Hydroponics & Aquaponics


September 1 – December 8, 2021

To Enroll – Start Here

Instructor: Jonathan A. Allred, Cornell University

Email: jallred@umass.edu

Mr. Allred received his M.S. degree from Cornell University in the field of horticulture biology in 2017. Over the past four years, Mr. Allred’s research has focused on the application of light and carbon dioxide in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) systems with an emphasis on leafy greens and strawberries. Mr. Allred is currently a Ph.D. student at Cornell University researching adaptive lighting control systems for the production strawberries in CEA.

Course Description: This course is intended to be applicable to a diverse audience with interests in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) systems. This class will cover the principals and practices of commercial hydroponic vegetable, herb and fruit production. Topics covered in this class include: growing environments (high tunnels, greenhouses, and warehouse/vertical farms), manipulation of and crop response to the aerial and root-zone environments, nutrient solution preparation and management, aquaponics and organic hydroponics, crop maintenance, production scheduling, integrated pest management, business plan development, and markets.

Learning Objectives: After having completed this class, students will have a proficient understanding of:

  • Greenhouse structures as applicable to climate, crop selection and finances.
  • Define the primary types of hydroponic systems including but not limited to: effects on the physical, chemical and biological needs of plants.
  • List optimized conditions for light, temperature and carbon dioxide of some of the major hydroponic crops.
  • Calculate energy costs for lighting and heating in greenhouse environments
  • Calculate nutrient concentrations from pre-formulated fertilizers
  • Develop custom fertilizers recipes using individual chemicals


Homework: Homework will be assigned at the beginning of the week on Monday and will be due the same week on Sunday. Assignments will follow lecture material so homework may not be given every week.

Exams: The class has two midterm exams and one final exam. Midterms will not be cumulative, so questions will be based solely on material covered since the previous exam).The final exam will be cumulative with about 50% consisting of new material and 50% on material previously covered in midterms one and two. You can expect that the exams will contain some calculations so have a calculator present during the examination period. Exams will be available on blackboard for one week and can be started at any time. Once started, students will have a given time period to complete the exam.

Quizzes: Over the course of the semester there will be a total of five quizzes each worth 20 points. Quizzes are not cumulative and will only include material covered after the previous quiz. Quizzes cannot be made-up. Quizzes will be available on blackboard for one week and can be started at any time. Once started, students will have a given time period to complete the quiz.

Final Report: A final report will be due at the end of the semester (Date TBD). The purpose of the report is to encourage students to think critically about a hydroponic or aquaponics business model with an emphasis on crop management. Students will have to pick a market and crop and develop a business model utilizing knowledge gained in the class. Reports should demonstrate a knowledge of system/crop relationships, crop timing, predicted yields and general management. More information will be made available.

Supporting Text (Optional):

  1. Hydroponic Food Production, 7th Ed. Howard M. Resh, CRC Press ISBN: 978-1-4398-7867-5 Available on Amazon, etc. ($60-70)
  2. Greenhouse Management, 7th, Paul V. Nelson. 2011. ISBN-13: 978-0132439367 Available on Amazon ($175 – 240)
  3. Recirculating Aquaculture, 4th Ed., Michael B Timmons. ISBN-13: 978-0971264670 Available on Amazon ($99 – 169)

Helpful Resources:

Class Week Date Lecture Topic Supplemental Material (Optional)
1 Sep 3-6 Introduction to Hydroponics and CEA

Greenhouse Structures

Resh (Ch. 1)
2 Sep 9-13 Greenhouse Heating and Cooling Nelson (Ch. 3-5)
3 Sep 16-20 Plant Nutrition and Nutrient Disorders Resh (Ch. 2)
4 Sep 23-27 Substrates for Crop Production

Deep Water Culture

Nelson (Ch. 6)

Resh (Ch. 5)

5 Sep 30-Oct 4 Nutrient Film Technique

Rockwool/Coir Slab Culture

Resh (Ch. 6, 10, 11)
6 Oct 7-11 Water Quality and Fertilizers Resh (Ch. 2, 4)
7 Oct 14-18 Light, Temperature and Relative Humidity Resh (Ch. 14)
8 Oct 21-25 Gasses (Carbon Dioxide, Oxygen, Ethylene and NOx) Resh (Ch. 14)

Nelson (Ch. 13-14)

9 Oct 28 – Nov 1 Leafy Greens and Herbs Resh (Ch. 12, 14)
10 Nov 4 -8 Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers and Eggplant Resh (Ch. 10, 12, 14)
11 Nov 11 – 15 Plant Insects, Pests and Disease

Introduction to Recirculating Aquaculture

Timmons (Ch. 1)
12 Nov 18 – 22 Water Quality and Loading Rates

Tank Design

Timmons (Ch. 2-4)
13 Nov 25-29 Thanksgiving Break (No Lecture)
14 Dec 2-6 Physical and Biological Filtration

Integrating Fish and Plants

Timmons (Ch. 5-8, 19)
15 Dec 9-11 Integrating Fish and Plants (Continued)

Food Safety, Marketing and Business Management

Timmons (Ch. 19)
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