The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic held at Egerton University last Saturday was a hotbed of farm technologies. From solar milk coolers to pesticide sprayers and winnowers, farmers were spoilt for choice. We sample some of them.
Solar milk cooler
This machine runs exclusively on solar energy, which it uses to cool milk for at least three days in the absence of sunlight.
The cooler stores the energy in an ice bank, said Dr Musa Njue, a senior lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Egerton University. Dr Njue, the brains behind the machine, said the coolers come in 300 and 500-litre capacity.
“It is ideal for milk aggregators, youth and women groups, medium-scale farmers and even cooperatives,” said Dr Njue. “Farmers sell the evening milk at low prices and on many occasions, the milk gets spoilt or is rejected by processors the following day. This cooler is resilient to climate change and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions.”
The machine is good for mixing a variety of feeds and minerals ranging from dairy meal, pig feed, chicken mashes and human food.
The mixer has a chamber for holding the feed ingredients, a motor, and two outlets for letting out the product. The farmer has to get the right rations of each ingredient and put them in the right compartment.
A mixing device inside the holding chamber stirs and blends the materials once the machine is switched on. The feed mixer can be used in preparing all types of animal feeds.
“Some innovative farmers are even using it to mix soil with manure and fertiliser for bagged and potted seedlings,” said Dr Musa Njue.
It winnows grains such as maize, wheat and sorghum. It consists of a mortar, blower, pulley, dust outlet and a clean grain hopper.
To use the machine, grains are poured into an inlet hopper and the blowers turned on to remove dirt and dust contained in the grains. It has an engine throttle and a fan mechanism which controls air flow for the winnowing operation.
You can winnow maize, sorghum, sunflower, chia, amaranth and beans, among others. The machine winnows 1,000kg of grains per hour.
This machine was showcased by the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Njoro station.
Brian Sakwa of Kalro said the appliance eases spraying of crops on the farm as it can be driven by one person and covers a wide spread at a go. The system is made up of a trolley with one wheel on one end and handlebars on the other.
A 60-litre capacity chemical container is fixed on the trolley and a pump next to it. As the trolley moves, the wheel rotates as it pumps the chemicals through the nozzle and to the crops, explained Sakwa.
“This machine is easy to use and requires no power since it is the rotating wheel that pumps the chemicals.”
The machine is designed with safety in mind as its blades are protected, making it difficult for the operator’s hands to get anywhere near the blades.
The material is fed into the machine either by air suction, gravity or slight thrust by the operator. Wet material is discharged far away from the machine. It is also portable within and outside the farm.
Animal-drawn no-till planter
The planter has a front wheel to ease movement, then a modified disc for making holes, two hoppers; one for holding seeds and the other for the fertiliser and a final disc with serrated protrusions for covering the holes after planting.
To use it, according to Peter Kiprotich of Kalro, Njoro, the plough is hauled across the farm and as it moves, the first disc cuts the lines, making the planting holes, then the seeds and fertiliser automatically drop into the holes through calibrated outlets before the final disc covers the holes.
The system minimises the manpower required to plant crops as only two people operate it. The use of animals makes it accessible to small farmers.
It performs three post-harvest operations simultaneously. The grain is threshed, polished and winnowed and comes out of the machine ready for the market.
The capacity of the machine is up to 450kg/h. It threshes sorghum, green grams and millet, among others.