By MURIMI GITARI
Crop Nutrition Laboratory Service limited has made a big move of relocating its offices from Kenya’s busy capital to Limuru town in Kiambu County.
HortiNews visited the Cropnuts new home where Managing Director Jeremy Cordingley says the demand for the company’s quality laboratory services and farmer training is growing necessitating the need for bigger space to accommodate the growth.
“We had to get a more spacious area with growing facilities for a wider range of analytical and technical services”, he said. “Our new home will be a centre of analytical and agronomic excellence with the aim of serving farmers with a wider range of quality in agricultural, environmental and food safety markets, therefore we refer to our new home as ‘Cropnuts Campus,” said Mr Cordingley.
He adds they will now be able to reach more farmers as they are closer to them, as well as pursue diversification to food safety and environmental services sectors. He describes the environment at the Cropnuts Campus as calm and cool for business with easier access to farmers who they will be training and offering agricultural services to enable them increase yields.
The campus will have a training centre for certified agronomists who will later be released to help farmers in their respective areas, being one of the contributions they aim at giving the agriculture sector not only in Kenya but Africa at large.
Traditionally Cropnuts is recognized as the independent and accredited Centre for Soil testing and providing Soil Correction and Fertilizer Recommendations.
“ We are doing so much more” says Oscar Adikah, in charge of Cropnuts Digital Marketing. “Yes it is true that many farmers recognize us by the expertise we have on soil but we offer a wide range of Food Safety, Water and Environmental analyses as well.”
Analytical Centre of Excellence
In the new facility Cropnuts will host an Analytical Centre of Excellence which will focus on Agricultural, Environmental and Food Safety Analyses and incorporate a wide range of tests and techniques.
“We already have incorporated new technologies to test soils, diseases and water but are aiming to advance further. New analytical technologies can make testing faster and cheaper, however, with many new developments it is important that the quality of the output remains good and comparable with the traditional ways of testing.” “Next to serving our Kenyan customers with good Agronomy and Analyses the Cropnuts Campus will function as a Reference Laboratory for new techniques and a Quality Control Centre for the laboratories we have operational in different African countries”, says Mr Cordingley.
Later in 2019 we expect to open our food safety unit focusing on food microbiology and contaminants such as pesticide residues for the domestic market. We have reason to believe that food safety is a topic that requires more attention. The high demand for food in Kenya drives farmers to do everything to be able to sell which can lead to situations that compromise food safety and there should be ways to test that.
Cropnuts International expansion
The company has been offering independent Agronomy services and accredited analyses for the past 20 years and is serving 10,000s of farmers in Kenya every year.
The successes of these farmers have not gone unnoticed. Besides a growing number of farmers demanding our services in East Africa, Cropnuts has also started offering soil analyses in West Africa. “We have set up a franchise model for soil testing labs in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal serving in up to 50,000 farmers together with our local partners” says Conrad Adikah, Soil Laboratory Support Engineer. This year we expect to be serving 6 countries with our franchise soil testing services. It gives us a unique position in the African market.
Martin Mburu, Head of Technology at Cropnuts confirms this. “We are putting more and more resources into building an intelligent platform that can provide recommendations to farmers even when we have not yet tested their soil in the lab. We have a “smart soil platform” for many countries and with our continued field trials and research we are able to offer all types of farmers advise that will help increase their yield, save money, as well as become climate smart and environment friendly.”
Growing Together, Daktari w a Udongo
Cropnuts started a service known as ‘Daktari wa Udongo’ five years ago aimed at reaching out to small holder farmers owning between 1-5 acres of land to offer soil analysis and advisory services. The service has rapidly grown and has been embraced positively by farmers who have been able to reap high and better yields from their farms.
Ian Mutua, an agronomist with Cropnuts says the service is open to both upcoming and experienced farmers and works as a network of collaboration between different stakeholders in the agricultural sector, agronomists and people working with value addition agricultural companies as well as farmers growing on contract for bigger outfits. “We have agronomy agents in all the 47 counties and anyone in need of our services can get all the details from our website where you can contact us and get directed to our lead agent, the main agronomist who is the ‘Daktari wa Udongo’ agent at local level. The agents are always available at any field farmer day.
As part of the new growth strategy Cropnuts has started to recognize and award “Champions in Agronomy”, farmers that have made extraordinary achievements by increasing yields, enhancing their soil quality and battling soilborne diseases through investing in information and create positive changes by applying that information.
“We have heard success stories from open field farmers to greenhouse farmers all attesting to the increase in yields that they have got from this tailored service, one of them being a potato farmer in Narok known as David Maroko who is a young farmer showing that the programme has not only attracted experienced farmers but also young, upcoming and digital ones both in the rural and urban setting, or the story of David Mbugua, another potato farmer in Nyandarua who increase his potato yield 5 times to a staggering 12 tons per acre with a non certified local variety, by just applying the recommendations he got from a soil test” Mutua explains.
An important part of our growth strategy is to unlock the tremendous yield potential currently locked up in Kenya’s agricultural soils. It’s just a matter of time, persistence in repeating the message that with good agronomy practices and knowledge of your soils all Kenyan farmers could be harvesting like Patrick Mbugua” says Mutua. The Cropnuts Campus with its center of analytical and agronomy excellence which is sitting on a three- acre piece of land in Limuru is already becoming a thriving hub of agricultural knowledge and success, the future is bright and green according to Mutua.
Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd,Limuru,