In the recent past, we at Hortfresh Journal have encountered many young people who are taking up farming with full throttle. This is proving that there are immense opportunities in agribusiness for young generation to capture. In pursuit of this, we visited Kayanet farm, Chergei area; Nakuru County where a young farmer; Dennis Kipyator is specializing in eggplant farming among other horticultural crops.
Kipyator is full of smile as he plucks big purple vegetables from one plant to the other in his farm. It is harvest season, and just like any other farmer, he is looking forward to rake in good profit from his farm.
After graduating from Rongo University, he secured a job at a car bazaar in Nakuru town, selling vehicles but the pay was too little to take home and thus he went back to Chergei to secure a living from the soil.
Chergei area is known for maize farming but he chose eggplants due to their short maturity period as well as their high returns. “I majored in this mode of farming as I discovered that high earning arises when you have unique product; avoiding struggling with others for the same market. The maize market itself is usually limited,” he noted.
Eggplant (Solanummelongena) is a crop that is used to flavor food, make salad, or cooked as a vegetable. It comes in different colors; white, purple and green. The purple variety is the most common. Locally, eggplant is known biringanya but it has other names such as; brinjal, garden egg and guinea squash.
The first step to producing high quality eggplants is to choose the variety you want to grow and proper preparation of the seed beds. Kipyator had to meticulously follow the laid down procedures of planting the crop. He learned these procedures from an agronomist as well as carrying out research from internet.
To grow the crop, he first sows the seeds in a nursery bed. “The soil should be mixed with well-composted manure before planting the seeds. The nursey should be watered every day for the seeds to sprout, which happens after 10 days.” he said.
Kipyator transplants the seedlings after four weeks; they take about six weeks to develop pink and yellow flowers and then the purple fruits start forming.
“Top dressing is recommended at 40 days after transplanting. During this period, three nodes are removed at the tips of the plant to improve branching and to increase the number of fruits. Weed control should be shallow, to avoid damaging the roots. Mulching reduces moisture loss and weed problems,” he advised.
Eggplant matures in three to four months. When fully mature, they develop a glossy dark-purpled skin. They are sweet when still glossy but when they stay longer in the farm they develop some green patches that put off buyers.
“The yields have been very encouraging. I usually sell my produce at Kabarak area, Nakuru town, to reputable hotels and also other buyers come to buy from the farm. I sell my eggplants depending on their head size; the small ones fetch 10 shillings and the bigger ones go for 20 shillings, “he said.
Pests such as red spider mites attack the plant, but the good thing about the crop is that it is resilient. “Spider mites suck juice from the plant’s leaves, making them wither. I spray once a week to keep the insects at bay,” he said.
Dennis also cultivates spinach, sukuma wiki (collard green), onions, sunflower, tomatoes among others. As he continues to enjoy proceeds, he plans to expand the eggplants acreage so as to increase his customer base.