One on one with Jesse Mwangi, Tissue Culture Banana “agroprenuer”
What is plant tissue culture cultivation?
Plant tissue culture is the rapid multiplication of plantlets using aseptic biological methods. The plantlets are grown in an artificial medium which has all the nutrients required by the plantlet, in the correct proportion. These resultant plantlets are disease and pests free.
The Agricultural sector is the largest contributor to GDP in Kenya and thus plays a big role in our ever growing economy. Emerging techniques such as tissue culture micropropagation enable farmers to commercialize their agricultural activities (“Kilimo Biashara”).
What are the advantages of the tissue culture seedlings?
- Disease and pest free
- Early maturity
- Better production
- Occupy less space in the farm (medium sized
- Ease of transportation of
seedlings as they are small in size compared to conventional suckers
NB: They require more labor to get maximum production and may require watering once a week during dry spells.
What are the stages in the propagation process?
- • Mother block establishment is the first thing, as it forms the source of inoculating materials and it must be virus indexed
- Then we do ex-plant preparation which involves reducing the sword sucker from the mother-block into a cube of 7x7mm
- Then inoculation, which involves initiating the cube into sterile medium (Murashige and Skoog)
- Then, multiplication where the cube is subjected into this medium for exponential multiplication
- Rooting formation is thereafter enhanced by withdrawing one of the growth enhancers from the medium
- We then have weaning, where the plantlets are removed from the sterile growth room to an open room where the bottles are opened and left for at least 48 hours
- Then transplanting, where the plantlets are removed from the laboratory and planted in the real but sterile soil in the hardening nursery in a tunnel.
- Then potting; where the plantlets are transplanted into potting bags with virgin sterilized forest soil, inside the shadenett, where they stay for 2-3 months before they can be sold to the farmers for planting.
Where can someone get tissue culture seedlings
One of the places you can get tissue culture seedlings is from Bonprix enterprise based in Kandundu, Murang’a County. We have a state of the art tissue culture banana laboratory and nursery facilities. Establishment of the enterprise involved extensive consultations with institutions like KALRO, JKUAT and other relevant stakeholders in the public and private sectors. The idea to establish the enterprise was as a result of the need to meet the overwhelming demand for tissue culture bananas. The devolved Government formed a catalyst to trigger this demand.
The facility was established in 2015 and is run by qualified staff trained in biological sciences and have had hands-on experience and exposure in KALRO Thika. Additionally, Jesse maintains close consultation with experts from nearby Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Thika. The top management has global experience, having worked with multinationals within and outside the country.
On completion, the facility was inspected by KEPHIS and other regulatory bodies like HCDA, and requisite compliance certificates issued.
Do you provide any after sales service?
Farmers need to be trained in Good Agricultural Practices to realize the benefits of these bananas. These services are offered to our customers for free including a detailed brochure on management of the bananas.
What banana varieties are you microprogate or produce?
Bananas can be divided into 4 categories; ripening, cooking and roasting. At Bonprix we produce we produce the following:
- Grand Nain
- William Hybrid
- Giant Cavendish
- Dwarf Cavendish
- Chinese Cavendish
- Fhia 17&18
- Sweet Banana
Dual purpose (cooking and ripening):
Which benefits have so far accrued and what market(s) have you been able to penetrate?
The proceeds from tissue culture propagation are rewarding, and mostly re-invested in the business. We have upgraded our distribution channel with a customized van specifically for deliveries to farmers. We have sold our seedlings to farmers in Nyeri, Karatina, Kirinyaga, Meru, Embu, Kiambu and now recently venturing into other counties like Nyandarua, Nakuru, Machakos. Our aim is to avail quality banana seedlings all over the country and beyond. To meet this aim, we participate avidly in the agricultural shows and various stakeholder forums to sensitize and market our seedlings. Our marketing strategy involves deliveries to existing and potential customers.
What are the main challenges you face?
Our challenges include lack of sufficient rains and the high cost of power during the 6 month process of micro-propagation/sub-culturing inside the laboratory which requires a controlled environment of 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness on a daily basis. Additionally, is the high cost of water.
What are your final thoughts?
Kenya’s population is approximately 45 million people and continues to increase every year. This population growth necessitates increasing food requirements. The banana is currently the top fruit consumed in Kenya, and it is anticipated that the demand for bananas will continue to increase. Notably, growing bananas is less involving compared to many alternative fruits or crops. There is also potential for an export market which is largely unexploited! I would urge more people, especially the youth, to venture into banana farming as a viable income generating opportunity.
How can people get in touch with you?
You can reach on our office telephone 0790486390, Facebook: Bonprix enterprises or visit our website Bonprix.co.ke