Aeroponics to Boost Potato Production and Food Security

Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. The word 'aeroponic' is derived from the Greek meanings of aer "air" and ponos "labour".

Indeed, this is what is happening at the National Youth Service (NYS) at their offices in Tumaini, Nyandarua and where KEPHIS, KALRO and other stakeholders gathered to see for themselves the progress of this technology that is capable of promoting seed potato to enhance food availability. The National Government's Big 4 Agenda has the pillar of food security and nutrition as one of its pillars, with potato, maize and rice being the focus crops; thus KEPHIS has been assisting the NYS by providing diagnostic services and guiding the NYS on seed potato certification procedures which has ensured the transition of the produced seed potato towards field bulking. The facility has been operational since its launch in February 2019, with 3 greenhouses under production. Being soil less, this means that pests and diseases that occur in the soil are minimized thus a higher chance of getting more potato tubers for merchants and eventually farmers. This is expected to enhance potato production in the country. Currently, the facility produces locally preferred varieties of Shangi and Dutch Robjin and about 200,000 mini tubers have been produced. For sustainability, it is envisaged that KEPHIS, KALRO, CIP and private companies through their laboratories will provide the virus indexed starter seedlings thus ensuring the facility has access to clean material. The NYS Tumaini farm has already been registered as a seed merchant hence can market the certified seed potato to farmers. It is also the 2nd largest seed potato production unit in Africa.

Mini potato tubers ready for harvesting at the NYS Tumaini facility in Nyandarua. KEPHIS provides technical and diagnostic services as well as guiding on seed certification procedures which has ensured the transition of the produced seed towards field bulking.