- For six years, Mr Kiarie has been growing strawberries conventionally on his three-acre piece of land, making him one of the biggest suppliers of the fruits countrywide.
- The farmer has further invested in a mist irrigation system that helps him beat frost during the cold season while the shade net stop birds that ravage the fruits when grown in open field.
- To grow the crop, Kiarie first prepares a bed with a mixture of soil and manure at a ratio of 3:1 with a spacing of 60cm between the crops and 30cm between rows.
- He produces at least 4,500 punnets of strawberry from a three-quarter acre, with each going for between Sh120 and Sh180.
Huge tracts of land under potatoes stretch to the hills yonder as one traverses Nyandarua County.
Our destination is Kinuthia Kiarie’s farm on the foot of the Aberdare Ranges.
For six years, Mr Kiarie has been growing strawberries conventionally on his three-acre piece of land, making him one of the biggest suppliers of the fruits countrywide.
Besides selling the fruits in major supermarkets, the farmer says he exports them to London, Mogadishu and Kampala.
To continue enjoying sweet fruits from the berries, Mr Kiarie has invested in modern technologies, which are making his strawberry farm one of the most advanced in the country.
Instead of using dry leaves and twigs as mulch to grow his strawberries, Kiarie has adopted polythene mulch.
Black polythene sheets dotted with green plants under a green net stand out as the Seeds of Gold team tours the farm.
The plastic mulch has reduced his water use, cut labour expenses since there is no weeding and keeps his fruits clean.
The farmer has further invested in a mist irrigation system that helps him beat frost during the cold season while the shade net stop birds that ravage the fruits when grown in open field.
“Mist irrigation uses an overhead sprinkler. The system is connected to tanks that distribute water from a pressure pump helping fight frost during cold season. I also use it during hot weather to curb wilting,” he explains.
Besides that, he has also invested in a small lighting system that helps him grow his fruits faster. “I use the normal LED lights, which I have hung above the plants. They produce enough light, aiding the plants to make food through photosynthesis including at night. The lights also help induce flowering throughout the life of the strawberry plant, increasing yields and the size of fruits,” he offers.
“This is a Sh1.3 million project that I am keen to use to double my yields and earnings,” he adds.
According to him, production during the cold weather has been dropping by between 50 to 75 per cent due to presence of frost, which deters the fruits from flowering.
Therefore, the light and mist irrigation system help him overcome the two challenges. “Strawberry is an ever-bearing fruit, thus one makes it more productive by using the night lights.”
CUTS THE AMOUNT OF WATER LOST