Do you live in the diaspora and have been wondering what profitable business you can venture into in Kenya, we might have just the answer for you. Try strawberry farming and see how fast you reap returns from that land.
Strawberry farming has been increasing in Kenya in the past few years as more people discover the financial potential behind the fruit. And for most people, it takes a maximum of three months to start reaping from the venture.
We will take you through a series to help you conceptualize the while process from land preparation, planting, weeding, pest control, ripening, harvesting, packaging and ready market. We will also provide an approximate budget and projected returns per acre.
What Are the Requirements for Strawberry Farming?
To start with, you need a viable piece of land. Here are a few more things you need:
- An expert soil analysis from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) or local agricultural extension officer
- A constant water supply
- Stable temperature in the range of 10-30 degrees Celsius
Besides the basic requirements, you need to hire a reliable person to manage the farm for you. You also need to establish a ready market for your product as early as you decide to venture into the business.
Strawberries are perishable with a shelf life of 4 days on the maximum after they’ve been harvested. You need to ensure you distribute them as soon as they are harvested.
Viable Strawberry Markets
Locally, you can market your strawberries to local markets, supermarkets, and food production companies. you can also sell to retail buyers for domestic use. ‘
However, if you’re farming strawberries on large scale, you can find international markets for them. You’ll need to get accreditation from the Kenya Bureau of Standards and other local authorities to venture into the global market.
Different Strawberry Varieties for Kenyan Soil
After getting your soil sample tested and analyzed by researchers at KARI, you should get the most viable seed variety for your berries.
Some of the most common strawberry varieties in Kenya include:
This is the most common variety among Kenyan strawberry farmers, owing to its high yields. The plant grows vigorously and produces large and firm fruits for the consumer. This variety takes between 60-75 days to mature.
The Chandler variety yields long wedged or conical fruits with a brilliant red and glossy color. It is also the most common one in food markets.
The variety is ideal for fresh markets and exports. However, it is not the best variety to use if you’re targeting the food processing market.
The Douglas variety grows into a vigorous plant with clear forage. It’s easily identified by its semi-erect growth habits. This variety’s berries are elongated and mostly conical in shape. Their color is orange-red with a slight shine on the skin.
These berries have firm red flesh and are pink at the center. It is one of the tastiest strawberry varieties. Most farmers love this berry because it is resistant to transport damages. It also has high yields if you need a variety that will give you maximum returns on production.
The Aiko variety is not as popular as the first two, but it also does well in some parts of Kenya. The variety has large conical fruits with pointed ends. It is slightly sweet but less tasty than the Chandler and Douglas varieties.
The fruit has pale red flesh and has high yields. Farmers particularly love this variety because it is resistant to transport damages.
This strawberry is a short day variety that produces pale red fruits with asymmetrical shapes. It is one of the least favorite varieties among Kenyan farmers.
The fruit has a late-maturing period compared to other common varieties and has low production. This variety is mostly used by subsistence farmers who don’t intend to sell their produce.
When looking for a strawberry variety for your farm, get one that is resistant to damages, either by pests and diseases or transport damages.
Pest and Disease Control
Every farmer’s greatest fear is dealing with diseases and pests that limit their crop’s productivity. Strawberries are a horticultural product which means that they are prone to pests and diseases. To reap the best profits from your farm, you should know how to deal with diseases and pests.
Some ways to deal with low produce include:
- Using agrochemicals
- Separating infected crops from the rest
Propagation removes splits from the parent plant to mature fully and produce a maximum harvest. You can use the splits as other seedlings. However, their products might not be as good as the parent plant.
Here are some of the diseases that affect strawberries.
If your plants have wounds, the fungus that causes leathery rot penetrates. The affected plants will show a reddish-brown discoloration at the root neck.
To avoid this disease, use healthy planting material, or go for disease-resistant varieties in the market.
Red Root Rot
When strawberries have this disease, they do not flower or produce too little flowers for a dependable harvest. The small fruits that the plants will produce will dry out.
To avoid this disease, only use certified planting material on your farm. You can get more information on such materials from KARI.
Blossom-end Rot and Stem Rot
You might observe small brown spots on the buds at the early stages of growth. This type of fungus can be detrimental to your strawberry farming venture. After your plants flower, the calyx tails turn brown, causing the fruits to become brown and dry up before maturity.
Visit your agrochemical provider for appropriate treatment of this fungus.
Some of the common pests are:
- Plant lice
- Red spiders
For a successful strawberry farming venture in Kenya, you need to research. Engage with professionals from KARI, other successful farmers and do personal research. Study the different varieties and pick the best option for your farm. After planting the seedlings, keep watering, weeding, and protecting them from pests and disease. Get your market-ready early enough to reduce wastage after harvesting. Overall, strawberry farming is a viable venture that can give you returns on your capital within the first six months of farming.
Planting and Harvesting
After studying your soil and settling for the most appropriate strawberry variety, it’s time to get down to actual planting, harvesting, and selling your fruit.
If you do it right, you could return your capital investment in as few as six months of farming the fruit.
Preparing the Land
Cultivate your land properly, remove all the weeds and soften it. You can then add any animal manure in the right portions to add nutrients to the soil. Consult the local agricultural offices to get the right soil-manure ratio.
NB: Ensure that you have a reliable source of water. Like many horticultural products, strawberries need enough water to grow well.
Buy your seedlings and transport them to your farm.
Planting Your Seedlings
Ideally, an eighth of an acre can host a maximum of 3000 strawberry seedlings. Each seedling costs Ksh. 10, meaning you need at least Ksh. 30,000 for an eighth of an acre.
Factor in other miscellaneous costs such as:
On top of the Ksh. 30,000 initial capital, have at least Ksh.20,000 for these extra costs.
Make rows on your farm, and plant the seedlings 30 cm apart. You should also leave 50cm between the rows for each plant to have adequate space for growth.
Water your plants daily, and use suitable fertilizers and agrochemicals to control pests and diseases.
Keep weeding your farm.
While the plants mature, look for a ready market to dispatch your produce.
Strawberries mature after 60-75 days on average, depending on the variety.
After maturity, you need to harvest your fruit so birds and other animals do not destroy it. The fruit has 4-5 days shelf life after harvest, which you should use to deliver to the market.
After harvesting, place the berries in appropriate containers and ferry them to the market. Some of the viable strawberry markets are:
- Local fruit market
- Food processing companies such as Zesta
- International markets.
On average, a kilogram of strawberries goes for Ksh. 200. You should make Ksh. 10,000 for every 50 kgs of strawberries.
If you did the planting, weeding, and harvesting properly, you should have maximum produce from your farm, resulting in maximum profits.