For many years, most flower farms tend to grow roses in the same locality and climate. This leads to production of similar roses of slightly same quality which competes for the same market globally. But this was not the case for Flower City Kenya which has established itself in a remote and semi arid area of Yatta, away from the common traditional growing areas.
Against the expectations of many who couldn’t believe a flower project of this nature could flourish in such an area, the farm has beat the convictions with the aid of innovations such as fogging machines and other technological advancements. They are able to grow flowers which are highly valued in Europe and other parts of the world.
According to Stephen Ngunjiri, the Production Manager of the farm, the preference of settling in Yatta hills, which is a resilient area was majorly driven by the area having untapped soil potential, which is quite an uphill task to find in the traditional growing zones. “In Yatta hills, we are in a unique serene environment where our flowers do well. Being a hot area, we experience hot daylight and cool nights which guarantee us shorter flash of T-Hybrids roses of good head size and stem lengths,” Ngunjiri said.
Being the only flower farm in the area has been advantageous to them as build up of pests and diseases from neighboring farms is not there hence their roses are hardly attacked by common pests and diseases as experienced elsewhere.
“Our Directors had to put up a highly professional team; agronomical and crop husbandry experts to access the suitability of this area before investments could begin. All factors of production were highly assessed and the pros where good compared to the cons,” he stated.
The area experience very high temperatures, thus one of the biggest assets the farm had to acquire was a fogging machine to ensure the superiority of their flowers is maintained. The machine sprinkles fine mist over flowers in greenhouses thus cooling the roses as well as maintaining humidity in their greenhouses.
The Farm that is in Machakos County and on its 3rd year of cultivation specializes in growing 16 varieties of roses with a production of 220 stems per meter square. They have installed several fogging machine units which service all their greenhouses on a total area of 20 acreages. One of the machines is installed in their pack house, one at grading area to provide a cool environment when the roses are being weighed, defoliating, graded and packed before being moved to cold rooms for preservation.
“The main essence of installing the machines is to achieve high quality flowers in terms of the bud size as well as the stem length for our Auction market. Auction market is very competitive and demands high quality roses, if you can’t achieve it, you soil your reputation,” he said.
Additionally, they have installed a modern cable carrier known as Banana Transport System; an over head means of transportation of flowers to curb post-harvest loses thus assuring their customers high quality, colorful and fresh roses. “Besides the technological advancement, we have invested more in our human resource. We try our best to ensure they are well motivated and this gives them the drive to work hard and to take care of flowers thus guaranteeing good quality of roses,” he said.
During the fertilizer shortage that befell the industry last year, the company was hard hit and had to incorporate organic fertilizers to keep their crops going on. With the flower industry facing various uncertainties such as low prices experienced during the valentine season among others, Ngunjiri advices his fellow growers to use various techniques that can ensure they don’t make loses but maintain reasonable margins.