Advanced Certificate In Applied Management (Horticultural Technology)

Course CodeVBS001
Fee CodeAC
Duration (approx)900 hours
QualificationAdvanced Certificate

Become a Hydroponic Farm or Supply Manager

Managing a hydroponic business effectively requires not only a knowledge of horticulture and hydroponic growing; but also skills in business management.
This course teaches you both!

That makes it a unique and holistic training program for anyone seeking to start or improve the operation of any type of hydroponic enterprise.

Hydroponic enterprises are typically either farms (growing flowers, vegetables, berries or herbs); or hydroponic suppliers (providing equipment, materials and nutrients to both amateurs and commercial growers).
Other hydroponic enterprises can include manufacturers (of equipment and materials), consultants, publishers and schools
This course has been developed by leading international experts including John Mason, author of Commercial Hydroponics (now in it's 8th printing) and Dr Lyn Morgan, author and commercial hydroponic consultant; and is taught by a team of highly qualified and experienced professionals, with experience across the whole world.
This course is internationally accredited through I.A.R.C.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Advanced Certificate In Applied Management (Horticultural Technology).
 Business Operations VBS006
 Industry Project I BIP000
 Industry Project II BIP001
 Management VBS105
 Marketing Foundations VBS109
 Office Practices VBS102
Stream ModulesStudied after the core modules, stream modules cover more specific or niche subjects.
 Hydroponics I BHT224
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 5 modules.
 Engineering Applications BSC205
 Hydroponic Management - Hydroponics II BHT213
 Protected Plant Production BHT223
 Aquaponics BHT319
 Interior Plants (Indoor Plants) BHT315

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.

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

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



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


There are seven lessons in this module as follows:

  1. Structures for Protected Cropping
  2. Environmental Control
  3. Cladding Materials and their Properties
  4. Irrigation and Nutrition
  5. Relationship between Production techniques and Horticultural practices
  6. Harvest and Post Harvest Technology
  7. Risk Assessment


This is normally done after completing all of the other modules. It is intended as a "learning experience" that brings a perspective and element of reality to the modules you have studied. The school is very flexible in terms of how you achieve this requirement, and can negotiate to approve virtually any situation which can be seen as "learning through involvement in real life situations that have a relevance to your studies"
It may be satisfied through any combination of relevant work experience, attendance at conferences, seminars, trade shows; or undertaking formal distance education modules which we offer in research or workshops (which can be undertaken from where you live!).

How Do You Harvest Hydroponic Produce?
It is critical to properly handle and store fruit, vegetables, berries or cut flowers at harvest, and after harvest. Poor harvest and post harvest procedures can easily result in crop losses of 25%, and some experts suggest it is not uncommon to see crop losses of over 50%.

Hydroponic consultants often comment that poor harvest and post harvest practices are one of the most common problems for hydroponic growers. Issues such as how and when to harvest, how to wash produce, how to prevent bruising and post harvest rots, what packaging to use for various produce, storage techniques, preventing chilling damage, and maximising the potential shelf life of different hydroponic crops are very important for successful marketing.

With these things in mind, it only stands to reason that understanding and applying knowledge of harvest and post harvest can be one of the most critical factors in achieving profitability in a hydroponic enterprise.

Before you can properly manage the harvest and post harvest of a crop, you need to understand its physiology.

  • Harvested produce is still “living” tissue.
  • Produce respires, i.e. it absorbs oxygen from the air and gives off both carbon dioxide and heat.
  • Produce transpires, i.e. it loses water.
  • When it is attached to the plant, losses from transpiration and respiration can be replaced by sap flow.
  • After harvest there is no way of supplying these losses, so there is a gradual deterioration in chemicals that form the tissues of the crop.

Ripening of Fruit
After harvest, fruit will undergo a series of physical and chemical changes that affect the quality and marketability of the fruit.

Ripening is the final stage in the development of a fruit before it enters senescence (i.e. A deterioration stage).

Ripening involves a series of different changes (many but not all occur independent of each other). These changes include:

  • Maturing of seed
  • Fruit colour changes
  • Abscission (natural detachment from the plant)
  • Respiration rate changes
  • Ethylene production rate changes
  • Tissue permeability changes
  • Development of volatile chemicals that contribute to flavour
  • Changes in composition of pectic chemicals: softening
  • Changes in carbohydrate composition (eg. sweetening)
  • Changes in Organic acids (eg. Acid level reduces)
  • Changes in protein composition
  • Wax develops on the skin


Harvested hydroponic produce is still living tissue, it continues to loose moisture through transpiration from its skin or leaves, and it continues to use up energy stores during the process of respiration.  Respiration is where carbohydrates such as starch and sugar are used up to provide energy for living tissue, this uses oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and heat.  From the moment the product is harvested, it will deteriorate and as this progresses, the quality of the product will decline.  The objective of good post harvest handling and storage is to slow the rate of respiration and hence the loss of quality.  Generally lower temperatures (refrigeration of many types of product), care with handling to prevent bruising which speeds up the rate of respiration, and use of modified or controlled atmosphere storage will prolong shelf life through a slowing of respiration.

Respiration rate is dependant on temperature, the higher the temperature, the higher the rate of respiration.  Some crops such as beans and lettuce have high respiration rates at all temperatures than melons, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes and products having shorter shelf life in storage are usually those with higher rates of respiration.

How and When to Harvest

Wherever possible hydroponic produce should be harvested during the coolest part of the day, typically early morning when plants are most turgid and tissues contain the highest amount of water.  On larger operations, this may not be possible with harvesting being carried out all day, every day, in this case, cooling the harvested product as rapidly as possible is important to maintain shelf life quality. 
Recommended book       Commercial Hydroponics by John Mason - click here to vist the ACS bookstore and read an outline of this comprehensive book
Interior Plantscaping is a much bigger business than what many people realise.
Offices, shopping centres and other commercial sites use indoor plants primarily for decoration, though there are other subtle benefits as well (eg. Plants will help purify and freshen the air).
An interior plantscaping business may provide the following services:
1. Supplying indoor plants
This can include replacing indoor plants when they get sick or too large.
Plants are sometimes sold to a client; or alternatively, they may be hired.
2. Maintaining plants
This can involve routine visits to a premises; perhaps once or twice a week (or as required), to water, fertilise, prune off dead leaves, control pests and diseases, and perhaps wash or polish the foliage. (ie. Foliage can gather dust, which may be washed off. Wiping or spraying with an appropriate oil can make the leaves glisten and look very attractive).
3. Moving Plants
Plants may be moved or replaced periodically. Sick plants can be taken away, potted up, made more healthy, and then returned. Plants may need to be moved to more appropriate positions in different seasons. An ideal position beside a window in winter, for example, might be too hot for a plant in summer.
4. Interior Landscaping
The same procedures can be applied here as what are used for exterior landscaping. The only difference is that an interior landscaper needs to consider the special conditions which will influence the plants in the inside environment.
What to Grow
Many plants can be grown as indoor plants, provided you give due consideration to their "normal requirements", and select cultivars which suit the conditions of the interior where they are to be placed.
Palms  are popular indoor plants throughout the world; however many types of palms do not survive for long periods indoors, and must be rested in a greenhouse or out of doors relatively often.
The "Pygmy Date Palm" (Phoenix roebelinii) is one palm which will withstand less light and more air conditioning than most other palms. This palm has the disadvantage of sharp spikes, but in appropriate situations, its hardiness to indoor conditions makes it a popular choice for interior plantscaping
Understanding Interior Plant Care
There are six main factors that need to be considered when growing plants indoors: 
These are:
  • Temperature  Temperatures fluctuations can result in plant stress, wilting and possibly death. Many plants have preferences for specific maximum and minimum temperatures - temperatures experienced outside these limits will cause stress.  Sudden changes are frequently the result of heaters and air conditioners going on and off; doors opening and closing; and cooking appliances in kitchen. 
  • Light   Plants have a specific requirement for light, both in terms of quantity and quality. However each plant may have different requirements. It is the knowledge and understanding of these requirements by each of the plants that makes for a successful interior plantscaper. Light can be too bright (eg near a window), or too dull. Lights being turned on and off, or   being used for extensive periods can affect plants physiological response (photoperiodism). Dust on leaves can block up leaf pores (stomata), and can also reduce the amount of light reaching the leaf itself.    The light source itself (whether incandescent or fluorescent) will produce different light intensities, thereby affecting plant growth. In office buildings, the task of the indoor plantsperson is to select suitable plants for low intensity fluorescent lights that will tolerate other environmental conditions such as air conditioning. 
  • Moisture    The majority of indoor plants tend to originate from under storey rainforest areas, and hence require an environment relatively medium to high in humidity. Low humidity or dry air (particularly when heaters are being used) can cause plant stress. Air conditioners tend to reduce humidity down to 30% or lower which will provide a stressful environment.   Indoor plants will appreciate a light misting to increase the humidity around the plant.  They will also benefit from a hosing down, if the plants can feasible be removed form the office (or location), taken outside, then hosed. This treatment is basically simulating a natural occurrence - rainfall. It will also wash dust off the leaves. Excessive moisture (as in watering) can be detrimental to the plant causing root deterioration and possibly death.
  • Nutrition    All plants need nutrients to live. However in an indoor environment, where plant growth is often slow, care is needed in the amount used. The normal amount used for an outdoor plant could be considered as excessive for the indoor plant. The easiest way for in indoor plants person to fertilise their plants is either by slow release pellets (which is carried out every few months) or liquid feeding (carried out almost every week) - depending upon product and season. 
  • Ventilation    A lack of fresh air can be detrimental to many plants, particularly those with softer foliage. Many plants (such as Radermachera spp.) are known to release ethylene which cause leaf drop - so ventilation will help reduce this problem.   Gas from gas heaters or stoves can be toxic to many species, so keep plants away from these appliances. Cold draughts from an open window may also be a problem in some areas, even if the interior is generally warm.   Still air and warm conditions may encourage problems like red spider mite and mealybugs.
  • Containers     Growing conditions are different because indoor plants are grown in pots or other containers, rather than the ground.   Most plants can be grown successfully in a container, but some adapt much easier than others.  If the plants are maintained properly you can try anything, provided you select the right size and type of container.  Plant containers are available in a huge variety of shapes, colours and textures that really add to the appearance of your garden.  Remember plants in containers are growing under different conditions, therefore they need different treatments.

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