Technologies for discerning farmer

Christine Wangui from Grow Pact demonstrates how the water wick and the portable propagation nurseries work. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA |NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Dennis Manwa, a lab technician at the institution, displayed the pesticides and insecticides made from garlic, tobacco, citrus, neem, pyrethrum and red pepper.
  • Garlic is crushed without drying to make the pesticide.
  • Biogas International through Flexi Biogas displayed a flexible digester for biogas manufacture, which is convenient and easy to move around on the farm.

A good number of visitors arrived in private vehicles, others boarded matatus and while the rest came to the University of Eldoret agri-business trade fair held last week on bike or foot.

They all braved a chilly weather as they sought to learn various technologies, innovations and practices to better their agribusinesses.
Seeds of Gold team was at the event and picked a number of innovations that would better the way you practice your farming.
At the University of Eldoret stand, farmers learnt how to make affordable bio-pesticides and bio-fertiliser using materials readily available on the farm.

Dennis Manwa, a lab technician at the institution, displayed the pesticides and insecticides made from garlic, tobacco, citrus, neem, pyrethrum and red pepper.
“These plants have one thing in common, they have a strong smell that causes irritation on pests or insects making them stay away from crops,” he said.

Garlic is crushed without drying to make the pesticide. Only pyrethrum is dried first, says Manwa. After crushing, it is soaked in hot/boiled water overnight and then it is ready for use.

“The amount to be used depends on the spread of the infestation. We have presented to Kephis the product, among others, and some of our farm made bio-pesticides are approved. We are working to patent them,” he noted.
Few metres from Manwa was a colleague, Jane Yaura, a seed expert who explained how to use red worms to produce bio-fertiliser through vermicomposting technology.
“To start, one collects plant materials that include maize stalks then puts them in a specially made vermicast container hosting worms. The moisture should be between 500C and 700C to prevent the worms from dying,” she said, noting a half kilo of worms named Red wiggler (Einesia foetida) goes for Sh2,500 while a kilo is Sh5,000

This is left for between two to four days for the worms to decompose the waste, after which it would be ready for use.
“The worms further release urine known as worm tea, which can also be used as fertiliser. One can also produce the worms for sale to other farmers,” said Yaura while noting the many opportunities.

Away from the bio-pesticide, several machines that can improve efficiency at farm level were also on display. There was an improvised solar-powered dryer and a maize thresher powered by peddling.

The solar-powered dryer is made of a glass structure where the produce is placed. Attached to it is a black structure where the sun rays heat up and release airwaves upwards to the other compartment drying the maize.

On the other hand, the maize thresher is peddled to perform the task. About 65 Dutch companies were at the show to share with farmers some of their technologies.

Meindert den Ouden, a Dutch expert, explained how a ‘low volume application treatment machine’ can help potato farmers treat seeds before planting.
“It is also called a potato shower, which sprays seeds with a biological solution called Trianum. Apart from controlling diseases such as black spot and Rhizoctonia, it also stimulates growth,” he noted, adding that currently, they don’t sale the machine, but charge farmers with over 50 acres for using it.

That is, if they buy the Trianum bio-pesticide product from Hanse Staalbouw/Koppert.

On fish technology, Farm Africa, Til-Aqua International and Jambo Fish farm showcased what they called Natural Male Tilapia (NMT), which is a special brood-stock, made using the YY technology, resulting in production of all-male progeny.

The breeding combines feminisation and progeny testing resulting in ‘super tilapia males’ with two male sex chromosomes, ‘YY’ instead of the usual XY male. These YY males when mated with regular females, result in only-males progeny.

Male tilapias usually grow to a larger size and weigh more compared to their female counterparts, thus have greater profit potential in the market, according to Teddy Nyanapah, the project coordinator, Kenya Market-led Aquaculture Programme (KMAP) at Farm Africa.

In the partnership, Til-Aqua does the process of feminisation and progeny testing using the YY technology in the Netherlands.
Jambo Fish Farm then imports the fish roe (eggs0 and breeds them in a hatchery to produce the NMT. Farm Africa then facilitates dispensing the hatched male fingerlings to farmers.
Biogas International through Flexi Biogas displayed a flexible digester for biogas manufacture, which is convenient and easy to move around on the farm.
The machine uses different types of material ranging from kitchen waste, garden weeds, livestock dropping, water hyacinth and mathenge weed, among others, to make the gas.
“The Flexi Biogas system runs on any biodegradable matter producing gas that is able to drive chaff cutters, to cook and bake, run incubators, brooders, farm produce dryers and light homes,” said Josephat Chege, who is in-charge of operations at Biogas International.
Chege added that the digester that comes with a micro-greenhouse can be erected in less than four hours, lasts for up to 16-20 years, can be stationed anywhere on the farm and transferred if need be, and the slurry and manure resulting from the process is highly nutritious to the soil.
A Kitale-based firm, Grow Pact, offered an optimised system for seedling production. Known as water wick, it is an innovation through which plants such as vegetables, herbs, flowers and scallions can be cultivated in specialised vessels with the special wick drawing and providing water as required by the crop.

“Any minerals, fertiliser and other plant necessities can be dissolved in the water and the wick used to draw the rich water from the outer holding vessel into the inner vessel that holds the peat and plants. The crop only gets the required amount of the water at a time hence saving the farmer greatly in those resources,” said Dr Joshua Njiru, the director of Grow Pact.

The firm has also developed a propagation nursery in which one can, without difficulty, plant crops that require being cultivated in nurseries first, such as collards, melons and herbs. These nurseries are portable hence the crops are guaranteed of protection from harsh weather elements where they come.

With the partnership of Skygo, and other sponsors, Kenya Women Microfinance Bank showcased a motorcycle, which apart from its usual transportation purposes, also has a water pump that can push water vertically from a depth of 30ft and 60ft upwards from the ground level. The pump is also able to pump water for a horizontal distance of 100ft.

“This motorcycle is efficient and effective especially to the rural smallholder farmer, who has to pump water to irrigate their land, spray chemicals on their farms, transport farm produce and input to and from the market and occasionally use it for other purposes, such as the common motorbike taxi,” said George Odhiambo, the bank’s manager for North Rift region.

According to Odhiambo, the motorcycle which has a fuel capacity of 12 litres, uses one litre of petrol to pump up to 10,000 litres of wateron the farm; whether horizontally or vertically.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said the innovations must be used to boost food security, as he isolated the potato sector which has benefitted from Dutch technologies.

Dutch ambassador, Frans Makken, whose government was a major sponsor of the event, noted that with the present erratic weather patterns, technologies in water conservation in agriculture production are key in boosting food security.
They both furthered the notion of making agriculture alluring to the youth, with employment of these technologies and innovations.