Daniel Rotich has well and truly milked the potential of his two-and-a-quarter acre land, which is no mean feat in Rift Valley where farmers derive their pride from land size rather than production output.
While on a tour of Netherlands with leading Uasin Gishu farmers last August, one of them disdainfully asked how much land Rotich owned. When Mr Rotich said 2.25 acres, the large scale farmer ignored him for the rest of the seven-day trip.
Eventually, the other farmer came to learn about Mr Rotich’s daily production: 250 litres of milk; 100kg of mushrooms; compost fertiliser; 70 pallets of strawberries; 200 quail eggs; biogas and 11 crates of tomatoes — all from that small piece of land.
We found the humbled large scale farmer on his third day of observing and taking notes on the farming processes at Mr Rotich’s Del’s Farm Limited whose total daily earnings exceed Sh100,000.
On the 2.25 acres, the bespectacled farmer has a dairy farming unit of 28 cows. The zero-grazing shed walls are constructed out of timber. Iron sheets cover the roof and the floor is concrete.
The slanted floor allows free flow of dung from each shed into small gutters which drain into a bigger one in the middle of the shed. The cow waste then drains into a huge reservoir of a biogas cell.
The gas is then transported via pipes to the house for cooking and other household needs. Mr Rotich processes his animal’s fodder with an electric-powered mill installed in an adjacent room and buys hay cheaply from maize and wheat fields nearby. The dairy project earns him Sh10,000 daily with his milk going at Sh40 a litre.
The tomato unit consists of two greenhouses, each measuring 30 by 100 feet. The dense plant population inside was another surprise: rather than the conventional 1,500, Mr Rotich’s greenhouse housed 3,000 plants.
How did he do this?
Mr Rotich’s research had led him to practising “plant sexing”, where a week after transplanting, only two branches are left to grow for every seedling.
The rest of the budding branches are nipped off. This means that there are two plants in one. As for fertiliser, the farmer exclusively uses the compost manure from his biogas residue as well as mushroom tube dumps.
Mr Rotich says that because of this, his tomatoes are so tasty that buyers often scramble for them at the market. From the tomatoes, he banks Sh27,500. He sells a crate for Sh2,500.
Mr Rotich also rears 250 quails. He constructed a modern chicken structure for them where eggs can be easily collected daily. In this venture, he pockets Sh7,000 daily, selling each egg at Sh35.
Arrow roots and strawberries are another part of the farm project, these covering about half an acre. Quail droppings and excess biogas waste are used for fertiliser here. Mr Rotich harvests between 50 and 70 pallets of strawberries daily, selling each at Sh150, making Sh10,500 in total.
The arrow roots on the other hand fetch him over Sh5,000. He believes that this crop holds more promise in the future because it is rapidly displacing bread on breakfast tables in urban areas.
Mushrooms are Mr Rotich’s other crop of choice, out of which he makes Sh70,000 daily, as well as compost which fetches varying amounts.
His gross total from all units comes to about Sh120,000 and taking out the price of farming inputs and labour of Sh30,000, adds up to him raking in Sh90,000 on an average day.