Successful people have impetus. The more they succeed, the more they want to accomplish and find more ways of succeeding. They are not super beings but ordinary individuals with ordinary aptitude and a slightly different state of mind that is apt towards positive thinking that decodes to achievement of tremendous results
In the undulating terrain of Kabati in Murang’a County, we meet a soft-spoken gentleman Patrick Karanja with an auspicious stature and full of authentic smile. He is one of the few folks taking the agri-preneurial globe by storm.
His journey to the helm of growing red and yellow capsicums, tomatoes, broccoli as well as vegetable seedlings propagation did not come on a silver salver but one with a thorny track full of trials, errors and self sacrifices as well as epic learning course that he articulates to have molded him to his current state.
“I voluntarily tendered my early retirement request to my employer, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) where i had served diligently as a banker for 22 years. I founded my outfit named PK farm and began cultivation with my son Martin Ndung’u in Kiserian, Kajiado County in 2014. We encountered arduousness with the black cotton soil and water scarcity which is highly saline. This made me to re-think and after a whirlwind tour i found this land which is located along the Thika-Murang’a highway and fell in love with it hence relocation to this place was inevitable,” Karanja averred.
During his tenure at the bank, he had the privilege of visiting China and Israel which he opines offered him pivotal lessons as he discovered that small scale farmers are reaping big from small patches of land.” We went to these countries to learn more on how the bank could capitalize more on mortgages and real estate development but agriculture struck me and fell in love with it,” he said.
After the disappointments at Kiserian, he sought the services of an agronomist Mr. Duncan Gathuku who pays close attention to his crops and advices him on good agricultural practices for him to adopt. In addition, he has employed two horticulturists (Okapes and Gerald) on a full-time basis.
On his half, an acre piece of land which is served by fresh glacial water of River Kabuku that trickles down the Aberdare forest, he has adopted both green house and open field cultivation. He has constructed three greenhouses one under the cultivation of capsicum ,the other under cultivation of tomatoes and the remaining for propagation of seedlings. He reveals that there are 1,600 crops of tomatoes and another 1,600 plants of capsicum in the greenhouses which are ready for harvesting and 10,000 vegetable seedlings of various varieties under propagation.
Karanja is quick to note that he is expecting a bumper harvest for a period of three to six months. Per estimations by his agronomist, capsicums will produce 4kgs to 6kgs per plant and tomatoes 9kgs to 10kgs per plant and calculating with the number of total plants in his two greenhouses and the demand currently for them in the market, he will be smiling his way to the bank.
“Agri-business requires one to begin by market analysis. We are currently in a dry season and most people will be sourcing for seedlings to plant when the rains begin to fall and we will be supplying the market with produce,” he uttered.
“Before propagation of seedlings, we sourced them from Plant Raisers but discovered seedlings are on huge demand and are very profitable and ventured into them. At the moment the farm has been contracted by a client to propagated 2400 seedlings which will be ready for transplanting in a month’s time,” he continued.
Through empowerment to the locals, PK farm employs 2 extra casual workers who assist with greenhouse management practices which must be followed to the letter. This involves de-suckering to remove excess plants that reduces yields, weeding, top dressing with manure which he purchases from locals and maasai headsmen around Thika. Propping up is also done to support the plants heavy weight and to prevent capsicums and tomatoes encountering soil as they could be easily affected by soil borne pests and diseases if any.
Due to the compliance of Minimum Residue Levels(MLS) in produce, the farm has adopted Integrated Pest Methods(IPM) such as use of Tutracks to control pests and diseases hence reduction in use of chemicals.
“At the entrance of each greenhouse we have constructed two disinfectants foot baths where one needs to dip his/her shoes before entering. We are very strict on greenhouse sanitation.Furthermore, we have restricted movement of people to this place hence if one needs to visit us, he / she must book for appointment and pay a consultation fee of two thousand shilling,” Karanja explicated. “ The biggest challenge here was security but we managed to fence the plot to keep off intruders and bought two trained German Shepherd dogs to boost the security at night,” he continued. Nematode from previous farm use has also been a challenge but being controlled.
Apart from growing vegetables, PK farm has delved into fish farming and poultry rearing in the small-scale to rake in maximum returns possible and help in a balanced diet for his family.