Greenhouse farming in Kenya
Have you ever seen those 40X80 feet greenhouses in Kitengela, Ruai, Kiambu, and other semi-urban areas around Nairobi?
My neighbor bought and installed one of them some time ago.
He had high hopes…
That in a short while…
…he would soon be able to buy his dream car…
Pay his children’s’ university fees without blinking… and enjoy life.”
That’s what he thought.
If he knew what awaited him, he would have ventured into another business.
Friend, I don’t want to scare you.
What i want to do is to put things in the right perspective so that when you venture into greenhouse farming… YOU SUCCEED
Let Nobody Deceive you. To Make Greenhouse farming Profitable, You MUST be Armed with the right Knowledge!
This fact not only applies to greenhouse production.
It applies to any field of practice, art, science or vocation.
You must have the right knowledge and act on it.
That is why I am writing this post.
I want you to be throughly equiped with the right knowledge so that making profit from greenhouses becomes as easy as rowing downstream.
Greenhouses in Kenya have been touted as the answer of improved farm profitability.
With them you can:
- Harvest crops 3-4 weeks earlier than growing them in the open field. This ability lets you time the market with accurate precision,
- Escape adverse weather like heavy rain and hailstones,
- Control the crop environment with precision, thus you can grow all manner of crops even if your natural environment doesn’t allow it.
However, to achieve these cool things, you must have the right knowledge on Greenhouse Farming.
Otherwise, things may so south for you. (I’ll explain how to succeed even if you don’t have the knowledge” shortly)
Now let’s get back to my neighbors’ experience.
Before buying the greenhouse, my neighbor did some research.
Diligently (like a mole digging its hideout tunnel) he searched Google, read several blogs, Watched YouTube Videos, and when this was done…
He noted that…
“There is often a SEVERE shortage of tomatoes during rainy seasons,.”
“To get fresh tomatoes, that are:
- Big and juicy,
- …Free from deformities, in Nairobi and across the country was super hard.”
That’s not all.
He also found out…
The price of a 70-kilogram crate tomatoes during the rainy season would skyrocket to over KES 6000/=
With all those things lined up, an idea struck him like a thunderbolt.
The idea came to him fast and furious…
—the way the Idea of gravity came to Isaac Newton.
“What if… I produce tomatoes in a greenhouse?”
“The greenhouse will protect my tomato from rain damage… my tomatoes will grow healthy, they will become big and juicy, and I’ll be able to make a HANDSOME profit.”
The idea seemed to make a lot of sense.
Consult The Right Expert, and Greenhouse Farming Will Give You Unbelievable Wealth.
My neighbor did not just end his quest there.
He consulted an expert.
An ‘expert’ estimated that his greenhouse would yield a cool 100-70 KILO crates of tomatoes.
That awesome advice made him salivate at the prospect of earning a turnover of 600,000/= within 5 months.
Doing some very fast math, he noted that he will:
- Use KES 180,000/= in the purchase, and installation of the greenhouse,
- Spend KES 50,000/= on labor, seeds and agrochemicals,
- Set aside KES 20,000/= for miscellaneous/unseen expenses.
In total, he would need KES 250,000/= to start the project.
When he compared this ‘MINOR COST’ against his ‘EXPECTED SALES’ of KES 600,000 things looked PERFECT.
“Don’t you agree that this was the perfect business since sliced bread?”
However, 5 months later, his experience proved contrary to his expectation.
Why Many Farmers Fail in Greenhouse Farming in Kenya
Since my neighbor had a job that made him busy, he left his FARMHAND in-charge of the greenhouse.
Unfortunately, this farmhand had zero skills in greenhouse management.
He had ABSOLUTELY no idea on how to identify pests, irrigate the greenhouse and many other agronomic practices.
So this is the guy my neighbor relied upon to help achieve his dream.
Lo… he was bitterly disappointed.
Within 1 month of transplanting some tomato plants—there was drama.
The tomato plants were invaded by white flies and red spider mites and within weeks, everything had dried up!
The FARMHAND re-planted tomatoes again and again, ONLY for the same thing happen.
By the time I arrived, the greenhouse was under Sukuma wiki[kale] for family consumption.
They had lost over Ksh 80,000/= in seed, chemical and labor costs, and were on the verge of selling the greenhouse.
How to Succeed in Greenhouse Farming in Kenya—Even If You Don’t Have Experience.
Do this and you’ll never fail in greenhouse farming in Kenya!
Don’t Listen to Exaggerated information:
Most of the information available on greenhouse production is inaccurate.
“Why is it so?”
90% Those who talk about greenhouses are salesmen.
Their main goal is not to see you succeed.
Instead, it is to make a quick sale or profit.
To entice buyers—so that they meet their objective, they exaggerate the yield potential of greenhouses.
They make it appear SO ATTRACTIVE to the first time farmers.
That’s so wrong.
Instead of being objective and tell the farmers the entire truth, they don’t reveal that farmers will need to fight pests and diseases.
Second, some of these self-appointed ‘experts’ do not have ANY HANDS ON EXPERIENCE on agriculture or greenhouse production!
Their job is to set up greenhouses for farmers [which they do skillfully] after that, they leave farmer on his own, either to succeed or fail.
The hard job for the farmer starts after he purchases the greenhouse.
He has to:
- Grow the correct crop,
- at the correct time,
- the correct way in order to make profit.
So how do you get credible information about greenhouse production?
- Visit successful farmers for advice. If possible, be ready to pay them for consultation. Ask them about the challenges they face and how they overcome them, and about the opportunities in greenhouse production.
When you do this, you will get the real picture about greenhouse farming in Kenya.
- Visit institutional websites (especially those of universities, government agricultural institutions like HCDA, KEPHIS, AFA, TEGEMEO institute of agricultural development and international research institutions.
These institutions have very good information that’s unbiased.
However, they have a disadvantage.
These institutions rarely optimize their websites for search results.
So getting access to the right knowledge is quite a hassle. You’ll have to dig deep into the search results—and that’s often time consuming.
Another disadvantage, is their information is often difficult to read.
Most of it is laced with numerous scientific jargon. As much as this information is difficult for the common mwanainchi to rad and digest…
…If you make an effort to read it, you’ll get real valuable knowledge.
- Avoid getting information from popular newspapers, TV, and other private media institutions.
I am saying this because such information is often biased.
It is written with the sole purpose of capturing readers interest and not to give real education.
The much better approach to getting the right info is watching videos of real farmers on YouTube sharing their experiences.
Invest in True Knowledge on Greenhouse Farming in Kenya.
Some of this knowledge will come from your own personal experimentation.
I am saying this because:
You can read all the books in the world, watch videos, and do many other things, but your experience would not be exactly as another person’s.
That said, don’t work from ignorance.
Fine tune the existing information to create what’s suitable for your situation.
Be ready to fail and commit mistakes.
Sometimes some mistakes are non-avoidable. When you commit such mistakes unknowingly, be ready to learn.
Remember, as you fail, you’ll be collecting information and data on not what to do.
Know The Basics Challenges of Greenhouse Farming and How to Overcome Them
Without doubt, one needs some experience on use of:
- Plant hormones,
- Greenhouse grade fertilizers,
- Pest identification and control.
The good news is “This information is quite simple to gain.”
If you take 1 month of your time reading, and experimenting, you’ll be more than equipped with the right experience.
Please be informed that there are various common problems associated with greenhouse farming.
For instance, crops grown in a greenhouse are sensitive to salinity.
This means, the water you use for irrigation, must be free from dissolved salts especially sodium chloride.
Secondly, there’s always the danger of overusing fertilizers.
Never exceed the recommended rate of fertilizer.
If you do so, you’ll end up killing your plants.
At worst, incorrect usage of fertilizers in a greenhouse can render your greenhouses useless, because the soils will be toxic.
Third, beware that plants grown in a greenhouse also suffer from pest attack.
The fact is, a greenhouse is an enclosed environment.
In such an environment, there’s high warmth levels coupled with high humidity making favorable for pest growth.
Once you gain experience, continuously scout for pests and diseases.
Should you notice any problem control take action immediately.
Some of the common greenhouse pests you are likely to find are:
- Red spider mites,
- White flies,
- Trips and diseases like agro-bacterium,
- Powdery mildew
- Downy mildew among others.
Always have a plan on how to control these common diseases and pests and you’ll succeed in greenhouse farming in Kenya.
Do not be afraid of this investment.
It richly rewards for those who are ready to learn and persevere.
Second, it’s in a greenhouse that you can use technology in unimaginable ways.
At a click of a button, you can irrigate crops, increase or reduce greenhouse temperature, irrigate plants and a myriad of other operations conducted.
Do not be afraid to consult experts.
As much some of them are conmen, I believe there are those who are motivated by the success of small start-ups, and are ready to offer free advice.
What are your thoughts on this?
Share them below!