All that Sharon Olang needed to maintain a steady supply of vegetables for her family was a sizeable chunk of unused space outside her two-storey residential house in Syokimau.
And now, the concrete slabbed space measuring about 6 by 3 metres just outside her house is an appealing sight complete with different types of vegetables. Here, Ms Olang grows spinach, managu, terere, onions and bok choy, a Chinese cabbage that is highly nutritious.
“This does not take more than five minutes. It is so easy to maintain these bags because all I do to weed is handpick grass,” she says.
Her decision to venture into vertical farming was borne out of a desire to grow her own vegetables.
“Residents here suffer a lot because of lack of shopping centres. There are no shops around to fetch quick kitchen utilities such as onions, tomatoes and even vegetables. And when you go all the way to the nearest shopping mall, you pay through your nose for so little,” says the mother of two.
Three pieces of say kale go for Sh20 or more in most shopping centres in Syokimau so to feed a family of four, one has to spend Sh100 or more, she says.
But now, from her six planting bags, each capable of holding 90 plants of different vegetable species, Ms Olang says she harvests at least two baskets of vegetables every Saturday which she preserves to be used for an entire week. She even has surplus that she shares with her neighbours.
The vegetables are grown in strong bags made from hardy shed nets with treated holes that are free from expanding.
Kevin Kariuki who improvises the bags says they are the best option for vertical farming.
The bags are also treated with UV inhibiting materials to ensure they stay longer. A farmer can stay with them for three years before replacing.
To set up a vertical farm, you will need at least three wheelbarrows of soil, three wheelbarrows of organic fertiliser and 2kgs of DAP fertiliser which is optional and a soil conditioner.
“The conditioner breaks down nutrients in the manure to ensure that the last nutrient is used before the elements are discarded to be replaced with a fresh mixture,” says Kariuki who works closely with agronomists.
The soil must be replaced every six months.
According to Kariuki, setting up a vertical farm will set you back Sh 14, 5000 which covers five bags, irrigation pipes, insecticides, soil conditioner and a knapsack.