There is hardly a cheaper way in the world to get started on something than to just read a book about it, or maybe two or three. When I was in high school I got in a chess tournament. I thought I was hot stuff, but on the first day I got my clock cleaned thoroughly by almost everyone in sight. That was an eye opening moment.
After school I went to the library and took out five books on the game of chess and for a while chess was a consuming passion and pretty soon I was the best player in the school. What that taught me was that having a passion for something counted big time.
When I started in hydroponics I jumped in with both feet following my tried and true technique of booking up on the subject. I think I've already mentioned my first book. It was Howard Resh's Hydroponic Food Production. That was a great start although it was a bit heavy going. Since I have a degree in science (Physics) it wasn't too tough and to give Howard credit, I think he wrote a very readable book there.
My next book was a hoot, because I found it on the internet. I was surfing the net and ran across this book that sounded terrific at a site. This was before Amazon and Barnes and Noble were net presences. I sent email to the site address and asked about the book and if they took credit cards. The guy replyed — "You do know we're in Australia?" That was so cool I bought the book and it came in a week or so by mail. It was Dr. Struan Sutherland & Jennifer Sutherland's Hydroponics for Everyone. It's a great book with oodles of color pictures. And even coming from Australia it was priced very reasonably.
There are now many books on my hydroponics bookshelf, but one I want to mention is Lon Dalton and Rob Smith's Hydroponic Gardening. It's a great book, compact, stuffed with great information and beautiful color pictures. I met Rob Smith on the West Coast at a Hydroponics Conference some years back and he's a regular on The Growing Edge, my favorite Hydroponics Magazine. I write for them, and they're a terrific bunch.
So the punch-line — "Before making a big investment, make a wise investment and read some good books on hydroponics." I suppose you could also watch this blog and I'll try to talk about all the mistakes I've made over the years. That'll lower the number you're likely to make.