Ali’s hydroponics – a conversation with Ali

Hi! My name is Ali Al Suwaidi. I’m about to graduate to Grade 8 here at Clarion School. I’m Emirati and I’m 13 years old. I love to garden and I like to invent and build things. I’m currently part of a program here at Clarion called Rahaal, which means ‘traveler’ in Arabic. Rahaal allows me to study subjects that interest me as part of the curriculum. The special subjects I learn are Business Management and Commerce and Hydroponics.

What did you set up?

For my 1st hydroponics set up I built a system called ebb and flow. It is made out of wood for the frame and PVC for the growing tubes. It is a large system that is 3m long and ½ a meter wide. There are 3 growing tubes which can each hold 14 plants, so I can grow 42 plants at once.

How did you do this?

I had help from my teacher. We sat down and drew up plans, worked out what materials we needed and the costs, and once we had everything we needed, we got to work building the frame. It was not easy and took me 2 months to build during school time. After the construction was finished, I spent a week testing the system for leaks which involved running water from a reservoir using a fish tank pump into the growing tubes and making sure there was enough pressure, water flow and most importantly no leaks.

For the plants to grow you need to add a nutrient solution into the reservoir water. This is called Hydroponics A and B. This nutrient solution is added every week and gives the plants all the water they need. There are many different ways to grow hydroponically and I chose to use soil and a substrate only to support the plant as it grows. Most hydroponics systems only use water.

Why did you decide to do this?

I decided to do this because I love gardening and, after learning about Hydroponics and how it is sustainable, I wanted to try and build my own version.

What have been the best things about doing this?

I have grown different plants. For the first phase I started with chili and it was nice to watch them grow from seedlings into bigger plants. For the second phase I chose to grow eggplant and tomato. The tomatoes grew so big they grew higher than the grow lights and needed to be moved
outside. It was good to see how healthy they became.

All of the plants I have grown were transferred into the Clarion community
garden and are growing really well and producing vegetables. It’s really nice to see how far they have come and makes me feel good knowing I started them hydroponically.

What have been some of the challenges?

There have been lots of challenges. In the first phase I lost quite a few chili plants due to mold. I analyzed everything and came up with a strategic plan. The 2 main reasons were not enough sunlight and too much water. I bought grow lights and reduced the amount of water for the next phase.

What have you learnt throughout this process?

I have learnt many things with my first 2 phases, and the most important thing is that it is ok to fail because you learn each time something goes wrong. It can be improved for the next time.

What are your plans for the future?

I have many important plans for the future. I am currently working on a new
system, which is a drip-fed system that uses rockwool and clay balls as a substrate. This new system is much smaller.  There are 2 growing tubes that can hold 12 plants in total. It is only 1 meter long and is much cheaper to make. My hope is I can make more drip-fed systems for some classes of younger students here at Clarion to learn about growing hydroponically.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to share my work.

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One Response to Ali’s hydroponics – a conversation with Ali

  1. Mr H says:

    Great work, Ali!

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