Horticulture crop farmers can attain full seeds germination in their nurseries and seedbeds using coco peat, a soilless growing medium manufactured from coconut husks wastes.
The growing medium also has other advantages over soil which include high water holding capacity and nutrients to seedlings and plants.
According to 2003 Philippine Coconut Authority research on utilization of coco peat on coconut production, coco peat is a 100 per cent renewable organic resource for soilless growth medium with 70 per cent water holding capacity and gradually release nutrients to the plant roots due to its alkalinity.
In Kenya the medium is produced by CocoGrow, a Kilifi-based company which was started at the beginning of last year to manufacture the product.
“The medium offer 100 per cent seed germination as compared to soil and it has high water and nutrient retention capacity of up to 10 times, while also providing optimum aeration for the plants,” said James Kapombe, CocoGrow CEO.
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He says farmers can also reduce chances of pests and diseases attack to their crops by using coco peats.
The company reduces production costs by contracting local engineers who fabricates their production machines instead of importing.
“We love promoting local skills, so we have chosen to hire local experts to make our production machines thus saving us time and money as compared to if we were to import them.”
CocoGrow does their product packaging in a 30 kilogram bags and selling a kilo at Sh33 minus VAT. The company sells the products to traders and farmers in Kericho, Bungoma, Thika, Nairobi and Coastal region among other places on order.
“We have already created a strong customer base in many regions in Kenya owing the value of our product. This has been achieved by attending agricultural events and exhibitions to showcase the product,” said Kapombe.
Before starting a mattress plant using the same coconut by-products, he hopes to move the company to be the leading producer of growing medium in Africa and improve sustainable production in food systems.
“By 2050 Africa will have a doubled population index, and given the average age of an African farmer is 60, we need to seek new ways of crop production and make farming cool for the youth” said Kapombe.