Polypropylene NTF Channels

jinwebFebruary 22, 2014

Hi - From my reading, it is not healthy to use PVC and the choice in food growing is Polypropylene NTF Channels.
I found a company located out of the United States at nfthydro.com and a US company Amhydro.com that sells these but they are very expensive. I do not want this thread to be a PVC vs NTF Channel debate but a source where other members can help list resources of where they purchased Polypropylene NTF Channels direct from a manufacture or another source and their experiences.
It also seems Polypropylene NTF Channels are tough and can withstand high temperatures, which is important in hot sun areas. Thanks.

Here is a description from one of the website for those not familiar with avoiding PVC.
The channel is made from polypropylene not PVC. Nutrients are aggressive and can cause leachate to occur and can be absorbed into the plants, but not with polypropylene, its clean and green and meets all food grade standards. It�s the same material used for microwave food containers, car bumpers, seats in sports stadiums. It is used because its tough, durable, thermo stable, (does not readily transmit heat or cold). The Channels elliptical shape allows the nutrient to pass through the root zone with high oxygenation levels. Plus easy cleaning, reduce costs, labor and increase profit, all this makes our hydroponic system the most Innovative Growing Solution on the market today.

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Where would one find this information?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 4:36PM
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Hoping you would post back Jin,, I and most people I know have been drinking water run through PVC pipes our entire life's. Heck the city uses a form of PVC under ground. I want to file a big lawsuit, please point me to information that says PVC is toxic!

Or is this another manufacture trying to sell those 40.00 troughs that the sun destroys so bad?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 9:19PM
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AMHydro's NFT channels are HDPE, not PP. They're fairly flexible, so they need more support than regular vinyl gutter.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 2:39PM
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cropking channels were cheaper to buy than for me to make them out of HDPE fence post covers. shipping wasnt nearly as terrible as I thought (they're in OH).

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:49AM
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HI - thank you for helping to answer my question. As I said in my original post, I am not looking for a PVC debate but sources for Polypropylene NTF Channels others have found. I did supply a link below on what to consider using and why. For the poster using PVC for water, PVC is used to drain water through your home after you use it to your septic or sewer. Prior to drinking, domestic water flows through copper or PEX tubing. If you search, PVC is not approved to grow food in as the link and other sources point out. I am not an expert so why not use NTF food approved channels. If anyone has any other sources, please list to help others. Thanks again,


    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 4:22AM
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There are NO POLYPROPYLENE NFT channels on the market. They're made out of HDPE aka polyethylene

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Guess I live in bizarro world cause most houses here use PVC pipes for cold water lines, cpvc for hot water. The local municipality uses PVC on the main lines that run through my yard.... As for your want for a debate, can't help you it's a public forum.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Rio, I remember a time when people smoked on airplanes, now smoking in some city parks is has been outlawed. We find out more and more that the things we have grown to know as normal practices are unsafe or unhealthy. PVC is one of these things. There is no debate on if PVC is toxic, the only disagreement seems to be when in its life cycle PVC becomes toxic. If it burns then dioxin released into our air. What would be easier, to stop all auto/residential/commercial/industrial fires? or to stop using/making PVC/Vinyl?
On another note, who's to say if you put a piece of PVC with a timed flow of a caustic nutrient solution flowing through it in the Texas mid-summer sun that the same toxins are not released as when it is burned? Does PVC expand and contract when heated and cooled in rapid succession? and since most PVC pipe has not been stabilized to withstand the UV radiation found in a place like Texas is it just not logical to avoid it?

Hydroponic farming is an alternative growing method, can't we figure out an alternative to PVC?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 2:51PM
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We are actually in agreement Scott. Most of the time when these posts come up it is because someone is trying to sell something for 5 times it's value. I have read up on PVC more because of this post. We will continue to use it. Our feeling, if the nft system catches fire, well we won't eat the food out of it.

Based on what I have read ditoxin is only an issue when burned and there is little risk in piping materials of leaching. Films and containers might be a diffrent story.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:48PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Rio, it's no secret that I admire your ambitious project, as I do others that have posted stunning designs they have built here. I just wanted to commend your effort here which uses PVC responsibly.

Code #7 resins such as PVC, acrylic, and polycarbonate are not usually recycled according to regulators. But, I have no doubt after seeing a sample of your last year's results, that the stingy and careful attitude you have with materials results in less damage to the environment that less serious, occasional users.

That means to me: Many more heads of lettuce per pound of burned plastic in your system before the useable lifetime expires and you must replace it; this is an environmental impact metric that can be measured. No doubt if a potentially superior product comes along with similar economy, you'll be among the first to check it out!

If you see any degradation to your rig, simply painting (or laminating as endorsed by a helpful forum member) the PVC will eliminate the UV issue entirely. Sure it's an extra thing to do, and costs, but it is an immediate solution if you have a problem, if it comes down to that.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 12:54AM
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Rio, as you stated "Based on what I have read". What I am talking about is using PVC in ways that may not have been intended so tests would have never been performed.

All I'am saying is since we know it is toxic wouldn't it be best to avoid using it when it comes to living a healthier life style?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 12:57AM
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I can see that outlook Scott.

Pupilla if you see me messing up be sure and tell me. You know how tight I am! I don't know much till I research. The price goudging I see as part of anything that says ponic on the end fires me up.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 3:44PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Absolutely, and same if I do. To think the root meaning of "ponic" describes your laboring or, better: "working your butt off ".

Just for fun, did you ever wonder at what point scamers started exploiting hard-working farmers with baloney, gobbledygook and gibberish, to result in the blatant exaggerated claims and fearmongerings to justify astronomical margins in the hydroponics products today?

There is actually reasonable documentation showing how the scamming got its start!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 6:05PM
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I believe it. We are going through it at the moment trying to find fingerling talapia.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:27PM
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Hi - Thanks again for the responses. I want to point out I do not work for or sale NFT or HDPE systems. What I am is a cancer survivor. The area I was considering a hydroponic system for is located in Southern California, where it gets above 100 degrees in the summer and there is a lot of sun. I knew when I asked this question there would be PVC advocates, which is fine, but for myself, I wanted to know what others where using as an alternative to PVC and the source where they are buying it. I don't care if HDPE costs more, because in my mind, being safer is worth it. If ones choice is to go with PVC from Home Depot that is your choice, but this is not the route I want to take for health reasons. I took the time to search and read and yes there are issues with PVC and all one has to do is search for food safe plastics. If you are growing pot, then PVC is most likely OK - but for me, I am looking at growing food. As I explained in the beginning I was not looking for a debate since I knew PVC was not for me and wanted to learn what food plastic approved channels others who agree with me are using and whom the vendor options were they purchased from. I found US Plastics makes HDPE for drip lines from another poster, but not channels and I don't work for US Plastics either for you suspicious types.
I have 150 acres and the soil is not the best and there are red ants, snakes and other rodents so I thought an above ground hydroponic system could be an answer since I have a perennial water stream from springs and plenty of sun. I don't want to paint PVC and I do have to say I agree with one thing Rio has to say and that is fire burning everything. My thought is putting the channels in a locked metal shipping container if there is sufficient fire warnings, but that is in the perfect world.

One may think I am more sensitive to not using PVC because of health reasons, but I read enough articles that if you are growing food, there are channels that are food safe, constructed of approved plastics for growing food and PVC is not. I am OK with a difference of opinion and advocates of PVC, but for me, the reason for the thread was to learn of food safe channels others were using and the vendors they purchased from that they had a good experience with. I learned of a couple sources from the posts and I thank again those for sharing :)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 6:04AM
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Have you considered a different type of system?
If you went with either a recirculating DWC system or a drip system then you could get food grade containers from restaurants. (It will also keep them out of the landfill) and use the HDPE lines from US Plastics to connect it all together.
Also, you could make an EnF system and line it with an HDPE sheet to keep it watertight. Of course food grade may become an issue there. Not really sure of a source for HDPE sheeting.
Anyway, just food for thought. I personally like NFT for the lightness of it but when moving stuff about isn't an issue, I like DWC and EnF just as well.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:57AM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

I'm wondering who the PVC advocates are? Most of the rest of us are just stuck with the few building materials available.

Here's a GW hydro forum thread I was in with quite similar concerns to yours, and it had some lively discussion.

chemical leaching from plastics into nutrient solutions

As your being a cancer survivor I can fully understand your concerns having sadly lost less fortunate beloved family members. I have personally studied the Amhydro PE system and I can say it is a good product, subject to its design (which has had an important modification or two in recent years) and material limitations just like everything else.

Also, Amhydro has been very candid and clear with me when I have had specific questions about the technical details of their GroClean channels. I like this company. The margin on the DIY channels is reasonable, but shipping is an issue if you aren't nearby, but I still plan to buy some.

Please don't take this comment the wrong way: You said:
"...channels that are food safe, constructed of approved plastics for growing food..."

There is a difference. Food-Safe is ok for contact with food, in some cases just once or in other cases, repeated. FDA approved plastics for growing food is another thing. I know of no company which has obtained this. NONE. Read the claims carefully. For the HDPE channels I plan to buy, there is no claim made of FDA approval for growing food. Suitable for use in a single use milk carton without the added stabilizers is quite different than suitable for baking in the Sun.

I wish peace of mind were as easy for me as it seems to be for others. Unfortunately, polyethylene (HDPE, LDPE, PE), chlorinated polyethylene (PVC) and the same for highly chlorinated polyethylene (CPVC), polypropylene (PP), and polystyrene (PS) are all IARC Group 3 Carcinogens

Group 3 is not considered a problem usually, but for any plastic, how the marketers and salespeople may exploit information and concerns is worth giving a second look, with a very critical eye. I am an HDPE fan, however I would be extremely surprised if, in a typical fire, it wouldn't produce dioxins. It isn't a big deal for me personally though, because, as mentioned, burning is not our intended use. I wish I could say the same about all the people that burn their PE milkbottles with other garbage. Three days ago I visited the most snooty garden club around and to my disgust, the neighboring property owner had a big garbage fire going on including some pieces of HDPE I smelled. I am still mad at myself for not figuring it out quicker and leaving sooner. It is when I do such dumb things that I have a chance to think about the relative contributions of different sources to my accumulated exposure of some of the nasties.

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Thu, Mar 6, 14 at 21:00

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 7:47PM
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I'm setting up a high density hydroponic/aquaponic production greenhouse in the Sierra foothills between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. I'm building out an alternating combination of vertical growing towers and recirculating & non-recirculating DWC lettuce/herb raft tanks. I'm focusing on leafy greens, lettuces, and herbs for our local farmers markets, restaurants, and schools.

I've been researching and pondering all the topics discussed so far and to echo the common sentiment in the thread, it's clear that plastics of all types are less than desirable for those of us who would like to engineer our systems with materials that are naturally derived in a sustainable, or better yet a regenerative process. The practical reality at this current moment for me are HDPE, Expanded Polystyrene, irrigation tubing, and PVC for necessary plumbing, like my irrigation and pump manifolds or the bulkhead connections. I have made a certain degree of peace with the fact that I need to maintain my water and nutrient temperatures to below 75 degrees in order to maintain proper growth. You're not likely to be growing much if you're circulating water through your system at temps that will leach chemicals from the plastics. If you do have a heater in line with your system, you should not be using PVC for that section, only after the mix has been added and brought to temp for the growing system.

To bring the conversation back around to sources and manufacturers for growing channels and other "ponic" growing systems, does anyone have any experience or knowledge of systems that have forgone plastics in lieu of other materials?

I'm just now looking into this myself and will begin researching water tight or semi-permeable chitinous mycelium products, basically mushroom roots with an "exoskeleton" similar to an insect's shell. I have come across examples of this process being used to manufacture shipping/packing materials and even furniture, to replace plastics. One big benefit would be the ability to shred your containers/channels and compost them or use them as soil amendments.

Another area that immediately comes to mind is bamboo for many different uses from channels to containers to plumbing. Where are people at with more consistent bamboo production for uses like these? Are there any engineered products, spinning off the processes used to extract and laminate bamboo flooring?

With the way "we" have decided to setup the rules for our global commerce, it's clear that plastics are going to remain cheap and easy to work with. The interests that drive our group to find ways to grow our foods and practice agriculture without being forcibly exposed to, at best, unknown and, at worst, toxic chemicals are not in line with those who are building and controlling the food production systems and food supply. If you're not familiar with the most recent changes to the organic standards by the USDA and the new farm regulations governing organic production by the FDA, please do a quick read on the topics. From here, it doesn't seem that there will be any economic incentives for the companies supplying the industry to move away from plastics, and we are not an organized or sizable enough market to spawn innovation from the established manufacturers.

If we're going to find new ways I'm thinking that we're going to need to come up with them ourselves, let's put our heads together and start getting our hands dirty and invent some stuff!!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 12:04PM
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As always good read!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 4:19PM
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PupillaCharites(FL 9a)

Hi Blue Oaks and Rio, some creative ideas here. The problem as I see it is not so much engineering as simply discovering a healthy waterproof material or sealant.

That's how I consider this mess anyway, and then being sure it isn't a growth medium that nourishes microbes. Like plastics, most are petroleum based so looking for a non-petroleum based one would be a start - good luck!

I liked where you were going with:

"Are there any engineered products, spinning off the processes used to extract and laminate bamboo flooring?"

That is a good example. If the bamboo isn't completely sealed in some way, it will be hard to get it to work. The hydroponic system will look really cool with bamboo channels from a marketing perspective and that alone might drum up a lot of business because of the sense of security a natural product like bamboo showcases.

But if we had a good sealant, any material, not only bamboo (which may have a secondary advantage of faster production than wood), could be used. What is a common bamboo adhesive/sealant? Well, urea-formaldehyde is one, carcinogenic and not appropriate for food at all. If it is properly cured it works fine in something like flooring, but some people have removed urea-formaldehyde insultation due to potential health issues.

We don't want to just replace the "devil" ;-) we know with the one we don't". However it is innovative thinking like this that might be helpful in brainstorming... so far the problem gets back to the flooring industry not worried about people eating off the floor. Porcelin and glass seem too fragile to me; but are there waterproof, safe bamboo dinner plates?

How about a drain to waste system where the nutrient is in a glass tank and fed into the medium via glass tube in a way that evaporation takes the place of runoff and there is no excess requiring a tray. Every once in a while the nutrient stream could be switched to rainwater to avoid buildup of useful nutrients, and then washed after each harvest...just 'thinking out loud' ;-)

This post was edited by PupillaCharites on Fri, Mar 7, 14 at 20:24

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:17PM
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Does anyone know the plastic/material specifications of the HDPE used to manufacture these channels?

IE. material data sheet

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:52PM
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You can force correx (fluted polypropylene) into a bowed NFT trough/channel with the help of some stainless steel wire. It`d be stronger with the flutes running across the trough rather than lengthwise. Use strips from a sheet for the top.

My last NFT system (outdoor) was made from an aluminium extending ladder and upvc soffit boards, the tomatoes grown in it tasted great :)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:59AM
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