Tissue culture plantlet business pays: Expert
6 months ago, 22 June 22:15
Dr Anthony Njogu Njurai, 55, says he started raising fruit seedlings in 1992, but went fulltime into the business after quitting formal employment.
“I always desired to raise seedlings and had a nursery in Mwala, Machakos in 1992,” said Dr Njurai who is an agriculture expert.
“It did not work well as I was away most of the time. When I quit my job in 2006, some friends asked me to get them 140 TCB seedlings. I brought them from from the Kenya Agriculture and Research Livestock Organisation in Thika.”
After just one season, his friends asked for more seedlings.
In 2008, he met specialists from a tissue culture biotechnology firm at Embu showground who agreed to sell him ready-to-plant seedlings at a discount.
“I bought the seedlings at Sh75 each at the start of every rainy season and sold them at Sh100,’’ he said.
He would transport them in his station wagon from the lab in Nairobi to Kirinyaga, where he had put up a shade net in his home.
It later dawned on Dr Njurai that he could do better by buying TC plantlets and raise them in the nursery then sell them after four months.
He began with 140 seedlings per year but now handles more than 20,000.
“I got the plantlets from Genetic Technologies Ltd and Mimea International labs in Nairobi,’’ said Dr Njurai, who holds a PhD degree in Climate Change and Adaptation, from the University of Nairobi.
To make more sales, he employs several strategies.
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He continuously researches on banana varieties that are on demand. The varieties include Grand Naine, Williams Hybrid, Plantain, Giant Cavendish, Green Kiganda, Nusu Ng’ombe, Valery, FHIA 1 and FHIA 17.
He also uses past sale records to tell the seedlings that are on demand. Dr Njurai attends ASK fairs and exhibitions, besides visiting farmers’ fields.
He gives technical advice to farmers and clients and links them to markets in Nairobi and other major towns.
In addition, Dr Njurai transports the seedlings to customers’ farms and uses commission agents.
“Whenever I get a new customer through a referral, I reward the one who sent him me,’’ he said.
If transport is needed, he negotiates the costs and shares with the customer.
Drought is one of the main challenges his business faces.
Though there is no fixed profit, Dr Njurai says one can make Sh25 per seedling, which goes for Sh110.
He does not give the precise figure of what he makes but says it has enabled him to pursue his passion and educate his two children up to university level.
The farmer advises farmers to embrace TC technology in bananas and other crops “as a way of multiplication of clean planting materials’’. He urges the government to provide enabling environment for agripreneurs to acquire TC equipment.
“Right now however, the equipment and chemicals used in TC labs are expensive and out of reach of majority of starters,’’ he laments.
Don sets up farm in his village where he propagates tissue culture bananas and sells mainly to counties
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