By George Munene
The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Jaick Agricultural Produce, an exporter of organic strawberries have opened a farmer training center at the university’s Juja campus.
The project will train farmers on growing strawberries through conventional open field methods, in greenhouses and vertical gardens as well as via soilless means in coco peats.
“Through this program, we hope to bring in more farmers into strawberry farming which with the farmgate price of one kilogram of the fruit currently selling for Sh400 remains a lucrative option.
For farmers looking to grow organic strawberries for the export market we will absorb them through our contracted farmer setup,” said Jaick CEO Benson Maina.
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The company which has over 70 contracted farmers also schools growers on strawberry growing best practices, and offers farm visits and agronomic support through a network of extension workers.
“We have two 8*15 greenhouses where strawberries are grown in coco peats– a plant growing medium that doubles plant rate of growth,” Benson said.
Peats are also ideal growing mediums for organic farming as they contain ample nutrients and are a controlled pest-free environment. This almost totally does away with the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
There is also zero wastage within the greenhouses as only the water needed by the plant is absorbed with the rest drained through the peat and recycled.
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“We apply Dudu organic fertiliser through fertigation, i.e, in tandem with irrigation water ensuring the nutrient application is precise, cost-effective, and not labour intensive,” he explained.
Coco peat greenhouses are however costly to set up and maintain making them out of reach for most small-scale farmers.
This means most of Maina’s outgrowers farm their strawberries on soils and in the open field.