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    The superfruit earning its pioneer farmer Sh2,000 a kilogram

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    By George Munene

    Though Anthony Kamiti’s decision to grow blueberries--a superfruit rarely cultivated in Kenya-- might seem confounding, his answer to anyone who asks is simple: “There are few crops you can grow in Kenya that will earn you Sh2,000 a kilogram.”

    In 2019, the farmer based in Limuru, Kiambu County, was gifted five blueberry seedlings by a friend who had tried to grow the crop in Kenya for close to twenty years to no avail.

    Three years on, he is organically growing 45 pieces of the berry on a 25 feet by 30 feet piece of land.

    He credits his success to cultivating the crop in containers. This way he can easily regulate their pH levels, moisture, and compost content.

    He currently sells the superfruit in ¼ kilogram batches of Sh500 to regular buyers. This, he points out, is a below market price as the fruit retails locally for Sh2600 a kilogram.

    For a three to four-month harvesting season, he can get over 30 kilograms from his crop.

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    “Currently, the existing local market demand is insatiable. The fruits sold in local supermarkets are delivered by a handful of major suppliers, but the bulk of them are imported from South Africa. With the few plants I have, I can barely keep up with orders from individual buyers,” he said.

    Classed as a superfruit-- fruits that are very good for your health. Blueberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants, vitamin C, disease-fighting phytoflavinoids, and dietary fiber.

    Some of Kamiti’s customers are prescribed blueberries by their dieticians. 

    Despite its lucrative returns, owing to its novelty and the difficulty of its propagation, each seedling costs a tidy Sh2,000. This means its cultivation remains out of reach for many farmers.

    In his experience, diseases or pests affecting the crop are limited with only the cold weather majorly impacting their  production. 

    Growing the berry is also not labour intensive as they are low-maintenance plants compared to most other crops.

    With regular scouting, he is able to arrest pathogens by spraying a concoction of chili and garlic.

    “They’ll however need protection from birds which consume even the unripe fruit,” he added.

    Through his journey with blueberries, the biggest hurdles Anthony has encountered are regulating soil pH, propagation, and watering. 

    “It is easier for me to carry out soil amendments such as altering pH levels and watering when the crop is potted,” Anthony explained.

    The crop should be well watered ensuring the soil is always moist. 

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    He also advises against growing with farmyard manure as it can increase the alkalinity of the soil. Blueberries are famously acid-loving crops.

    The berry's cuttings root in three to four months and take at least two years to fruit. Seeds take longer time to germinate

    At its peak production, after more than eight years, they can give up to 10 kilograms of berries annually.

    They are a long-term crop with a lifespan of up to 20 years and can be harvested three to four years after planting.

    Anthony Kamiti: 0735 478880

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    Agriculture expert devices 30% cheaper feed that boosts animal production

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    By George Munene

    Fred's Animal Nutrition, a Thika-based animal feeds manufacturing company is helping reduce the feed cost burden for farmers by manufacturing 30 per cent cheaper poultry, pig, and dairy feed that give farmers better production than conventional feed suppliers.

    “A 70-kilogram bag of our layer mash costs Sh3,800 compared to traditional millers who are currently selling it for Sh4,000. This is between Sh30-20 less a kilogram, but gives our farmers better production,” said the project’s co-founder Okuta Ngura-- an animal health expert and poultry farmer for 13 years. 

    70-kilogram bags of the company’s growers mash will set you back Sh3,500. For pigs, sow and weaner feed costs Sh2,500 and lactator Sh2,800. All are priced lower than what is currently on the market.

    The company currently has a clientele of about 60 farmers. 

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    To solve the feed quality versus price riddle which has dashed many farming dreams in Kenya the company uses a novel concept of reducing many of the expensive sources of crude proteins in feeds such as soya and fish meal with amino acids.

    “By focusing on low protein diets for animals we are able to cut down on the most costly component of feeds and improve feed efficiency, ”Ngura explains.

    Bone meal and Dicalcium Phosphate (DCP), expensive sources of protein and calcium, are also replaced by the cheaper phytate phosphorus which is activated by enzymes.

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    Maize used in the rations is reduced with vegetable oils such as sunflower which have double the energy of carbohydrates further lowering the cost. 

    “We have just purchased a sunflower oil pressing machine to meet this anticipated demand for oilseed. Through this we will be hoping to create a market for sunflower growers in the country,” he informs.

    The company also sells feed ingredients and mixes them for farmers.

    Ngura poultry care: 0729 568151

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    Soil testing critical in getting maximum harvest

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    Soil Cares expert explaining to farmers how soil testing scanner works. The soil testing equipment including scanners use infrared and Xray technology and provides results within 10 minutes.

    Stationary soil testing laboratories, mobile laboratories and scanners by SoilCares Limited has enabled over 7, 000 farmers in not less than 13 locations in Kenya improve their crop and dairy farming productions since 2013 when the company started its operations in the country.

    Working with the national and county governments, farmer groups, individual farmers and organisations, SoilCares apart from testing soil for farmers has managed to conduct 72 trainings for the farmers on how and why soil testing is key in farming.

    “Currently we have over 25 successful stories of farmers sampled from across 13 locations in the country who practice horticulture farming, commercial and food crops production and dairy farming,” said Jacob Gathuru, SoilCares sales representative, Central Kenya during Central Kenya ASK show in Nyeri.

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    According to Gathuru, farmers currently have no need to collect and send soil samples to their laboratories then wait for days or even weeks for results, SoilCares scanners for example which are used in the fields provides farmers with real-time soil testing results, lime and fertilizer recommendations at a fee.

    “All our soil testing equipment including scanners use infrared and Xray technology and within ten minutes our scanners are able to give the farmer soil fertility reports,” said Gathuru.

    Fred Onyango is a maize farmer for ten years on his three acres plot in Homa Bay County and a beneficiary of SoilCares products. After sometime he realised his maize yields started reducing and however much he applied synthetic fertilisers, there was no change till he met SoilCares.

    “Since I tested my soil with SoilCares I have seen faster, healthier and up yields from three to eight bags of maize every season,” Said Onyango.

    Sylvia Gakiiru has been a dairy farmer for 16 years in Meru County. Her fodder and food crops had started turning yellow whenever he planted them. After soil testing with SoilCares and applying the recommended inputs Gakiiru says her crops are thriving enabling her feed well her family and dairy cows.

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    Nakuru County farmer Stephen Karanja who has grown potato for ten years but just harvesting between 15 and 20 bags of potatoes each season. Soil samples from his piece of land taken to SoilCares and tested indicated his soil lacked nitrogen and potassium. NPK 17:0:21 was recommended which he applied and the result is that Karanja is now harvesting 50 bags of potatoes from the same piece of land.

     I am extremely delighted by to have potato production increased courtesy of SoilCares’ soil testing services which I can now seek whenever I notice something wrong with my crops affecting production,” said Karanja.

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