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THRIVING AGRIBUSINESS HYDROPONIC FARMING IN KAJIADO COUNTY

Maurice Awire is a hydroponic farmer who cultivates tomatoes on soilless media in Kibiku Ngong. He is a member of Afriponics Marketing Cooperative Society registered with MSEA that has 83 members who are all hydroponic farmers cultivating tomatoes, capsicum, coriander and cucumber.

Hydroponic farming offers numerous benefits such as water conservation, increased crop yields, year-round cultivation, efficient space utilization, reduced pesticide use, faster growth cycles, consistent crop quality, reduced soil erosion, and decreased dependency on arable land. These advantages make hydroponics an attractive and sustainable alternative to traditional farming methods in various contexts.

Maurice started his entrepreneurship journey after applying and qualifying as a beneficiary in the #2Jiajiri programme which is an enterprise development and wealth creation programme of the KCB Foundation that aims to create and support new and existing enterprises in the informal sector through vocational training, business development services and market linkages.

After completing a 3 month training in hydroponic farming, Maurice was allocated a greenhouse measuring 24mtrs by 8mtrs where he started cultivating tomatoes. Hydroponic farming is a soilless cultivation technique that relies on a nutrient-rich water solution to provide the essential elements needed for plant growth. Since he started planting in September 2022 he has harvested and sold approximately 6 tons of tomatoes where a kilogram of tomatoes retail at Kshs. 70. He sources his market through Afriponic Marketing Cooperative Society that helps in sourcing for markets for all the registered hydroponic farmers.

The KCB Foundation has leased a land covering a radius of 10acres holding 101 hydroponic greenhouses where the planting media is Pumice and Cocopeat which offer unique advantages, and their usage can depend on specific plant requirements, soil types, and gardening practices. They are often used as components in soil mixes or as soil amendments to improve drainage, aeration, and water retention, ultimately promoting healthier plant growth.

Preparation of the greenhouse to plant tomatoes, capsicum and cucumbers

At the entrance of the green house they install a foot bath disinfectant to avoid entry with contaminated shoes.

Washing and treatment of the pumice and cocopeat as well as fumigation through spraying

Testing the pH of the media which the pumice is measured to know the acidity level which should range from 5.5 to 6.5.

Thereafter plantation of the seedlings is done.

In the initial stages, the seedling is fed through polyfeeds which are a range of rich, balanced fertilizers or supplements that the plant should consume only for 3 days.

After the 3 days, the plant is fed with half a tank of nutrients which are in soluble forms and the increment of the feed is done gradually until 1000ltrs per day is achieved depending on the age of the crop.

For tomatoes, after propagation has been done, the plant is transferred to the pumice. During its growth cultural practices are observed such as desuckring, pruning, twining among others. After three months, harvesting begins.

Harvesting

It is done progressively for six months where they harvest twice per week Mondays and Thursdays.

The initial harvests are low in terms of quantity as the plant matures and equally diminishes towards the end of the season, where a season is a period of 9months.

Depending on the structure of the green house, i.e. in terms of the size of the greenhouse, aeration as well feeding of the plant, different quantities of the harvest can be achieved.

The size of the greenhouse ranges from 24*8mtrs giving an area of 192m2 with a capacity to hold 660 plants. This is good because it helps in managing pests, as aeration is controlled.

Challenges

Pests where the greatest threat for tomatoes is Tuta absoluta which penetrates between the leaves and destroys the essential parts that are important in manufacturing the food hence reduce the size of the fruit. The most destructive age of the tuta absoluta is the larvae stage, however it can be controlled through biological or chemical methods. Here they use biological methods like the yellow sticker which controls white flies.

Diseases where the Tomatoes spotted wilt virus (TSWV) which are small insects that feed on the tomato and capsicum plant by puncturing the leaves and sucking the plant’s sap. This virus is highly destructive because once the plants are infected, they have to be uprooted.

Another disease is powdery mildew a fungus which affects the leaves and it is well controlled by lunar sensation.

This project has immensely impacted Maurice’s life financially as he is now a well-established agri-preneur with great knowledge in greenhouse and hydroponic farming where he also offers training on the same. If you would like to order tomatoes or inquire about training, kindly contact Maurice on 0735591843.

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