Thursday, August 20, 2015

Agribusiness expo proves successful in enhancing innovation

By Bob Aston
The Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) held an Agribusiness Expo on August 14-15, 2015 at Kabarak University in Nakuru County. The theme of the expo was “Enhancing innovation in Agribusiness to increase productivity and improve food security.”
The expo aimed at increasing the competitiveness of select regional agricultural value chains and bolster regional trade in staple foods. The East Africa Trade and Investment as well as Farming Systems Kenya (FSK) also sponsored the expo, among other organizations.
Participants visiting various exhibition stands
According to EAGC, the Agribusiness expo brought together more than 15,000 farmers, sponsors, and exhibitors ranging from; grain millers, warehouse operators, grain traders, agricultural institutions, agro chemical dealers, agro machinery companies, financial institutions, and civil society, all focused on innovations in the agribusiness sector.
During the first day of the expo, a group of 35 farmers drawn from various Maize Value Chain Groups (VCG’s) in Laikipia County travelled to Kabarak University to attend the expo. The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia supported the farmers visit.
The farmers learned that the EAGC Agribusiness Expo is an annual business convergence for the Agricultural industry that provides a platform for networking, sharing, learning, and interacting. It allows stakeholders to launch innovations and products. Industry stakeholders are also able to interact directly with farmers.
Gerald Masila, EAGC Executive Director noted that Kenya is a pacesetter on innovations. Therefore, the Agribusiness Sector should adopt innovations to enhance productivity and food security. He urged Agribusiness actors to transform challenges in the sector to opportunities and turn agribusiness into prosperity.
Farmers admiring the 'Charolais'  bull
The star attraction during the expo was the four year old ‘Charolais’ bull. Auctioned for Kshs. 600,000, the bull weighs 1,050 kgs. According to the farm manager Joseph Bett, the bull could fetch as much as Kshs. 1 million if slaughtered in the farm. The Bull from Kabarak Farm Ltd only feeds on grass and drinks a minimum of 60 litres of water a day.
The exhibition area had various exhibitors who displayed their wares and interacted with farmers. Farmers learned new and existing technology and financial services. The exhibitors were able to create business linkages through interaction and networking. They were also able to share knowledge and experiences as well as sell their produce.
The exhibitors included; EAGC, Kabarak University, East Africa Trade Investment Hub, Farming Systems Kenya, Egerton University, Olerai Ltd, Advanta, Pest Control Product Board,  Trans National Bank, Agri Seedco Limited, Elgon Kenya Ltd, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Advanta, Kenya Seed Company Ltd, Kenya Bixa Limited, Greenlife Crop Protection Africa Ltd, Juanco SPS Ltd, and SGS Kenya Ltd.
Others included; Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute, BASF East Africa Ltd, Hapy Cow Ltd, Osho Chemical Industries Ltd, MEA Ltd, Enterprise Farming Technologies, Exe, Chase Bank, Twiga Chemical Industries Ltd, Boresha SACCO, Unga Ltd, Bell Industries Ltd and Dry Lands Seeds among others.
Some of the innovations displayed at the expo included; alfastop post-harvest solutions to Aflatoxin control. They displayed a Shallow Bed Portable Batch Dryer. The dryer is made of square bed, surrounded by a large canvas bag with furnace and fan to push air through the drying maize, fueled by Maize cobs and fuel. It dries 500kg per batch in approximately 4-6 hours.
Bell Industries Ltd displayed Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags. PICS bag is a viable management tool for preventing aflatoxin accumulation in storage. The bag also minimizes cost of storage as well as reducing post-harvest grain losses.
Demonstrating how the Shallow Bed Portable Batch Dryer works
FSK displayed traditional high value crops, which can survive harsh climate. At the EAGC stand, farmers learned about G-Soko innovation. This is an electronics system comprising of a network of automated grain bulking/aggregation centers and certified warehouses, linked to a virtual trading platform.
GrainPro Inc displayed an innovative water resistant and gas tight storage solution for dry agricultural commodities. The eco-friendly and pesticide-free product preserves the quality and germination capability of stored grains.
Farmers were able to visit the crop demonstration unit where the agro input companies had planted crops, which had already matured. This provided the farmers with an opportunity to see first-hand how different seed varieties perform. They also leaned good agronomic practices through live crop demonstration.
The livestock demonstration unit enabled farmers to learn more about best practices in livestock production. Many farmers lingered in this area to admire the ‘Charolais’ bull and to pose for pictures next to the bull.
The information gathered by farmers during the Agribusiness expo will certainly play an important role in ensuring they improve their agricultural enterprises. The innovations displayed will go a long way in helping farmers adopt new technologies.
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