ADVANCED CERTIFICATE In Applied Management (Horticultural Technology)

This hydroponics qualification provides sound knowledge of horticultural principles in the culture, use and management of plants in various production situations at supervisory and management level, or as a business operator/owner.

Course Code: VHT001
Fee Code: AC
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 900 hours
Qualification Advanced Certificate
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This hydroponics certificate qualification provides sound knowledge of horticultural principles in the culture, use and management of plants - in various production situations at supervisory and management level, or as a business operator/owner. This unique course is entirely by home study.

It provides an understanding of modern technology and its application to growing plants, with emphasis on hydroponic production. Skills obtained throughout the course will enable you to set up your own business and feel confident consulting on the use of Hydroponics.



Totalling 400 hours. All four of these modules must be studied and passed.

1. Office practices Develops basic office skills covering use of equipment, communication systems (telephone, fax, etc) and office procedures such as filing, security, workplace organisations, etc.

2. Business Operations  Develops knowledge of basic business operations and procedures (eg. types of businesses, financial management, business analysis, staffing, productivity, etc) and the skills to develop a 12 month business plan.

3. Management  Develops knowledge of management structures, terminology, supervision, recruitment and workplace health and safety.

4. Marketing Foundations Develops a broad understanding of marketing and specific skills in writing advertisements, undertaking market research, developing an appropriate marketing plan and selling.


You must complete the following three modules:


There are ten lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. How a Plant Grows
  3. Hydroponic Systems
  4. Nutrition & Nutrition management
  5. Plant Culture
  6. Hydroponic Vegetable Production
  7. Hydroponic Cut Flower Production
  8. Solid Media vs Nutrient Film
  9. Greenhouse Operation & Management
  10. Special Assignment


There are eleven lessons in this module as follows:

  1. How the Crop Plant Grows: Understanding how a plant grows in hydroponics, plant growth factors, manipulating and controlling growth, plant troubleshooting, resources, fruit set management, pollination issues, flower initiation, flower and fruit development etc.
  2. How to Run a Small Evaluation Trial
  3. Harvest and Post Harvest
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Capsicum
  6. Lettuce, Salad Greens and Foliage Herb Crops
  7. Cucurbits (Cucumber and Melons)
  8. Strawberries
  9. Roses
  10. Carnations
  11. Orchids
3. Either


INDUSTRY PROJECTs - a "management in the workplace projects" of 200 hrs involving approved work experience in a small business.The project specifically aims to provide the student with the opportunity to apply and integrate skills and knowledge developed through various areas of formal study.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the ADVANCED CERTIFICATE In Applied Management (Horticultural Technology).
Stream ModulesStudied after the core modules, stream modules cover more specific or niche subjects.
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 1 of the following 3 modules.

Note that each module in the ADVANCED CERTIFICATE In Applied Management (Horticultural Technology) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Working in Hydroponics

Hydroponics involves growing plants without soil. The roots are held in a moist environment either anchored in an inert material (e.g. washed gravel, perlite, Rockwool™) or enclosed in a pipe or container that contains some water and a high level of moisture in the air. Because there are no nutrients in the root zone, it will be clean (free of disease), and nutrients can be added in a very controlled way. Hydroponics is a technologically advanced way of growing plants. It offers you an opportunity to control things such as the nutrients, the pH (acidity), water and air levels and disease; more than what would ever be possible with soil.

Where Do Hydroponic Farmers Work?
Hydroponic growers often work from large-scale commercial hydroponic farms which are typically housed in industrial scale greenhouse environments, or they may be smaller scale ventures perhaps only specialising in one or two crops. Some hydroponic growers have set up their own ventures and may be self-employed with little or no outside labour. In some instances hydroponics may be set up outdoors or under screens or shade cloths. 

Hydroponics is a significant and rapidly growing sector of horticulture. Certain commercial crops are grown extensively in hydroponics in some parts of the world. An increasing number of people work on hydroponic farms.

Hydroponics is also very popular amongst home gardeners around the world. Hydroponic shops exist in most population centres, particularly through the developed world, offering employment selling hydroponic equipment and materials.

Other jobs in this industry include hydroponic consultants and teachers.

What Is Needed?
A thorough understanding of hydroponic growing systems is a must. This includes knowledge of different types of growing, grow bed materials and design, how to mix nutrient solutions, and reservoir tanks.

Awareness of optimal growing conditions and nutrient solutions for specific crops is also required.

A grower will also need to understand different growing techniques such as succession planting (growing plants together at different stages of maturity), and control of pests and diseases.

It is also necessary to know how make daily monitoring checks using equipment to keep abreast of changes in the alkalinity level (pH) of the nutrient solution, electro-conductivity (EC), and strength of solutions to ensure that crops are not exposed to toxicities or deficiencies of nutrients.

People working in this industry will need to have a good general understanding of plant physiology and requirements which may be gained through studying a general horticulture qualification. On top of this some specialised knowledge is required which may be gained from studying individual modules in hydroponics or specialised certificate or higher level courses.

Those working on the retail side will need to have some knowledge of how to set up systems and repair and maintenance. They will also need to demonstrate how to use specialised equipment. 

Tips for Managing a Hydroponic Farm

Growing plants in hydroponics is one thing, but operating a viable hydroponic farm is altogether another.

Commercial hydroponics is not just about setting up and operating hydroponic systems. If you are to be successful and run a viable operation you must learn to do a number of other things:

• Select the right crops to grow
• Have a workable physical layout
• Manage your staff and finances properly
• Market your produce properly.

Deciding the Plants You Should Grow

When deciding what plants to grow in a commercial hydroponics farm, consider the following:

  • Ease of propagation/cost of transplants. What will it cost to get your initial plants (in time or money)? If you plan to propagate yourself, how easy are the plants to propagate? Are the plants readily available? Is the recommended planting time the same as the time of year you plan to start your operation?

  • How easy are these plants to grow? Do you or your staff have the expertise to grow these varieties? Difficult plants may be more costly to grow, and more risky to get a profit from, unless you have better than average skills.

  • How long will the crop take to grow? Some plants produce a crop ready to sell within months, others take many years.

  • Suitability to your facilities. Do you have the right buildings, equipment and other facilities to grow the particular plants under consideration? Do you have the money and space to provide those facilities?

  • Suitability of climate. What plants are most suitable to grow in your climate?

  • Your environment. It is always more efficient to work with the environment rather than trying to recreate different environments.

  • Are other competent growers already producing the crop you would prefer to grow? Can you establish a fair share of the market?

  • Distance from potential markets. Transport is costly, and can be risky. What other alternatives are available?

  • Are profits (in addition to wages) likely to be an adequate or reasonable return on your investment in terms of time and money?

  • The skills of your staff. Don’t try to do what you are not skilled to do. Someone with better skills will probably do it better and cheaper.


ACS was founded by John Mason in 1979 as Australian Horticultural Correspondence School, after having spent the previous ten years working in horticulture. John first became involved in hydroponics in 1973, and in 1974 started teaching hydroponics to home gardeners. He was involved in trials that introduced rockwool to Australia in the early 80's and in 1989 wrote his best selling book Commercial Hydroponics. 

Right from these very early times, we've always believed that the best education only comes when the student is learning from the experience of a whole range of industry experts (rather than just a single teacher).

Every ACS course is a work in progress, continually evolving, with new information being added and old information being updated by our team of internationally renowned professional horticulturists.

Over the decades more than 100 horticulture experts from across the world have contributed to these courses, bringing their individual knowledge and experiences from as wide afield as England and Spain to Australia and America.

While may colleges and universities focus on providing courses that relate only to the country where they are based, ACS has always strived to make it's courses relevant to all parts of the world; any climate, economic or cultural situation. This has been achieved by involving a large number of professionals in the course development.

When it comes to tutoring, marking papers and mentoring students, the team approach is just as strong as with our writing. ACS students have the ability to obtain advice and support from staff across the world, with horticulture tutors located in the UK, Australia (both the north and south) and New Zealand.

The ACS team approach and global focus to both course content and student support, ensures our graduates have a unique and "real world" skills set. This unique approach is highly regarded by our colleagues in horticulture.



No course will automatically get you a job – however there are a set of parameters that will certainly help you along the way to getting work – this includes more than study:

Firstly the course you undertake has to fit with industry needs. It should also be broad enough to make you an attractive employee (to a range of employers) so the focus should not be too narrow. The same applies if you are going to set up your own farm or business; business changes all the time, consumer demand changes too so doing a course that allows you to change your approach, as needed, will help ensure your success.

Secondly the course you undertake should not only develop your knowledge but also your ability to retain and recall that knowledge, now and far into the future. Learning to problem solve (an integral part of all ACS courses) helps you to remember what you are learning. When you learn by rote or by just reading and regurgitating texts you usually do not retain that knowledge for long. ACS’s PBL system (Problem Based Learning) means that in your set tasks and assignments you are solving problems that you will also face when working in industry. It is a known method for knowledge retention too and apart from that employers value employees that show initiative and problem solving skills. This skill stands you apart from others in interviews too.

Although doing a course may not guarantee you a job – it will set you apart from those that have not studied at all and it will improve your personal choices when applying for jobs. Each job listed usually gets a huge amount of response, when employers choose people to interview they will look at a range of factors – what you have studied will be just one of those factors. You need to be able to catch a potential employer’s attention and stand out from the rest.


What can I do to get a job?

Employers look for many skills including:

  • Great communication skills: verbal, written and also the ability to use a computer.

  • Problem solving skills: thinking on your feet and working through problems in an orderly way.

  • Efficiency: doing things in a logical order without compromising accuracy improves efficiency.

  • Knowledge and skills demanded of the job.

  • A passion for the work and willingness to learn.

  • Presentation and grooming - people who present as being well organised and well-groomed will impress.


What Can You do to Improve Your Career Prospects?

Passion – those that are passionate about their work and are also open to learning new things do well.

Keep learning – doing a course isn’t the end of the road, today we all have to keep learning over our working life in order to keep up with ever-changing needs and technology. Do a course that is expansive and covers a range of subjects – this gives you greater flexibility in finding work and getting ahead.

Know what is going on in your chosen industry; employers are always impressed if you can demonstrate current industry knowledge, it also means in business that you can keep up with the latest trends. Networking with others in the industry is just one way of doing this, attending industry meetings, seminars, trade shows etc., is another. Be multi-skilled – people that are multi-skilled will catch the eye of their employer and will also do better in business.

Recognise where your weaknesses lie and work on improving those. Make sure you have a current and well-written, concise CV (resume).Tutors at this school will help our students with their C.V.'s if you ask -no cost. Resume Writing services can also be used, but they charge.

Member of the Future Farmers Network

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Alternative Technology Association Member

Accredited ACS Global Partner

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason has been a member of the International Society of Horticultural Science, since 2003

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John L. Mason

Auithor of "Commercial Hydroponics", one of the world's best selling hydroponic books for more than 20 years. John completed a Diploma in Horticultural Science at Australia's oldest horticulture college in 1971. In 1974 he was asked to create and teach a

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves.
In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certif

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