Tomato greenhouse where magic happens

Kenya: Tucked in Machorwa village, Tulwet, Bureti Sub-County, is Peter Langat’s farm, which has attracted the attention of the community for years. He has been growing pineapples, bananas and vegetables for years. He also keeps dairy cows but his greenhouse is the envy of many in his village.

He has a 30m by 12m greenhouse where he has grown 1,500 tomatoes that have begun fruiting. This is not Langat’s first tomato greenhouse.

“I first raised the tomatoes in a nursery before transplanting them after three weeks. This was early November last year and the fruits are almost ready. With all the necessary conditions met, you start picking fruits fulltime after 85 days,” Langat says.

The tomatoes in his greenhouse came from two sachets of seeds each weighing 10g. Langat bought each sachet at Sh3,700. He then bought two kilos of fungicide worth Sh4,000 and pesticide worth Sh2,000 that he says are enough until the season is over.

He says he also needs two kilos of foliar fertiliser, a kilo of starter foliar that is applied before the flowers start appearing and the other kilo that is sprayed after flowering.

He also adds manure to his greenhouse beds during preparation to ensure the tomatoes are not calcium deficient.

“To get tomatoes that are packed with calcium, it’s important to tender them well during that growth stage,” Langat says.

The farmer has a generator that he uses to pump water from a river below his farm into a tank that allows the water to flow by gravity into the the greenhouse and the dairy unit. He says he spends Sh200 to pump water into the 4,000 litre tank.

He has designed his greenhouse in such a way that in the middle a gutter channels the water into a pipe that is connected to the drip pipes.

When it rains, the tomatoes are watered through the drips and the farmer does not have to use the water in the tank.

Langat says with tomatoes business, timing is everything.

“A farmer must know when to hit the market with their crop. There are times when the market is flooded with tomatoes and when one brings their crop at such a time, they are bound to suffer losses,” he says.

He says that tomatoes that start producing fruits between February and June usually get the best prices.

From his greenhouse he normally gets an average of 10 crates every week. He says that tomato prices oscillate between Sh1,000 on the lower side and Sh3,000 on the higher side for a crate.

“I get an average of Sh200,000 profit from this greenhouse every season after deducting the cost of production,” Langat says.

He uses the money he gets to feed his family and educate his children.

His last born is in secondary school while the others are in college.

The biggest challenges in tomato farming according to Langat are pests and diseases.

The most common disease is bacterial wilt that keeps attacking crops every season.

The most common pests in greenhouses are Whiteflies, thrips and the most recent invaders are red spider mites.

He says the correct use of recommended pesticides helps in controlling the pests.