Hamish Ker,(Right) The Andermatt Regional Commercial Manager shows some of the crops being grown at The Andermatt demo farm.
By Murimi Gitari, June 5, 2023, Andermatt, leading Swiss biological agricultural product manufacturer, has set up office in Kenya as it seeks to spread into the region with its wide assortment of natural solutions to rejuvenate soils in a regenerative manner and manage pests and diseases with a range of biological tested solutions.
The company has set up a demonstration farm in Naivasha, Kenya, where it is producing beneficial insects as well as growing a wide range of crops to demonstrate how nature can be harnessed to improve farm productivity for both small- and large-scale growers.
The Naivasha facility is a breeding centre for beneficial insects -the main insect currently produced on mass is the Phytoseiulus mite that are harvested daily for introduction in farms across Kenya to combat the destructive red spider mite especially in flowers.
“The Phytoseiulus persimilis feeds on red spider mites, and consumes up to five adults or twenty eggs a day providing an effective biological control instead of spraying chemicals”, said Hamish Ker, Andermatt Regional Commercial Manager, in Naivasha during a visit to the facility. The facility targets to produce up to 20 million phytoseiulus weekly.
Mr Ker added that as the world grapples with climate change and food security challenges, it is increasingly becoming apparent the need to revert to regenerative and sustainable agriculture systems to enhance soil and plant health for safe, improved farm productivity.
Natural solutions will also improve the efficacy/cost of pest control/plant nutrition and reduce the need to rely only on traditional chemical interventions and salt fertilizers, he added. “By using nature’s solutions, we can reduce the need for pesticides which in turn reduces pressure on the environment as well as production costs and makes for a more conducive farming environment.”
Ker emphasizes the need to focus on healthy crops by introducing natural / biological stimulants. “Healthier crops are less susceptible to attacks from pests and diseases because they have inbuilt ability to fend off external attacks”, he said.
To achieve this, he says “we must first start with roots, the foundation of the plant by making it possible for a crop to grow a mass of healthy roots and by doing so make it possible for the plant to easily take up more nutrients from the soil.”
When the plant feeds on a healthy balanced organically charged soil with a rich living microbial population it is able to develop a significant plant mass made up of multiple strong stems/branches supporting many large green leaves for max photosynthesis leading to a healthy and productive harvest.
And if the focus is on the 60 percent of Kenya’s smallholder farmers, we can tackle food insecurity and combat climate change “If we can improve the performance of the small-scale farmer, it will not only be good for the farmer but also the country in terms of food security,” he says.
The Andermatt demo farm is growing maize, Sukuma, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, wheat, sorghum, sunflower and millet – Kenya’s most popular crops in a control experiment to show how mass root stimulation and soil conditioning can result in increased productivity with limited investment.
Using the traditional DAP application with various treatments of beneficial fungi/bacteria and selective biostimulants, the crops are already showing a clear difference, and progressively, farmers, policy makers and the media will see how tapping into nature for natural solutions can make a significant impact to farmers yields and cost of production , said Hamish.
Useful fungi and bacteria occur naturally in the environment, they only need to be applied intensively to the seed/roots with our specially selected root health product range so they grow and overcome/control the disease carrying bacteria/fungi strains which can devastate a farmer’s crop he explained.
The current champion Andermatt seed/root treatment is made up of the following Bascillus(Rhizo Vital) and Trichoderma (Eco T) along with V12 Initiate to provide the farmer with an all in one microbe/macro/micro starter nutrient starter pack.