By Fredrique Achieng’
Onesmus Muthuri needed a steady supply of organic food, when, late last year, his daughter was diagnosed with hyperactivity and doctors recommended she eat only organic foods. The advice sent him searching for organic food suppliers and the quick realization that the market was underserved – which launched him into vertical organic farming.
“I began this venture six months ago after my daughter was diagnosed with hyperactivity and doctors recommended she be fed on completely organic foods. I grow strawberry, garlic and spring onions and am looking into growing vegetables commercially too. The good thing about vertical farming venture is that one can easily grow any crop that we use on a daily basis such as Sukuma wiki, coriander, pumpkin and several others,” said Muthuri.
Thus, with his own home’s organic needs fed with the common crops, he moved to develop the strawberries, garlic and spring onions commercially. The vertical gardens also helped to conserve water, as the staking helps minimize evaporation and water consumption, meaning he only water crops up to twice a week.
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On his 10 by 50 farm, Onesmus is using different varieties of vertical farming such as sacks for vegetables, pyramids for strawberries and stories for a variety of herbs.
“One vertical pyramid holds around 100-120 plants for my strawberries I have 8 pyramids that produce 30 kilos per weeks of harvest. Additionally, I only get to use 20 litres of water per week for each system, this really helps me in saving water consumption in my venture,” says Muthuri
The most common soil mixture for vertical farming is a mix of soil, manure and 3kg of DAP and lime, but since Muthuri purely does organic farming he uses coarse vermiculite, compacted peat moss and compost.
He is currently using a ratio of 25 per cent vermiculite, 25 per cent compost and 50 per cent of peat moss, which he mixes thoroughly with the soil. He then fills the sack with the mixture and waters it with about 30 litres of water to ensure that the soil is moist and start planting.
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This kind of sack farming also makes crop rotation easy, as he can grow new and different options as he pleases. But strawberries are currently his top option, producing plenty for sale in the local markets and supermarkets in Kabete.
Today, from his six sacks of strawberry plants, he harvests on average 20-30 kilos per week. He sells a kilo at Sh150 that translates to Sh4,500 per week.
According to Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (Koan), the demand for organically grown foods has continued to increase as more and more Kenyans are concerned with the link between food and their health.
Through his company Tawa Gardens, Muthuri also designs, Installs and maintains vertical farming systems for other farmers, at the cost of Sh500 to Sh6,000.
Muthuri can be reached on 0722859681