Farming innovations galore during the Eldoret ASK fair

University of Eldoret students Jacob Koech and Vincent Kiplimo with their variable pitch potato grader. 

University of Eldoret students Jacob Koech and Vincent Kiplimo with their variable pitch potato grader. 

Photo credit: Stanley Kimuge | Nation Media Group

The Eldoret Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) fair from March 1 to 4 attracted thousands of farmers. 
The Seeds of Gold team attended the event and sampled farming innovations.

Chipping machine

Daniel Soita, an engineer at the Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (Kalro) says the kit allows a farmer to produce a small size of arrowroot, yam, sweet or Irish potato and cassava chips, dry and grind them to flour. 
It has a feeding tube to prevent any of the chips machine from dropping the ground tubers.

It has a compartment with a rotating blade to produce different sizes of chips. The blade can be modified to produce the size of chips a farmer wants. It can process up to 200kg an hour.

Passive solar greenhouse dryer

It is used to dry produce when there is a glut and be sold or consumed in times of scarcity. It is 1.5x2.5x 1.5 metres and is made up of wood, polythene and wire mesh. The underside is black to enable the kit to absorb heat. The heat then pushes up hot air, which passes through the agricultural produce. It eliminates the moisture in fresh produce. Soita says the drying time depends on the intensity of the sun.

It can handle 60 kilos of maize or cassava and costs Sh15,000. 

Millet extracts, microbes that eliminate nematodes

At Moi University stand, two students – Stanley Kiptoo and Chrisantus Khaoya – showcased a simple innovation that can be used to control nematodes. The innovation uses plant extracts, leaves and roots of the local millet variety. Microbes too come in handy. 

The innovators advise farmers to first screen for nematodes in the field. They also showcased the use of microbes to control nematodes. 

“Bacteria and fungi in the soil are isolated and purified to get culture, which is then used to control nematodes,” said Kiptoo. 

The micro-organisms are biodegradable 

Variable potato grader

At the University of Eldoret stand, two students showcased a gadget that allows farmers to grade their potatoes according to size. Farmers on many occasions cannot grade their potatoes effectively.

Potatoes come in different sizes – large size (more than 80mm), medium (50-80mm) and small (25mm). Large potatoes are peeled to make French fries and crisps, medium is cooked at home while small are used as seeds. The kit grades one to two tonnes an hour.

The machine has a conveyor,  grader and rollers. It uses two mortars. Vincent Kiplimo and Jacob Koech, the innovators, say they are doing modifications to the gadget.

Primary Sunflower thresher

It allows a farmer to separate the sunflower seeds and cob. University of Eldoret student and innovator, Lawrence Ongare, says it can thresh 1.5 to two tonnes of sunflower an hour. It has a funnel where a farmer feeds the sunflower. The rollers inside thresh the sunflower. It is 95 per cent efficient, its makers say. The machine is operated by one person.

Banana ripening chamber

This innovation allows a farmer to naturally quicken the ripening of mature bananas. One places avocado or passion fruits in the lower chamber and unripe bananas on top. The Ethylene gas released by the avocado or passion fruits helps speed up the ripening of the bananas. 

A ripening chamber made of wood has seven compartments that can hold up to four bunches of bananas. However, this can be modified to accommodate more. Along the edges are polythene paper and a sponge to ensure air does not escape once the door is shut. It takes three days for the bananas to ripen, says Josiah Mogaka. 

Solar photovoltaic machine

With the rising costs of fuel, farmers can use this gadget to pump water from a river or dam for irrigation. It has solar panels that tap sun energy. The direct current is converted by an inverter. 

Dr Elijah Omosa from Kisii University says a 12KV pump can pump 1,500 litres in a day but this can be adjusted by increasing the size of the pump.