Mama Halima is a seasoned poultry farmer from Mombasa County. She has been using an electric-powered incubator to hatch eggs.
But productivity has declined owing to power outages.
“Whenever there is a blackout I lose all my eggs. One time lost eggs worth Sh100,000. That was a big blow given that it was my entire investment,” she says.
However, the farmer has found an affordable alternative with the kerosene egg incubator technology.
“As long as I have kerosene, I am good to go. This is cheaper and more reliable than the electric- powered one. The only limitation is that it requires close monitoring, she says.
The incubators are supplied by Agriculture Technology Development Centre (ATDC), a division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.
ATDC’s Mtwapa manager engineer Samwel Opar says the kerosene machines are as effective as the electric ones and are an excellent alternative for small holder farmers who can’t afford standby generators.
The beauty of this technology is that it is adaptable, stable, reliable and offers big savings to the small scale farmers.
The engineer explains to Smart Harvest how the technology works: “The incubator comprises a wooden box which has a provision for heat distribution, egg tray, door and holes for inserting a thermometer. The eggs are placed on the tray.”
The machine has a heat chamber, a plain metal tubing through which hot air from the burning lantern chimney is distributed to raise the temperature in the unit.
To power the incubator, the lantern lamp is filled with kerosene and ignited to provide heat.
A tray is filled with water and placed under the egg tray to improve the relative humidity.
An alcohol thermometer is inserted in the holes behind the box to help monitor the temperature.
To boost its efficiency, the incubator must be checked frequently when it is on to regulate the temperature, humidity and adjust the flame accordingly.
For instance, if it gets too warm, it is advisable to reduce the flame light and place water inside when humidity is too low.
According to the engineer, an incubator for a single unit that holds 100 eggs costs Sh15,000 while a double unit with a capacity of 200 eggs costs Sh25,000.
An electric-powered incubator costs more than Sh100,000. When an incubator is used, about 80 per cent of the eggs in it hatch.
So how much kerosene does one use to run the machine?
Approximately six litres for every incubation cycle, Opar says.
Though simple and affordable, the kerosene incubator is a pollutant, he notes.
Nevertheless, kerosene lanterns burn cleaner than the ordinary wick kerosene stoves and are reliable in areas where power outages are frequent, says Opar.
Every technology has a down side and Opar explains that one of the challenges is monitoring the temperature in the kerosene unit.
He explains that the temperature should not go below 36 degrees centigrade and above 38 degrees centigrade.
With time a farmer will perfect how to monitor the temperature.
Another hitch is the turning of eggs in the trays.
“It looks cumbersome, buts it’s doable. The first four days you turn after 12 hours and the rest of the days you turn after 24 hours,” he explains.
Farmers from the coast looking for these stoves can get them from ATDC’s stores in Mtwapa and Mpeketoni in Lamu.
To roll out the project and supply small holder farmers with stoves, ATDC has partnered with World Vision, Plan International, Agriculture Sector Development Support Programme and County governments.