrient film technique that enables the fast growth of the microgreens. The suspension of minerals in the film allows it to trap sunlight during daylight hours and to prevent the plants from freezing during cold winter nights. Microgreens can then be ready to plant in the spring, or enjoy an extended growth period in the summer.
The nutrient solution can be changed several times each growing season using one part nutrient film technique and one part soil. Each change will allow for the growth and distribution of the microgreens efficiently. The growing season in New Zealand is four weeks long, so four weeks worth of planting should be ample. The growing cycle for the NFT microgreens is a great deal shorter than that of traditional microgreens and this makes them easier to maintain and harvest.
One of the biggest differences between conventional and NFT microgreens production techniques is in the use of recirculating water. In this method of plant growth, excess water is circulated through the growing medium, or the micro green cover, twice, once on the top of the growing medium and once below the root zone. This allows for the production to be spread out over a greater area. Recirculating water is a simple solution to a complicated problem, and is a primary reason why this form of microgreening is more popularly used over others.
The system can also benefit the environment because the runoff from the reservoir is recycled. Any excess moisture is redirected to the runoff filter. This gives the NFT microgreen concept more benefit for both the local water supply and the local watershed. A well-built and efficient reservoir will benefit from a well-built NFT microgreens system.
Using an NFT microgreens system is not only beneficial for the plant itself, but also for the environment as well. Since no irrigation is required, this technique is more environmentally friendly than traditional growing methods that use drip irrigation. While traditional growing techniques may seem more “green” to an individual, in the long run they are more water and energy intensive. Drip irrigation requires constant topping off of pots and the use of a pump, both of which are heavy energy users. The system completely eliminates the need for these activities, greatly reducing water consumption.
With this type of system, the microorganisms responsible for the NFT growth process do not need to work too hard to provide the NFT with a high nutrient water source. The NFT simply grows where the sun shines, providing the local reservoir with a constant nutrient water supply. With no fertilizer required, the plants do not compete with each other for nutrients. When plants grow, they only add to the local water table and not waste precious groundwater supplies. There are no soil nutrients needed to be added when using the NFT growing method. The use of a special reservoir along with an attached aerator assures that a continuous flow of nutrient water is being used, even under the harshest environmental conditions.
When properly designed, NFT microgreens crops will have a spectacular root growth but will not require the watering required by traditional growing media such as potting medium. Each plant has its own set of requirements when it comes to temperature, moisture, nutrients and light. The NFT system allows each plant to receive the optimum nutrition it needs to produce the desired quality. The soil conditioner can be used on the NFT microgreen seed starting to form a beautiful colorful root mat. The aerator further provides essential air to the growing medium, ensuring that there is no drying out of the nutrient water in the root mat. Once formed, the nutrient water is continually recycled, ensuring the plants always have a fresh supply of nutrient water to grow into beautiful blooms.