Mrs. Njeru Mwihaki of Grace Rock Farms has only good things to say about her agribusiness venture. The startup which is based in Rironi, Limuru, Kiambu County and licensed by Agriculture Food Authority(AFA) specializes in producing quality seedlings of distinct vegetables, fruits and potatoes. Their main objective is to increase the volume and quality of organic seeds to improve agricultural production among small scale farmers.
Recently crowned among the 200 beneficiaries of the agribusiness programme funded by the European Union (EU), Danida and implemented by Kenya Climate Innovation Center(KCIC), the company generates improved seedling varieties using the tissue culture technology. The company was founded after efforts for a continuous search of quality seedlings at a fair price proved futile.
“I identified a gap in the market years after struggling to get quality seedlings for my greenhouse vegetable production reached a dead end. It dawned on me that quality seedling production can be a profitable venture especially to small scale farmers and decided to commercialize it,” said Njeru.
She further explains that the use of quality seedlings has always been considered crucial for attaining proper growth and performance of different vegetable crops. That can only be achieved if seeds are grown in a well-managed nursery.
“I believe the success to better yields and perhaps better profits begins with the right foundation. Our seedlings are well propagated and grown in a well-maintained nursery to ensure farmers get value for their crops.”
Factors such as better yields and profits have contributed to several innovative farmers and agri-pre neurs shifting to the production of quality seedlings, that has now become a profession and commercial activity.
Njeru also believes that their success in producing quality seedlings for small scale farmers has always depended on the kind of seeds they sow and the farm inputs they use.
“We grow our seedlings using the soilless media technology which is formulated specifically for the purpose of growing commercial seedlings. What we do is plant the seeds in trays, and place them on an off the bed ground. This results in quality seedlings free from disease,” she added.
Although her company faces challenges such as high input costs and lack of planning for her customers that have greatly led to demand estimate difficulty, she appreciates KCIC for coming on board to help her identify different gaps in terms of compliance and strategy.
“Through the AgriBiz programme, we have already analyzed my business, and developed marketing, branding and customer profiling strategies which I know will boost my business and will help me focus more on my business growth,” claims Njeru.
The corona pandemic has however boosted her business by at least 10% in the last eight months. She says that imported inputs are in low supply and the cost has gone higher, and that has made small scale farmers divert to locally made seedlings.
With the AgriBiz programme now underway, she intends to close gaps; clearly identified areas that need expansion and also seek funding that will help scale her business. She also appreciates the EU and Danida for believing in Kenya’s agricultural sector, seeing the value in upcoming entrepreneurs, especially women and youth and investing in their startups.