byFrancis Shivonje via web
Potato farmers have been trained on good agricultural practices and the need to use certified potato seed. However, they are still realizing low returns from their potato crop due to high cost of production and high tuber loss resulting from damage during harvesting. HortIMPACT and Agrimech Ltd are partnering to introduce holistic potato mechanization services for farmers as a solution to the challenges arising from conventional farming. Holistic potato mechanization refers to all operations from land preparation to harvesting the produce ready for the market. A set of potato machinery constitutes the tractor, fertilizer spreader, the bedder-ridger, planter, hiller-weeder, sprayer and the windrow-harvester. The complete set of machinery may cost Ksh 12 million. A potato farmer can hire holistic potato machinery services from the Agrimech hub at an estimated cost of KSh 15,000 per acre compared to about Ksh 40,000 per acre using manual labour. Mechanizing potato farming operations will reduce the cost of production and yield loss. For example, harvesting one acre of potato that takes 18 workers 4 days to accomplish at a cost of Ksh 19,000, will take a potato harvester only 6 hours at a cost of Ksh 3,500. This is besides the cost of feeding the workers. Using a potato harvester greatly reduces yield loss because all the tubers are removed from the soil and there is minimal cutting and damaging of tubers. HortIMPACT and Agrimech are set to sensitize and train farmers on the benefits of using potato mechanization through a pilot project in Meru County. Six show case sites are being set up across Meru County for farmer training. The first of these sites was set up in December 2017 on Jane Angaine’s farm in Timau. Agrimech has acquired a full set of potato machinery that are available at its Nanyuki Agricultural Machinery Hub for hire by farmers.