Plantech Kenya is using Israeli technology for seed propagation. Photo Credit: Murimi Gitari

Automated propagation relieves seedlings headache for farmers

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_content=”AISING high quality seedlings is a major challenge for most commercial and smallholder farms due to the costs, technical skills and the plant science involved.”]

Experts attribute low yields or productivity on some farms to poor germination or the planting of diseased seedlings. Plantech Kenya, a seed propagation company, is helping to fill this gap through automated propagation.

“Commercial farms should pay more attention on the farm and market and leave seedling propagation to companies like Plantech if they want to reap big,” said Idan Salvy, the Israeli founder of Plantech Kenya.

The company, which operates a large nursery in Naivasha, has greenhouses equipped with modern heating, ventilation and irrigation systems to ensure largescale propagation of high quality seedlings of vegetables, herbs, cut flowers and trees. Savvy said the technology was procured from Israel.

“Some of our staff underwent training in Israel on how to use the technology we are deploying here. We continue to expand and develop our capabilities to meet the needs of our customers and I can confidently say the demand is too high,” he told delegates who visited the company’s facilities as part of GLOBAG.A.P Tourstop in Nairobi in March.

“Our irrigation systems are Italian, top-notch, computer-controlled and programmable. It’s more robot than a computer. It will do what you command it.” The propagation starts with sowing seeds in trays filled with peat moss using a sowing machine. Peat moss is preferred as an alternative medium due to its high water retention capacity.

The machine can sow a million seeds per day.

After sowing, the seedlings are moved to a germinating room where they are maintained at the right humidity and temperature, allowing them to germinate uniformly. Different varieties require different conditions. From the germinating rooms, the seedlings are taken to the greenhouse.

“Here at Plantech our work is from the seed to the seedling and for the farmer it is from the seedling to the farm. Therefore, farmers should not struggle to prepare seedlings for their farm but should rather concentrate on farming and the market for their produce,” Salvy said.

They receive orders across the country especially in regions where there is consistent farming throughout the year. On average, the company founded five years ago sells 50 million seedlings per month. It intends to expand to other regions to meeting the growing demand for its seedlings.

Mercy Kainyu, an agriculturist and a Kenya Prison Service staff, and Geoffrey Kainuk, a Master’s student of horticulture at the University of Nairobi, were among the participants that visited the Plantech premises to learn on how vegetables, herbs, cut flowers and trees seedlings are propagated in the right way. Kainyu said she was amazed at the cutting-edge technology the company uses in its activities and got to appreciate the importance of seed quality in crop production.

“If you poorly handle the seed, you destroy the whole crop. Seed quality is very important, especially on its features to withstand diseases and how they have been managed during germination and propagation,” said Kainyu.

“In the field, seeds are ready for planting in a month’s time, but here in Plantech, we have been assured we can have seedlings within two to three weeks. Shortening the growing period, for a farmer, is very important. We are in a period of climate change where uncertainty in farming is rampant.”

John Wambugu explaining how the seedlings are handled and transported. Photo Credit: Murimi Gitari

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