Narok County is widely known for its thriving agriculture sector through wheat and livestock farming.
However, Daniel Kariankei and his wife Abigael Murumbi want to add another feather to the county.
The couple from Eor-Ekule – a place of plenty milk – in Narok East plan to revolutionise the poultry business.
They are in the process of turning their small scale poultry business, which they started three years ago after ditching livestock farming, into a commercial venture to meet the demands of an ever-growing market in the county.
For them, poultry farming presents an avenue for quick returns as opposed to livestock farming that takes time to reap the benefits.
“This is a sure bet compared to livestock farming which is labour intensive and has comparatively high operational cost yet the returns take time. With this, we will be able to get quick returns,” says Mr Karienkei.
Their business will depend on solar-powered technology to run, with the hatching of chicks made through solar-powered incubators.
The smallholder farmers are betting on Mwezi Solar Chicken incubator powered by OVO solar technology from Canada.
The 40-watt incubator, which has a capacity of 32 eggs at a time, can store solar energy for at least 24 hours making the hatching of the chicks hustle-free.
“Incorporating an incubator means that we do not need to wait for the chicken to hatch at their time but the process can be regulated to suit our needs,” says Karienkei.
With the incubator, points out Ms Murumbi, they now plan to purchase 100 hens and cockerels as they expand their poultry business a step at a time. They will also buy eggs from around the area and beyond then hatch them to meet market demand.
Kill many birds with a single stone
“The plan is to have many of these incubators as we expand our operations. We can either sell the chicks after hatching or sell the eggs laid by the hens,” she says.
She explains that a chick aged between two and three weeks goes for Sh100 and 10 kilogrammes of feed costing only Sh700 is needed to feed 32 chicks for two weeks.
“With this technology, we will kill many birds with just a single stone as it is something we have control over. We can increase our supply depending on demand. With it, we will also be to reduce incidents of bad eggs which often are many when hens are left to hatch on their own,” she says.
Mr Martin Vincent, Mwezi Solar – the distributors of the solar incubator – Agribusiness Value Chain Development officer says that the incubator retails at Sh38,000.
However, the smallholder farmers can pay over time through PAYGO with a monthly instalment of Sh2,250 for the one-and-half years. This totals to Sh42,500 in an instalment payment.
Nevertheless, farmers have a 30-day grace period to use the incubator before starting to pay the monthly instalment.
Mr Vincent notes that the technology reduces the turnaround time for those venturing into the poultry business by hatching many chicks at a go and no cost as the sun is freely available.
“With solar power, there will be no instances of farmers complaining of power outages or fuel prices increases. The sun is free and so no cost incurred powering the incubators,” he points out.
The technology makes it easier for smallholder farmers to reap maximum profit from their enterprise as it cuts on costs, especially as the sun is free, as well as reducing instances of “bad eggs” where hens left to hatch naturally.
Further, the pay-as-you-grow model makes the product affordable for low-income farmers as the payment is flexible.
“This product is designed for home use to hatch chicks for rearing and sales with the 32-egg incubator mainly targeting smallholder farmers, as it is ideal for them, but there are other bigger ones for those with plans to go big in poultry farming,” adds Mr Vincent.
Mr John Odundo, Mwezi Solar Business Development Manager says Narok is the second after Kisumu where the technology is being rolled out.
He observes that in Kisumu several poultry farmers have expressed interest in the incubators with six units already sold within only a week.
“We have had a 75 percent reception by farmers in Kisumu with some keen on the technology. Due to the good reception, we have already made plans to ship another 500 units.”