Harvest Flowers’ Roses thrives big in different Agro-ecological zones

As the first streaks of sunlight stretch on the gigantic Aberdare forest to usher in a new dawn in Nyandarua County, we visit Harvest flowers Kipipiri, which sits near Murungaru town on the scenic view of the foothills of the beautiful Aberdare Ranges. The company has been in existence for over 22 years growing, exporting flowers to the international markets. Harvest Flowers Ltd has two other farms; Harvest Flowers Athi-River and Harvest Flowers Kinangop.
Pius Kimani the farm manager of the Kipipiri and Kinangop farms avers that growing roses at different agro-ecological zones has given the company a niche and competitive advantage in flower production to the desire of their International buyers. This is because the zones have different weather/climatic condition that affect the quality of the flowers, stem length, colour and head size.
The farms located at different altitudes produce sixty-five different varieties of roses; achieving various head sizes, stem lengths as well as a longer flush cycle in the higher altitude farms that lead to superior head size, stem length and overall quality.
“For instance our Athi River farm lies at an altitude of 1450m above sea level; it specializes in spray roses and large intermediate roses on an area 23 hectares of greenhouse and is the nearest farm Kenya’s busiest international airport JKIA. Our Kipipri and Kinangop farms which we refer to as our up-country farms are at a much higher altitude of 2,400m and 2,350m respectively. The cool nights and cold mornings allow for longer flower stems of between 50cm to 80cm with larger flower buds of 5.3 to 6 cm than the intermediate roses grown on our low altitude farm in Athi-river. These two high altitude farms specialize in production of premium T-hybrid roses and premium spray roses. Their combined area under production is 17 hectares and have room for expansion up to 40 hectares,” Kimani averred.
“Our high altitude farms have access to plenty of fresh water that is available throughout, thanks to the Aberdares which is a rich source continuous water flow as well as the frequent rainfall experienced in the area. As an alternative, we have an artisan well that produces water which we store in our reservoirs. All our farms are located in the middle of farming communities thus providing labour to the surrounding community ” Kimani opined.
There are many workers who have been working for the company for over 15 years and are thus very experienced in growing roses. In addition, many of Harvest Flowers supervisors and managers have been with the company for a long time providing a wealth of experience at senior and managerial level.
Their Athi River farm is largely on hydroponics while the up-country farms are entirely on soil. The soil type for the three farms is different, giving each farm a different agronomy approach. The Harvest Kipipri and Kinangop farms have clay soil which is much heavier thus results in high water retention. Nutrients levels are also supreme with very high fertility levels which cut down on fertilizer to be applied thus cutting down costs. The soil is also free of nematodes infestation as it has only been farmed for a short period.
Harvest prides itself as having a very low buildup of pests and diseases such as thrips which are usually ferried by wind from one infested farm to another. Compared to other flower growing regions the pest and disease pressure is low which is attributed to the local climatic conditions giving Harvest a comparative advantage over many other farms.
“Harvest Flower’s Kinangop farm attracted Schreurs a Breeder who established a high altitude trial house to show case their commercial varieties. Other growers who select these varieties come to the Harvest Kinangop farm to learn and observe their growth.
“We make our own greenhouses, where we use steel trapping and wooden profiles and were designed by the late John Williams (Owner and Founder of Harvest Flowers Ltd) . These greenhouses have a very good micro climate and are much cheaper to build further reducing building costs,” he continued.
Being a Fair trade certified business and having won the Fair trade award for the best farm in Africa 2014, Harvest Ltd runs an elaborate corporate social responsibility with various projects undertaken by the Fair trade committee using the revenue from the Fair trade premium. They have installed three 5,000 litre plastic water tanks and built toilets at Murungaru Primary School and at Murungaru Secondary School as well as at Daraja Primary School. “We have a crèche for our employees where they leave their babies and young children to be taken care of by staff employed by the company. All employees are allowed 15 minutes break at 10 am unlike many other farms while nursing mothers are allowed a two hours lunch break minutes to breast feed their babies. We also offer lunch to all our employees and provide free transport to them as a motivation,” Kimani said.
During the cold seasons, the high altitude farms can experience frost which is associated with outbreak of Downy Mildew and Botrytis diseases. They have managed to control this by warming the green houses during the frost periods and managing diseases by planting varieties that are hardy and have a proven track record of being resistant and market driven. Harvest Flowers Ltd is excited with its vision and plans for the next five years and continues to be a market leader as an employer, providing quality and reliability to its international buyers.

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