Advancement in technology has led farmers to adapt to new agricultural practices away from the conventional soil planting, to not using soil at all.
Peter Chege, CEO of Hydroponics Africa Ltd, established the company in 2013 in a bid to provide solutions for farmers to grow nutritious animal feeds and low maintenance vegetables for small scale farmers. This was inspired by the high costs farmers incurred when sourcing for animal feeds and the low quality and quantity received.
As forerunners of hydroponic farming technology in East and Central Africa, Hydroponics Africa Ltd has specialized in manufacturing and installing of customized hydroponic systems.
With a training facility in Zambezi-Kikuyu Nairobi, Hydroponics Africa has so far trained more than 20,000 persons in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda over the years, installed over 5,000 hydroponic systems and greenhouses, and saved over 500 million liters of water. The facility is fully equipped with systems that grow both livestock and poultry fodder, as well as vegetable systems for farmers to learn from.
The cost effective, high quality and sustainable way of farming assures a farmer of fast growth of crops and animal fodder packed with flavour and nutrients. This is because the nutrients are delivered directly to the roots of the crops, as this practice allows farmers to plant crops in water instead of soil.
Mr Chege noted that growing animal fodder has revolutionized how farmers breed their animals. It is now easier and cheaper for farmers to grow feeds in weeks as opposed to waiting close to 90 days to have Napier grass for instance.
This is done under controlled conditions similar to that of a greenhouse and with sufficient supply of nutrients. This technique makes it possible to farm in harsh weather conditions, has no restrictions of planting seasons, nor dictations of crop spacing.
Plants receive nourishments through mineral nutrients (fertilizers) dissolved in water and inactive mediums such as rockwool, coconut fibre, clay pellets, sand, rock pebbles, macadamia and coffee husks.
“For beginner farmers, it is best to select fast growing plants that require minimal maintenance and are in the same range of nutrients. This allows the farmer time to learn more on how the system works and how to improve it.” Said Mr Chege.
Some of the plants that thrive in hydroponic systems include chilli pepper, herbs like cilantro (dania), mint, basil, thyme, green vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale and tomatoes.
Benefits of Hydroponic farming
- It eases the burden of land clearing, preparation and soil borne diseases
- Uses less water as one can recycle the water repeatedly
- Crops grown through hydroponics are superior in nutritional value and flavour compared to soil based
- Has a higher growth rate which guarantees bountiful harvests
- Has no limitation to seasonal planting and is not easily susceptible to harsh weather conditions because its growth conditions are controlled
- Fodder grown has high nutritional value for cows, goats, sheep and chicken.
- Vegetables grown are fit for human consumption and are of a higher quality.