Tomato seedlings grown in a soil-less medium in a greenhouse. Soil-less culture is equally profitable.
With the rising human population causing reducing farming land small and smaller due to human settlement, farmers who practice soilless culture in their limited space have equal and sometimes better, growth and yield results compared to those with big space of field soil.
Soilless culture though can be practiced at substantially greater expense, there are other simple ways like the use of bags, pots, or troughs with a lightweight medium. This is one of the most economical, and easiest to manage of all soilless systems.
With soilless culture, a farmer only needs a peat-lite or a mixture of bark and wood chips. This is the most common types of media used in containerized systems of soilless culture. Others include spaghnum peat, vermiculite, or bark chips. These are the most commonly used materials, but others - such as rice hulls, bagasse (sugarcane refuse), sedge peat, and sawdust - are used sometimes as constituents in soilless mixes.
Mr. Wilkins Nyanamba is an agricultural extension officer and a farmer who practice soilless hydroponic tomato seedling farming in his two 8 by 12 metres greenhouse in Nyamira County.
“I grow seeds in the soilless medium made from peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and sand then sell to horticultural farmers in different parts of the county,” he said.
“My customers make orders on phone or by face to face, pay and I pack the seedlings and send to them by matatu service,” added Nyanamba who started the venture barely a year ago with about Sh230, 000.
Nyanamba who begun with only fifteen soilless bag materials which he bought at Sh250 per kilogram from a friend says that the bag produces 25 trays that have a capacity to grow 245 seedlings.
The farmer sells tomato seedlings at Sh10 each while the cost of other seedlings like vegetable he sells between Sh5 to Sh10 working on an order of about 250,000 seedlings a day.
According to Nyanamba hydroponic tomato seedlings can be grown in several types of soilless systems, with perlite bags being one of the most popular.
The perlite bag system, developed by growers in Scotland, is becoming the most popular system due to the lower capital costs and ease of installation and management. Although perlite is included in its packages. This is affordable to most smallholder farmers.