Technologies to help boost your harvest

Friday March 16 2018

Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary, Andrew Tuimur accompanied by Uasin Gishu County Governor Jackson Mandago view a portable hay baling machine at the Agricultural Society of Kenya, Eldoret National Show. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG


The Eldoret Agricultural Society of Kenya show, which was held last week, was the place to be for any discerning farmer.

The show attracted throngs for the four days it was on, from students, farmers to agro-dealers.

Among the things that attracted farmers were new varieties of seeds, fertilisers, pedigree cows, agro-chemicals and innovations.

Seeds of Gold attended the event, and of importance to our team were the dozens of innovations to help you boost production and your general experience on the farm. We bring you the innovations.

Portable hay baler

The baler has two wheels and resembles a wheelbarrow. The manual machine gives comfort to the user as it bales grass on the field or at home.


One first harvests the grass and dries it for three to five days depending on the amount of the sunshine.

Inside the baler, there is a blancher and is attached to a lever where a metallic compartment sits. The machine has a lockable cover.  

The grass is filled in the metallic compartment, and thereafter the lever is lifted to compress the grass in 15kg bales.

With the machine, which was being showcased by Karlo, a small farmer can grow their own Boma Rhodes grass or lucerne and make hay for use during the dry spell.


Seed dresser

The machine is composed of a five horse-power engine and drum with the impellers positioned inside so that famers can use to coat their seed grains with chemicals such as insecticides or pesticides.  

“Sometimes farmers may want to re-use seeds during plant because they don’t have money to purchase them or want to control pests and diseases. This equipment can enable them to evenly coat the pesticides or other products on the seeds,” says Nasirembe Wanjala, an agriculture engineer at the Kalro, Katumani.

One opens a cover of the drum then puts in the grains. He then pours a calculated amount of chemical into the drum (with the seeds/grains).

When the engine is powered, the drum with the capacity to hold 50kg of grains rotates. And in the process the chemicals coats the seeds.

“The engine runs for 30 seconds then it is stopped. All the seeds will be uniformly covered because the efficiency of the machine is 99.8 per cent,” says the engineer.


Nasirembe Wanjala, an agriculture engineer from Kalro-Katumani explains how a petrol-powered seed dresser works during the Eldoret Agricultural Society of Kenya Show. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NMG

The seeds are then extracted and dried in the sun for about 10 minutes and packaged for planting or storage.

“The machine also can be powered by electricity and can coat 200kg of small grains in eight hours. This equipment can also be used to blend animal feeds from various supplements such as cotton seed cake, sunflower cake, and rice gem or wheat bran.”

Pyrethrum solar dryer

The solar dryer helps farmers to ensure pyrethrum flowers don’t ferment or lose their content. 

The dryer is made up of a wooden frame, roof (frame and polythene paper) inclined at about 10oC for ease of water draining, polythene paper of 500-1,000 gauge, which should be as tight as possible on the frame to avoid water stagnation. The tray should slide in and out to facilitate stirring of the flowers.

A farmer places the flowers in the gadget immediately they are picked from the field to prevent them from fermenting.
George Juma, from Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya Ltd notes that dryness of the flower ensures that farmers are paid accurately.

He said most farmers make the mistake of drying directly the flowers in the sun after harvesting.

“If you let the sun rays to directly heat the crop, the content on the flowers is lowered. And since farmers are normally paid by processers depending on the crop’s content at Sh100 per content, it is better do things right,” Juma said.

The carrying capacity is 10 to 15kg of wet flowers which is equivalent of a quarter acre farm.

The flowers should be turned at least twice a day for uniform and fast drying. To dry large quantities of flowers, increase dryer capacity by extending the length while maintaining the width at about 1 metre.


George Juma, from the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya Ltd explains how a solar dryer can help cushion pyrethrum farmers against loses. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NMG

The width is restricted to facilitate turning of flowers. The structure has a reduced ventilation to allow the removal of moisture and restrict its re-absorption at night or during times of high relative humidity. The depth of flowers should not exceed 5cm.

Drying time: During sunned weather conditions, let flowers dry for 2-4 days while moderate weather conditions they take 4 to 7 days. He says that during the extreme wet conditions such as elnino, days it takes up to 10 days.

Wheat thresher

Most farmers have a challenge threshing wheat since it is not economically viable to use a combine harvester for small harvest.

A farmer starts the process by using a sickle to cut the wheat and bind into small bundles then puts in the wheat thresher.

The equipment is operated manually by two people. One feeds or loads the small bundles of the harvested wheat while the other person cycles the machine.

It threshes and sheaves up to 85 per cent, so a farmer only needs to winnow them so that they remain clean.

The machine can process an average of eight 90kg bags in a day, according to Nasirembe Wanjala of Kalro, Katumani.


Kerosene/electricity automatic incubator

This locally customised incubator is as good as any other, including the imported ones, according to Paul Kibuba, Uasin Gishu County senior livestock production officer.

To begin with, it has a thermostat which acts as the brain of the unit.  It also has a cable called thermo-cable that works in such as a way that it automatically controls the temperatures inside the incubator.

“When the temperatures go up, then it notifies a sensor which then switches off for some minutes. You find that in 24 hours, it uses electricity for just 12 hours,” says the officer.


A school pupil checks the portable incubator at the Eldoret Agricultural Society of Kenya show held last week. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NMG

The gadget has two bulbs (60 watts each), which provide heat and a fan that evenly distributes the heat in the unit. There are two small holes atop and at the back that provide ventilation.

The incubator is also customised to cushion a farmer in case there is no electricity, as one can use paraffin to hatch the 120 eggs – its capacity.

Inside the unit there are three pipes, with the middle one, an inverted funnel that allows the heat in while the other two act as outlet. At one corner of the unit, there is a mercury thermometer which a farmer uses to check if the temperatures right.

“It is important to maintain the temperatures at a high of 38oC and lower of 36oC for the last three days to avoid killing the chicks. If you find that the paraffin lamp produces more than 38oC temperature, adjust the wick by reducing it,” he said, adding the gadget works in such a way that no smoke goes in the incubator.

The incubator also has plastic bowels that contain water to help to regulate the humidity inside the unit since dry humidity may led to loss of the eggs.


Reducing aflatoxin in maize (nixtamisation)

Nixtamalisation is the process of preparing maize, or other grains by soaking and cooking in an alkaline solution, usually limewater.

The grains are then washed, and then hulled. The process helps to reduce aflatoxin in maize in particular, by between 30 and 58 per cent.

“You mix the grains with food grade lime, sodium bi-carbonate, or maize cob and bean stover ashes before putting them in boiling water for 25 to 30 minutes until the grains have loosened up.

Then wash them again with clean water,” explained Dr Elizabeth Wanjekeche, a food technologist based at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.


Elizabeth Wanjekeche, a food technologist based at Kalro-Kitale explains how one can reduce the levels of aflatoxin in maize grains using lime, bean stovers or maize cobs ashes through new technology called nixtamalization. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NMG

Afterwards, one may choose to cook the maize as githeri by adding beans and thereafter cooking or wet mill them.  

“If one chooses wet milling, then you put the wet grains directly in the meat mincing machine (the small version costs Sh1,500 in supermarkets). As you adjust the machine, they become soft from which one can make products such as kebab, chapati or mandazi.”

But there is also the dry mill, where the wet grains are dried in the sun for about two to seven days depending on the amount of sunshine to attain the desired 13.5oC moisture level. The dried grains are then grounded from which they can make products such as cookies and cakes.

“Through value addition, the youth can take advantage of this innovation. The smallholder farmers can also increase their earnings from Sh50 per a tin for the grains if they just grind in a posho mill to Sh300 for the products,” said Wanjekeche, adding the technology can be applied to sorghum and groundnuts which are known to be affected by aflatoxin.