• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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Unlocking the investment potential in greenhouse farming

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Greenhouse technology has the potential of making Nigeria attain self-sufficiency in vegetables and fruit production.

The adoption of greenhouse technology in farming has been seen as a way of narrowing the increasing food gap in the country as the population continues to grow faster than food production.

Nigeria is currently populated by 200 million people who must be fed. However, there is still much demand-supply gap in most of its food, even as the population growth rate stands at 2.6 percent per annum.

Experts believe that with greenhouse farming techniques, Nigeria can reduce its food insecurity risks.

As a result, lots of farmers are now embracing the use of the technology and BusinessDay recently went on a tour across greenhouse farms in Lagos and Ogun state respectively to see the operation of the technology first hand.

Greenhouse is a technology that uses framed or inflated structures covered with transparent or translucent material large enough to grow crops under partial or fully controlled environmental conditions to get optimum farm growth and productivity.

The technology is fast gaining popularity among Nigerian farmers because it enables them to grow exotic vegetables, flowers, and fruits throughout the year and help to improve the depleting water table.

This means farmers can grow crops at any time of the year. The technology gives plants exactly what they need – the perfect climate, the right amount of light, the right amount of nutrition, exact amounts of water and carbon dioxide and proper ventilation as well as protect the plants from pests and diseases.

Crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, and basil among others which command high prices in markets can be cultivated with greenhouses.

According to experts, farmers using greenhouse technology can recoup their investment within the shortest possible period as the average yield of a vegetable grown using the technology yields about 30 times more than on the same square meter in an open field farm.

“It is a technology that delivers a unique farming technique that enables increased high-quality production all year round,” Oscar Walumbe, integrated project manager- sustainable livelihoods, Dizengoff Nigeria said.

“It is a technique with good management provides a steady income for the farmer as well as the transfer of knowledge on how to improve the quality of their products, reduce field losses and ensure higher profit for their investment,” he added.

He stated that most people think that greenhouse farming is too expensive while explaining that it is so because of the initial investment in buying the materials for the structure which could run for as low as N1.9 million per 8 by 24 meters greenhouse including inputs for a full year.

He further explained, however, that the expenses on the initial greenhouse investments are easily offset by the high yields that a farmer makes from the investment.

“Depending on the market price farmers can recoup their investment 100percent within 3years,” he said.

“Nigerians can now leverage on the immense opportunity offered by the Dizengoff full package to create employment for our youths,” he further said.

Currently, Nigeria’s demand for vegetables is put at over 2.3 million metric tons per year and the country is only able to produce just about 1.8 million metric tons, with the adoption of greenhouse technology, the country will be able to narrow the gap.

Countries like Kenya and South Africa in Africa are already leveraging greenhouse technology to boost their fruits and vegetables production.

Vegetables and flowers grown under greenhouses have given high returns and top quality produce. The potential of floriculture under protected cultivation is huge for global markets.

“Growing your crop using a greenhouse is a very wise decision. You grow more using less space,” Dokun Ogunbodede, managing director, Sedfort Limited told BusinessDay on a visit to his greenhouse farm in Ogun State.

Ekun Oladavids agronomists on a greenhouse farm visited by BusinessDay during a recent tour said that the demand for his ball pepper (Falkor 1), hot pepper (super Habarnero F1) and tomatoes (Eva F1 and Zara F1) are very high.

“On our greenhouse farm, we do three cycles for tomatoes and two for pepper yearly,” Oladavids said.

“We harvest 60kg to 70kg weekly of pepper and sell a kg for N700 while well sell bell pepper for N1,000. For tomatoes, we harvest 50kg weekly and sell N600 per kg,” he said.

He noted that for hot pepper, after transplanting from the nursery to the greenhouse, it takes seven weeks to reach maturity and from the day of first harvest, farmers will continue to harvest until it reaches five or seven months before ending the cycle.

But despite this potential in greenhouse farming, not all the farmers using the technology for the cultivation of crops are maximising the potentials owing to poor management practice and inadequate market access among others.

“One thing that most of the farmers are forgetting is that greenhouse needs to be managed just like any other farming, for instance, poultry farm,” Walumbe who was earlier quoted said.

“If you do not feed your birds when it is supposed to be fed, it result will be poor so also if you do not take care of the greenhouse farm, your production will be poor,” he explained.

“Another thing is the market price. Before you start the greenhouse farm always start from the market backwards, so that you do not produce something that is still a loss on the market side,” he added.

He advised any potential farmer that wants to adopt the greenhouse technology must ensure they have a market before commencing production, adding that within three years they ought to have recouped their investments by 100 percent.

He added that if the farmers do things correctly, they ought to have an average of five to six cycles.

 

An example of one of the farms visited is Ecology Green Multifunctional Farm, Ikise Village, Off Omu-Ijebu Road, Ogun State.

According to Akeem Owokoniran who is the manager of the farm, “we started seven months ago and we made up our minds to do things correctly. You can see the clean surroundings here. We are also adopting best management practice in line with advice from our partners.”

“Here we have integrated the cultivation of other crops such as yam, cashew trees in the open surrounding field,” he said.

These other crops planted in the open field create additional income for the farmer and help him maximise the opportunities in using the technology.

Also, a number of farmers who have adopted the Dizengoff Nigeria greenhouse complete package where they are provided with the technology and inputs such as seeds and soluble fertilisers for a year are already enjoying high productivity from the system.