Hydroponics & Aquaponics


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Instructor: Stacy Adams, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Email: stacyadams@umass.edu           Stacy Adams

Stacy Adams is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He teaches courses in horticulture plant science, greenhouse management, hydroponics, floral design and floral operations management. His extension focus areas include controlled environment agriculture, season extension growing structures, hydroponic food production systems, and agricultural youth education. For more information, see: https://agronomy.unl.edu/adams 


Course Introduction:

This course is applicable to a diverse audience having interests in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) food production systems. The class explores the principles and practices of commercial hydroponic vegetable, herb and fruit production. Topics include growing environments (high tunnels, greenhouses, and warehouse/vertical farms), environmental manipulation of aerial and root zone environments and crop response, hydroponic approaches, nutrient solution preparation and management, aquaponics and organic hydroponics, crop maintenance, production scheduling, integrated pest management, business plan development, and markets.


Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to,

  • Describe open and closed hydroponic plant production approaches and give examples of hydroponic systems for each
  • Outline operation management of hydroponic systems and effects on physical, chemical and biological needs of plants
  • Outline the relationship between light intensity, carbon dioxide concentration, and temperature for maximizing plant growth in high plant population growing areas (controlled environments)
  • Evaluate greenhouse structures, construction and environmental controls for crops being grown, site conditions, and finances
  • Calculate nutrient concentrations from pre-formulate fertilizers
  • Interpret nutrient recommendation tables and identify or develop nutrient recipes for specific crops
  • Recognize abnormal growth, injury, or tissue coloring related to plant health, determine cause, and develop a corrective action plan
  • Summarize key aspects of FSMA (Food Safety and Modernization Act) as it relates to growing plants using hydroponics or aquaponics
  • Outline important food safety measures for producing, harvesting, handling, distributing and marketing of fresh produce



Content is grouped into weekly modules that include Learning Guide, Presentation, and Assignment. Learning guides provide information on assigned reading, learning objectives snapshot the key information, and additional resources for the topic covered. Errors can be devastating in CEA and hydroponics, so learning is less upon memorization and an emphasis on the decision-making process and application of knowledge. Assignments initially include quizzes to verify content understanding but shift to situational problems that must be resolved. Two exams are given with a comprehensive project serving as the final in this course. Grades for the assignments, exams, and final project are weighted as follows,

Involvement 50%

  • Quizzes- new content understanding and must be completed by the following week from when assigned.
  • Written Responses and Situations- assignments are given to discuss approaches and explore problems and resolutions appropriate to the content being explored.
  • Calculations- select assignments include formulas that must be resolved to determine equipment sizing, fertilizer or chemical rates, return on investment and income potential.

Exams 30%

  • Two exams given approximately weeks 5 and 10 with questions given to explore understanding of new material.

Final Project 20%

  • The project is specific to the student area of interest for deeper exploration into a hydroponic system and cropping plan that potentially could be developed for their own business venture, for community gardening, volunteer programming, or education. The project assignment illustrates student understanding and application of knowledge from this course.

Bato Design

Course Schedule

  • Introduction to Hydroponics and Controlled Environments
  • Hydroponic System Approaches and Components
  • Nutrients & Nutrition
  • Water Culture Systems
  • Substrate Systems
  • Integrated Crop Management
  • Controlled Environment Agriculture/Plant Factories
  • Water Source, Treatment, Reuse & Remediation
  • Food Safety
  • Postharvest & Marketing
  • Aeroponics and PFAL Systems
  • Aquaponics & Approaches to Organic Hydroponics
  • Project Presentations

Ohare Airport

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