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Here are 5 Smart Farming Techniques That Will Boost Your Profits

Here are five simple technologies that you can easily replicate to boost your earnings from the soil.

EASY WAY TO MAKE TOMATO

WHEN there is tomato glut, farmers normally incur losses yet they can make jam out of the fruits and sell it for a longer time and at a higher price. Indeed, you can make jam from virtually any fruit: avocado, banana or strawberry, just name it.

Joseph Mwangi, a food technologist at Wambugu Farm, describes jam as viscous semi-solid foods containing not less than 45 parts by weight of fruit ingredients (everything in the fruit that is edible) to which 55 parts by weight of sugar have been added.

To make jam, prepare a homogeneous mash from the edible fleshy part of the fruit by pulping it.

Mix the fruit mass with 75 per cent of the required sugar and adjust the PH (acidity or alkalinity) to 3.3 with 20 per cent citric acid solution. Boil for 30 minutes.

Mix the remaining sugar thoroughly with pectin, a preservative. The total added sugar should be equal to the weight of the fruit ingredient.

Add the sugar-pectin mixture and continue boiling until the jam sets, mix three litres of pulp with 1kg of sugar.

Fill it hot into glass jars and later cool in cold running tap water. Mwangi advises that the preserve should be hot-filled at 82 to 85 degrees Celsius in suitable glass or plastic jars.

“If the preserve is too hot then the steam will condense on the inside of the lid and drop down onto the surface and allow mould growth. If the temperature is too low, the preserve will thicken and be difficult to pour and a partial vacuum will not form in the jar,” he says.

Tomatoes

CHICKEN COOP AND FISH POND, ALL IN ONE

This is a simple way of farming targeting urban dwellers who have problems with space. The structure comprises of a fish pond located at the bottom and the chicken cage on top of it. John Wambugu, an agronomist at Wambugu ATC, says the idea is to maximise the space available to generate enough food for the family.

“You have the fishpond and a chicken cage on top of it. Next to it you can have a small greenhouse for vegetables.”

He says the mini-greenhouse is used to harvest water which is stored in a small plastic tank. The water is then used in the pond. The water can also be used to water the vegetables growing inside the mini-greenhouse.

A small area of about 4 by 12 metres can accommodate this type of farming. The pond will measure 3 by 6 metres by 1 metre (deep). The chicken cage of approximately 2 metres by 3 metres and placed on top of the pond can accommodate 10 birds.

The recommended fish species are tilapia and catfish, because they can survive well in stagnant fresh water. “The poultry waste will fertilise the pond and encourage algae growth which acts as food for the fish, as well as regulates oxygen in the water,” he says.

Per square metre, a farmer can only keep four catfish because they are big, while for tilapia six.

“With a pond of 6 by 3 metres which is 18 square metres, a farmer can keep 108 tilapia, or about 70 catfish,” he says.

He adds this type of farming is good since it will provide enough proteins, fish, chicken meat and eggs for the family, and the mini-greenhouse can generate the much-needed vegetables. Some of it can be sold as well.

Both catfish and tilapia are harvested after eight months when they have reached maturity.

To construct a pond, one needs a polythene liner which costs about Sh200 per square metre. The cage is built using timber leftovers. Normally the chicken cage will cost about Sh3,000.

Agric

SMALL BIO-GAS DIGESTER FOR LIGHTING AND COOKING FUEL

This is one of the latest renewable energy technologies. The equipment is portable with the digester made of canvas and has an inlet where wet-dung is put in. It then goes inside the digester and after the “digestion”, methane gas is produced.

At the other end, there is an exit where the waste comes out from the digester. The gas usually comes on top of the digester and is tapped using a pipe and distributed to various points for use.
According to John Wambugu, an agronomist at the Wambugu Farm, the canvas digesters are being supplied by Green Energy, an NGO, at Sh55,000, which is inclusive of the storage and testing.

The combustion of methane gas is usually 100 per cent. He says the energy produced is enough to cook and light up the home.

The end products of this system are methane, which is used as fuel, and slurry that is good manure.

SILAGE MAKING

Making silage is a way to preserve fodder during the wet season for use in the dry season. Silage keeps fodder for a farmer to use when he needs it most.

Doris Wambui Wachira, a livestock production officer at the Wambugu Farm, says it is now possible for a farmer to make silage according to her needs using a small tank.

To make good silage, fodder should be chopped into small pieces, about 2.5cm long, using a panga, or a chaff cutter.

“The smaller the pieces the easier it is to compact them,” she adds.

Steps in making the silage

i) Wilt the fodder for at least 12 hours.

ii) Chop about 500kg of fodder into pieces, 2-3cm long.

iii) Spread 50-70kg silage on a canvas or polythene sheet. Farmers are encouraged to use a silage tank (plastic), which costs Sh15,000. The tank can hold 500-700kg of silage material and is safe and secure. The normal polythene bag, commonly used by farmers, can easily be destroyed by rodents and weather, notes Doris.

iv) Prepare molasses solution by diluting at a ratio of 1:3-1 litre molasses mixed into three litres of water.

v) Spread a litre of molasses solution evenly into 50-70kg of chopped fodder.

vi) Put small amounts of fodder and molasses mixture into the silage tank and compact well. Repeat steps five and six until the bag is filled.

vii) Squeeze out as much air as possible and close the tank.

viii) Store under shade to avoid direct sunlight.

ix) Fermentation is complete within a month and a farmer can use it for more than a year.

Doris advises that to prevent tainting the milk, a farmer should not feed silage within 30 minutes of milking.

“Feed the same quantity of silage as you would feed fresh material and supplement with dairy meal and minerals as required. A 300kg cow eats about 25-30kg of silage per day. One polythene tube will easily feed one cow for 15 days, and silage tank which holds 500-700kg of silage will feed it up to three months,” says Doris.

African Farming

SOLAR DRIER FOR DRYING VEGETABLES AND TUBERS

Specialists at Wambugu ATC say there is no recommended size of the solar drier as all what matters is the space available and your needs.

“You can build as small as a cabinet or as big as a greenhouse depending on what you are drying,” says Joseph Mwangi, a food technologist at Wambugu Farm.

Materials needed are timber, insect net (black one is highly recommended due to heat absorption), and ultra-violet treated polythene paper.

On a sunny day, the tubers can take three days to dry, but for the leafy vegetables, it takes six to eight hours.

He says dried products improve family nutrition since vegetables and fruits contain high quantities of vitamins, mineral and fibre, and for people with diabetes, dried fruits prepared without adding sugar are healthier than popular desserts.

MAKING YOGHURT

According to food technologist Joseph Mwangi, all you need to make your own yoghurt is an alcohol thermometer (Sh200) and fireless cooker (Sh1,500) made of either plastic or sisal basket. Both have home-made insulators inside. As for the ingredients, you also need common sugar (Sh100 per kilo), food flavours, you can use the commercial ones like strawberry, vanilla or use the natural ones, starter catchers- for yoghurt, mala, sour or cream.

Ensure that all equipment used in making yoghurt is cleaned thoroughly to avoid contamination, milk should also be free of dirt and harmful micro-organisms and in absence of a pasteuriser a water bath can be used.

To make the drink, fresh milk is pre-heated to 50 degrees Celsius to allow the mixing of ingredients such as sugar.

It is then pasteurised to 90 degrees Celsius for between 25 to 30 minutes before it is cooled to 43 degrees Celsius and then starter culture is added.

It is then incubated for six hours as acidity level is monitored. The acceptable concentration of acidity in the milk should be between 0.13 to 0.16 per cent.

The yoghurt is then cooled further to below 15 degrees Celsius and flavours and colours added before it is sealed and packaged for the market.

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