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Seed treatment technology helps potato farmers double yields

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treated potato seeds

Potato farm­ers in Bomet and Meru counties are doub­ling yields with a seed treat­ment tech­no­logy that com­bines bio con­trol products and syn­thetic chem­ic­als, in a bal­anced move that pro­duces a healthy plant­ing seed with near zero chances of pest at­tack.

The in­nov­at­ive ap­proach dubbed Viazi power is has been de­veloped by local ag­ri­cul­ture mar­ket­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany Lach­lan Kenya Ltd and is based on the prin­ciples of fu­sion farm­ing, which aims to in­crease food pro­duc­tion while min­im­iz­ing en­vir­on­mental im­pact.

Viazi Power works through a com­bin­a­tion of “bio-con­trol” products and syn­thetic chem­ical and bagged fer­til­izer products, res­ult­ing in an en­vir­on­ment­ally friendly seed treat­ment that in­creases yields and crop qual­ity at a sus­tain­able cost while pre­serving soil qual­ity.

Seed treat­ment can re­duce pesti­cide use since it re­quires a very small quant­ity of chem­ic­als.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: New tech­no­logy helps farmer pro­duce potato seeds in three weeks

Through a Feed the Fu­ture grant from the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID), Lach­lan was able to pilot this in­nov­a­tion in Kenya’s Bomet and Meru counties. To date, nearly 200 potato farm­ers have tried out Viazi Power, and the early res­ults have been im­press­ive.

“In many cases, we’ve been able to double yields,” says Richard Stone-Wigg, Lach­lan’s founder and chief ex­ec­ut­ive of­ficer. The com­pany plans to dis­trib­ute the product to more than 11,000 potato grow­ers over the next two years.

Viazi, which means “potato” in Kiswahili, is a staple food for mil­lions and a crop that is vul­ner­able to the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

“Ad­verse weather, es­pe­cially drought, has con­trib­uted to famers los­ing their drive,” says Mar­tin Mwo­bobia, Lach­lan’s sales man­ager.

“The un­pre­dict­able cli­mate often renders their farm­ing ef­forts worth­less.”

But with ef­fect­ive seed treat­ment, pota­toes have a bet­ter chance of with­stand­ing heat, drought and other stresses. Kenyan farm­ers, es­pe­cially those tend­ing only small plots of land, are en­thu­si­astic about the Vizai Power tech­no­logy.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Short­age of potato seeds slows pro­duc­tion in Bomet

Stand­ing among sacks over­flow­ing with hearty white pota­toes, Martha Johna, a small­holder farmer in Meru County, says, “Even if you farm only this small plot, it is enough. This sup­plies a whole shop, and you will never lack cus­tom­ers.”

Lach­lan is teach­ing farm­ers how to achieve op­timal yields using Viazi Power and provid­ing com­pre­hens­ive field train­ing that cov­ers ba­sics such as plant­ing and fer­til­iz­ing.

To test tech­nical and mar­ket vi­ab­il­ity, the com­pany will also as­sess the im­pact, ad­op­tion rates, dis­tri­bu­tion and mar­ket­ing plans, be­ne­fits for farm­ers and house­holds, and how the ap­proach will func­tion at scale.

USAID Kenya Mis­sion Dir­ector Karen Free­man says Lach­lan is a great ex­ample of how the Kenya Feed the Fu­ture In­nov­a­tion En­gine, which works like a ven­ture cap­ital fund, can de­liver tech­nical as­sist­ance that com­ple­ments fin­an­cial in­vest­ments.

The In­nov­a­tion En­gine is sup­port­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of in­nov­a­tions for small­holder farm­ers and oth­ers along the ag­ri­cul­tural value chain.

“By part­ner­ing with en­tre­pren­eurs who have prom­ising new con­cepts, products and ser­vices, we can mul­tiply the res­ults we are able to de­liver,” says Free­man.

Lach­lan is one of 13 in­nov­at­ors se­lec­ted by the In­nov­a­tion En­gine to re­ceive tar­geted train­ing and sup­port to test, per­fect and scale solu­tions to poverty and un­der­nu­tri­tion.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Potato farm­ers opt for free seeds from food pro­cessing com­pan­ies des­pite its risks

As part of USAID’s ef­fort to pro­mote local de­vel­op­ment solu­tions, Lach­lan was also awar­ded a dir­ect grant through the Agency’s fixed ob­lig­a­tion mech­an­ism.

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