Miraa yoghurt, new silk farms among top innovations at Nairobi Show

Miraa wine
Miraa wine

This year’s Nairobi International Trade Fair once again proved to be the hub of new innovations and technologies in agribusiness.

The week-long show attracted more than 500 local and foreign exhibitors, a figure slightly higher than that of last year’s trade fair, according to NITF branch manager Minnie Njage.

The focus was on value addition, agro-processing and market diversification among others under the theme ‘Enhancing Technology in Agriculture and Industry for Food Security and National Growth’.

As usual, the livestock sector attracted many show-goers, with an eight kilogramme rooster from Eldoret stealing the show. Show goers were also keen on irrigation technologies, farm machinery, solar energy and building and construction technologies.

Here are more innovations that were showcased.

Sunflower solar water pump

The solar water pump was being showcased at the National Irrigation Board stand and is powered by the sun.

Justus Mutuko from Sunflower solar pump said it can pump 2,000 litres of water per hour without the use of any fuel or electricity, and this cuts immensely on fuel costs incurred during irrigation.

“On a good day when you have 8-10 hours of sunshine, the solar pump can pump about 20,000 litres of water. It is also compatible and can lift water up to 10 metres high,” said Mutuko.

The solar pump costs Sh40,000 and is robust, portable, works with drip systems and the spare parts are locally available.

Miraa by-products

Since the UK ban on khat in 2014, farmers have suffered great losses since this was one of the largest markets for the stimulant.

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology has been conducting research on value addition for miraa so that besides chewing of leaves, consumers can enjoy other by-products like white and red wine, yoghurt, juice and jam.

Kevin Nthiga, a student from JKUAT in the department of food science, said since the tradition market in Europe is no longer viable, some khat farmers have resulted to uprooting the plant and growing other crops.

Nthiga noted the need to do value addition to save farmers who have depended on this crop for many years.

“It took about four months to research and we are yet to put the products in the market but we have been using ASK shows to display them to the public,” he said.

A 300ml bottle of wine made from miraa will cost Sh200 while a 750 ml bottle will go for Sh700 to Sh1,000. A 250ml bottle of jam will cost Sh100 while juice will sell at Sh150.

The university also showcased cactus by-products including wine, juices and yoghurt in different flavours made from the fruit and flour used to make cakes and cookies from the cactus seed.

Dr David Kagima, Jkuat director of extension and technology transfer, said the university won several awards during the trade fair including the most striking display or demonstration of locally manufactured products, best innovation and invention stand as well as best stand in research development.

The university also displayed sorghum stem byproducts, technology to fight cassava brown streak disease, a 3-in-1 chaff mill that can cut nappier grass, make animal feeds and make flour. There was also an irrigation technology known as durable locally made hydro that is activated by the flow of water and does not require fuel or electricity to pump water.

High yield tissue culture banana

The Kenya Research Agricultural and Livestock Organisation showcased FHIA 17 banana variety, originally from a French institution, with 665 fingers or single banana fruits.

According to Benjamin Chege from Karlo-Kandara, the variety is high yielding and is suitable for ripening rather than for cooking.

Chege said the variety is suitable for sea level to coffee zone areas such as Mwea, Embu, and Kirinyaga up to to Coast region and takes 12 to 13 months for a farmer to start harvesting.

The fruit weighs about 165kg at a cost of Sh2,000 at the farm but when sold at Sh10 per banana, can fetch as much as Sh6,000.

“Requires spacing of 4 by 4 metres because it is a big tree and about 40 litres of water per week. You must provide enough nutrients for any crop to give you maximum yields,” he said.

Infectra laboratory kit

This technology is especially used in research on the tsetse flies, which cause trypanosomiasis in livestock and can also be used in research on the mosquitoes.

The technology was developed by Karlo to enable scientists carry out infection transmission studies using vectors and laboratory animals.

Kariuki Ndung’u, the principle innovator from Karol-biotechnology research institute, said the convention method of infection transmission has risks.

“One may get a bite from the tsetse flies and you may self infect yourself with the sleeping sickness or you might mishandle the rodents in the middle of the experiment and end up with premature results or termination of the experiment,” he said.

Ndung’u said experiments in the laboratory are limited by the procedure, which involves holding of the vector in a cage in one hand and the rodent in the other hand. But with this technology, a single person can infect the vector and transmit the same to individual rodents while at the same time attend to other activities.

“The kit makes research more efficient and risk free to the scientists. It is only available in Karlo and so far we have sold five infectra kits to Yale University, three to Juba university and two kits to a research institute in Ghana,” he added.

Sericulture farming

Farmers in warm areas have been urged to embrace sericulture by planting mulberry to produce silk.

However, farmers need silk worm, which feeds only on mulberry leaves if they have to practice sericulture.

James Macharia, Mulberry production oficer from Karlo, said farmers have been growing mulberry as forage without knowing that it can produce silk.

“We are training farmers on using mulberry for sericulture particularly on mulberry tree establishment, rearing silk worms, processing and marketing of cocoons,” he said.

Macharia noted that mulberry can be grown by farmers all over the country but in order to be able to engage in sericulture, tropical zones preferred are those with temperatures of between 24 to 28 degrees where the tree do well.

He noted that once the cocoons are ready, a farmer with a quarter acre of land can sell a kilogramme of fresh cocoons at Sh350 and dry cocoon at Sh900 a kilogramme.

Mulberry can also be added value to make animal feed especially for cattle and rabbits and also for making jam, jelly, fruit sauce, food color, yoghurt and juice from the leaves and fruits.