FreshCrop growth strategy boost production of clean potato seeds
When the Managing Director of FreshCrop Limited Chris Gasperi organised a farmers’ field day, little did he know it would attract more than 1,000 farmers across the country.
The event sought to help potato farmers keep abreast with the latest technologies in the sector that is worth more than Sh50 billion as per the latest data from the National Potato Council of Kenya.
About 800,000 farmers countrywide grow the crop with a total production of between 1 to 1.4 million tonnes which generates between Sh30 to Sh40 billion annually.
Smallholder farmers contribute 83 per cent of the total production which supports nearly four million Kenyans either directly or indirectly.
Unlike the traditional field days, last month’s event at Mau Narok incorporated agrochemical companies operating in Kenya to showcase their products to farmers.
“During the field day, we brought on board many the companies that showcased their products, services and inputs used by potato farmers. What the farmers see as advertisement on mass media was brought closer home,” said Mr Gasperi.
He added: “During the event, farmers got an opportunity to interact with experts and ask questions about their products and services and this cleared a lot of doubts and misinformation. The knowledge the farmers gained will translate into a practical solution to their farming ventures.”
Mr Gasperi said companies were allocated a one-acre piece of land to showcase their products while FreshCrops Limited donated the seeds that were used in the demonstration plots.
“As a company propagating certified clean potato seeds, we can only achieve our goal of reaching more farmers if we incorporate other players along the value chain,” he said.
The 37-year-old American nurse who is chasing his dream in potato fields started potato farming in Nyandarua County in 2019.
“I saw there was a huge opportunity for streamlining and since FreshCrop Limited is a decentralised seed company, we took in the needs of the farmers and we moved closer to them to enable them access clean potato seeds, we also introduced them to agro-chemicals that are not harmful to their crop,” he explained.
He continued: “I’m happy that after exposing smallholder farmers to the newest technologies like hybrid tube potato seeds and apical cutting as well as linking them to financial institutions, this has ushered in new varieties in the country and this has paid huge dividends as farmers are now reaping from their sweat.”
He added: “Smallholder farmers have been struggling for a long time without any tangible solutions offered to them to sustain their ventures and earn more income.”
Potato value chain
“At FreshCrop Limited we want to provide the needs of all smallholder farmers in the potato value chain because when we start scaling up this operation we want to keep our smallholder farmers supplied with clean potato seeds round the clock in the entire planting season,” said Gasperi.
He singled out SNV Netherlands Development Organisation through its campaign dubbed Climate Resilience Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) for supporting his company to help potato farmers reduce production costs and boost their incomes.
“We have shared goal with SNV as it has introduced to us some of the new technologies of breeding, mechanization, irrigation and helping train more than 150 trainers –of-trainers (ToTs) within nine counties on adaptive measures on climate-smart agriculture,” said Gasperi.
He said this model of cooperation between the company and SNV has built trust as more farmers are embracing climate-smart agriculture practices in counties like Nyandarua, Nakuru, Narok, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Kiambu, Meru and Bomet.