Seed dealers bank on technology to eliminate fakes

Saturday December 3 2016

Farmers sample seeds during a past farmers' clinic.

Farmers sample seeds during a past farmers' clinic. Seed manufacturers have in recent days stepped up efforts to rid the sector of fake products. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BRIAN OKINDA
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Seed manufacturers have stepped up efforts to rid the sector of fake products that are not only denying them revenue but also offering farmers poor yields.

During a recent seeds sector conference in Nairobi, several technologies to fight the counterfeit merchants were showcased and their success highlighted.

Top on the list were anti-counterfeit labels for seed packages, a development from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) and several seed companies.

They involve scratch card labels which assist in seed traceability and anti-counterfeiting.

After scratching the card, the code revealed is sent to a given number from which the authenticity of seeds can be determined.

Kephis at the same time runs the AgroTrack, an online verification and management system, from which a code is used to check the authenticity of a seed product.

Ronald Misigo of Agri Experience noted that the farm runs seed information platforms in both Kenya and Uganda for helping in the acquisition of standard seeds.

Its Seed Sector Platform (Kenya) contains an interactive database for crop varieties, agro-dealers and seed industry directories.

APPROVED SUITABLE SEEDS

The directories contain listings of the verified seed industry participants from which farmers can purchase seeds without fear of being duped into buying counterfeits.

Searching for the necessary seeds involve using keywords among other filters.

The portal in turn gives the farmer the required information about the seeds she wants and the verified agro-dealer from whom the seeds can be purchased.

SeedWorks, another component of the Seed Sector Platform (Kenya), is a searchable database of released crop seed varieties in Kenya which can be downloaded in PDF form.

All the farmer does is fill the online form with the qualities of the seeds she is looking for or keywords about the seeds and results are generated containing the names of the seeds the farmer looks for, with the information being useful in the directories to determine where the seeds can be purchased.

MbeguChoice is another resultant innovation of a collaboration between the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation, Kephis, Agri Experience, Kenya Markets Trust and a host of Kenyan crop seeds companies.

It lets farmers, agro-dealers and extension workers enter basic information such as their county, crop type, season and the desired crop attributes, such as drought tolerance, quick maturity, high yielding among others.

The portal then generates a list of the approved suitable seed varieties along with the names of the accredited seed companies producing and distributing them.