The Internet is where you can learn any new skills.
And it is here that Kilmarx Lukoko learnt a promising crop growing technique — hydroponics. This is basically a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
Since June 2017, the 25-year-old has been planting crops on raised wooden beds using this technique, on his parents’ farm at Eshirumba village, Butere sub-county.
On the day Smart Harvest visits, Lukoko is inspecting his onions, traditional vegetables and cucumbers.
Chemical free crops
He has spread several onion stems out to dry before being transported to nearby Sabatia and Butere markets.
“These were harvested this morning, several others have been taken to the market. I have two farm hands who assist me take the produce to the market,” says Lukoko.
The beauty of this method of growing is that one can harvest even in dry seasons like now. And this is evident in Lukoko’s farm which is lush.
“I have just taken 10 sacks of sukuma and traditional vegetables to the market this morning, that could earn me between Sh800 to Sh1,200 per sack,” the farmer shares.
Sometimes, customers mill around his farm to buy fresh produce and that saves him transport costs.
His agribusiness is doing well, and the young farmer does not regret shelving plans to go to university. Apparently, Lukoko would have preferred to study electric engineering, but the death of his parents shattered his dreams.
“I had just finished Form Four when my father died in 2016 and later my ailing mother followed leaving us desperate. I had to think fast and that’s why I embraced agribusiness.”
Built a house
Techno savvy Likoko, stumbled upon hydroponic farming system while browsing the Internet.
“I was keen to learn more about the technique and days later, I thought it wise to practise the same,” he recalls the first days. Two years ago with no prior agriculture knowledge, Lukoko tried out the promising technology.
Though hydroponics is the technique of growing any plant without soil, however, Lukoko opted to incorporate soil and the results have been encouraging.
He needs not to worry about pesticides, as well as other toxins in plants since the technique effectively reduces these threats.
“Plants produced by hydroponic techniques do not have any pests because I treat the soil and plant certified seed. I also use farm yard manure, so my crops are chemical free.”
To support his venture, Lukoko has installed two tanks and several pipes to deliver water to crops on the farm.
“I first experimented this system with tomatoes which did very well and earned me some good cash for upkeep. I also used the remaining cash to expand the beds, buy pipes and a water tank,” says Lukoko.
To perfect his skills, he seeks advise on crop husbandry from a friend who works at Bukura Agricultural College.
“He advised me to grow Kilele F1 tomato variety and I started with 275 stems in the raised beds and managed to harvest 250 of them which earned me Sh32, 000 in three months.”
Lukoko then diversified into growing cucumber, watermelon and traditional vegetables. At first he planted 7, 000 stems of onions and sold them at Sh17, 300 after three months.
“I found the technique less labour intensive and cost effective since my expenses were just Sh5, 000.”
A part from farm manure which he prepares on the farm, Lukoko uses ash in place of lime to enrich his soils.
He also grows Tissue Culture Bananas and different varieties of Sukuma wiki.
“Organic farming is the, best and responds well to hydroponics farming,” he says.
In a good year, Lukoko earns Sh200,000 from the farm.
The fruits of his farming are evident. With cash from farming, he has put up a decent house, has been paying fees for his nephew studying lab technician course at Sang’alo institute in Bungoma and also supports his sister.
Better still, he has created a few jobs.
“Through farming, I have employed myself and a few of my friends on casual basis. In fact while some of my friends who went to college continue to wait for white collar jobs at home, I am earning a decent living from farming.”
Going forward, he plans to expand his project and turn his farm into a demo plot where young people can learn more about hydroponic farming.