Naivasha Flower Business Park’s serene environment and beautiful scenery makes it perhaps one of the most enchanting agribusiness centres in the country.
Plantech Kenya Ltd is one of the companies based at the park.
Sitting on six acres, the firm that is barely seven months old uses machines to propagate quality seedlings, a first in the country.
“The technology known as plant propagator ensures uniform growth of seedlings. It uses polystyrene trays and peat moss for propagation, with everything automated,” says Idan Salvy, the company’s sales director.
The trays, which are reusable, are smooth helping the roots of plants not to stick in the inside making planting easy for the farmer as the seedlings can be removed without damaging the rooting system.
“Peat moss favours the propagation process as it has high water retention capacity and a lower drying duration that provides suitable aeration good for root development.”
At the propagation unit, the machine works like a conveyer belt where it places soil (peat moss) in the trays, then creates planting holes, plants seeds, waters and covers them with the growing media.
It then releases the tray from the system to await germination in the greenhouses.
The whole process takes a matter of seconds once the machine is instructed to do the work at the click of a button.
“Uniformity in growth is key as there is no single seedling that grows taller or shorter despite the different varieties of crops propagated from vegetable to flowers to herbs to trees which are planted from cuttings using a root hormone,” Salvy, who is an Israeli, says.
HIGHER GERMINATION RATE
The technology worth millions of shillings ensures a germination rate of up 97 percent and farmers end up with stronger seedlings, says Elad Bouton, the managing director, adding that they propagate thousands of seedlings for various farmers every month.
According to him, farmers bring their own seeds from certified companies for propagation, which is done on order. They do not sell their own seedlings.
The technology has attracted farmers from all walks of life, who take their seeds there for propagation at between Sh1.5 to Sh30 each, depending on the crop and time it will spend in the nursery.
During our visit, we met James Muriithi, a farmer who had travelled on a motorbike from Rumuruti, some 125km away, to bring his cabbage seedlings for propagation.
“I knew of the technology some four months ago and since then, I have stopped using manual propagation in seedbeds. This is time saving and efficient,” he says.
The farmer waits for three to four weeks the seedling to germinate. On the seedbed, according to him, it would take five to seven weeks for the seedlings to grow, and they would not do so uniformly.
Samson Anekeya, an agronomist with Agriproffe Solutions, says use of the technology allows easy disease control as sterilisation can be done easily.
He notes that with manual propagation, a farmer runs the risk of losing up to 40-50 per cent of the seedlings during germination.
Salvy says there is a huge gap in the seed propagation industry as many farmers still rely on manual growing of seeds.