University of Nairobi unveils state-of-the-art fresh produce hub

Professor Jane Ambuko (centre) with the University of Nairobi VC Prof. Stephen Gitahi Kiama (left) and Anurag Mishra representing Mabati Rolling Mills. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The University of Nairobi has unveiled the first-of-its-kind fresh produce aggregation and distribution hub in the country.

 The hub’s design and features were delivered using the latest technology aimed at delivering high-quality, safe and traceable foods and vegetables to the market.

 The brains behind the hub was University of Nairobi's Professor Jane Ambuko who was also the team leader of those who oversaw the hub’s completion.

 “We aim to train farmers so that they can produce a certain quality of produce including its traceability not only in their farms but also in the university farm,” Professor Ambuko explained.

 She explained, “The produce that we bring to the hub will have a certain quality so that our produce will be carrying a certain mark of quality.”

 The hub is about 85 metres square and has a cold room measuring six metric tons with technology known as Safcoool.

 This means the product has adhered to certain standards from production to the time it comes to the hub. It also helps traceability and safety.

 The university, with other partners, targets about 150 farmers in Kakamega and Kisii counties who will be trained on good production practices.

 Professor Ambuko added that this will ensure that they get optimum yield at the farm.

 “With the good production they also have produce of good quality then we will support them to get that produce to the urban market through the hub,” she explained.

 Stephen Kiruhi, an engineer at Mabati Rolling Mills explained that the hub is made up of light pre-galvanized steel that lasts up to 50 years and does not require painting.

 “This will reduce the contamination of the produce if normal paints were used, that makes it high quality thus it has high hygiene factor,” Kiruhi explained.

 The University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama noted that the project will provide an opportunity for farmers in Kisii and Kakamega counties and other regions.

 Kiama said the produce that will be taken to the hub will be packaged with a mark of quality that anybody can trace where it came from.

 “This is an appropriate innovation to show that it is possible to create new jobs in the country and wealth,” Kiama noted.

 The Hub will also serve as a link for smallholder farmers in rural areas to urban markets through sourcing fresh produce from smallholder fruits and vegetable farmers across the country and the University of Nairobi farm.

 The hub has a receiving and preparation area where produce received from the farm is received and prepared depending on the requirements of the target retail outlets or consumer orders.

 The vegetables will be sorted and either bunched or minimally processed and either availed in standardized and well-labelled punnets or as a loose-leaf on a weight basis.