Aloe vera farming is becoming a lucrative business idea in Kenya due to its herbal properties and benefits. Aloe vera is used as an ingredient or raw material to produce several products, especially for the skin. Joseph Lentunyoi from Laikipia shares with Money Maker key lessons on aloe vera farming.
"To start off, get seeds from certified sources, alternatively, you can use cuttings from the right species. Seeds should grow within weeks depending on the weather. Cuttings may take weeks or sometimes months," said Lentunyoi.
The species that do well in Kenya is aloe vera Bardadensis (and Aloe Chinensis). One seedling of this species costs Sh80 when delivered to your farm. You can get good seedlings from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) offices in your county or Herbal Garden Company which is based in Kasarani Nairobi.
Aloe vera is a sub-tropical plant. This essentially means that this crop will not tolerate cold climate.
Since aloe vera is a succulent plant, it is critical to plant it in sandy soil. The best type of sandy soil for this crop is one that mimics the dirt found in the desert. It should be rocky and with low water content. The rule of thumb is that you should always avoid too wet soil or places with stagnant water.
"Keep in mind that aloe vera needs very minimal mulching and fertilising to thrive," he said.
According to Lentunyoi, normally an acre of land will carry a maximum of 4,000 crops at spacing of three feet by three feet. Always keep in mind that spacing is extremely important for high quality harvest. A typical aloe vera plant has 25 leaves which extend up to full length of between one foot and two feet.
"This is why experts recommend a minimum spacing of three feet all round," said Lentunyoi.
Pests and diseases
They include aphids and mealybugs, black leaf spot, white scale, eriophyid mites (gall mites), root rot. Always use clean planting materials and remove affected plants.
You can harvest aloe plants four times a year. The crop takes about 18 to 24 months to mature. Ideally, you should take around three leaves per plant. That comes to a total of 12 leaves per plant every year (keep in mind that only older outer leaves are harvested). You can expect an annual harvest of 60,000 kilogrammes of aloe vera per acre per year.
"The first place I would recommend you look for market is at Herbal Garden which is located in Warren in Kasarani. Another alternative would be to get into a supermarket, pick out a local aloe product and then contact the manufacturer," said Lentunyoi.
"Companies from across the country are looking for planters and you will be perfectly placed to reap from this opportunity. On average you can sell a kilogramme of your product at Sh30."