News and knowhow for farmers

Innovative new service helps farm, market produce for ‘office farmers’

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By George Munene

Tuka­lime Ven­tures is an in­nov­at­ive farm man­age­ment ser­vice that farms and mar­kets your ag­ri­cul­tural pro­duce at a fee. Foun­ded in 2016, the com­pany takes the hustle out of farm­ing, ac­tu­al­ising their cli­ent’s ob­ject­ives by grow­ing in-de­mand crops, em­ploy­ing the right ex­pert­ise, in­puts, and im­ple­ments as well as en­sur­ing timely har­vests and a ready mar­ket for your pro­duce.

Tuka­lime’s slo­gan is simple: “We plan, we grow, you earn”. With some pre­vi­ous ‘farm from the of­fice’ schemes hav­ing been ex­posed as con jobs; it is un­der­stand­able that for many Kenyans this has a whiff of ‘too good to be true’. However, Tuka­lime’s six-year track re­cord of res­ults— the firm has man­aged over 1,800 acres of farm­land since its in­cep­tion— proves that if done eth­ic­ally, with pro­fes­sion­al­ism and a sound busi­ness plan, ag­ri­cul­tural out­sourcing can be a luc­rat­ive op­tion for those look­ing to ven­ture into farm­ing.

As a test­a­ment to the firm’s suc­cess, in 2020, Kz­anaka Lim­ited, an ag­ri­cul­tural hold­ing com­pany that is home to well-known brands such as Cooper K-Brands Ltd and Analabs in­ves­ted in the bud­ding com­pany. This gives Tuka­lime ac­cess to fin­an­cing as well as spe­cial­ized lab and ag­ro­nomy ser­vices. 

“Ag­ri­cul­ture is an un­cer­tain en­ter­prise, to min­im­ise risks and max­im­ise profits for our cli­ents we ad­here to the right farm­ing pro­to­cols; proper land pre­par­a­tion, using the right seed, proper crop feed­ing pro­grams, en­sur­ing pests and dis­eases are at an ac­cept­able threshold, and hav­ing ac­cess to mar­kets,” ex­plained Tuka­lime’s founder Kevin Kamau.

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Hav­ing come back to Kenya after a ten-year stay in the United States, Kevin first got into potato farm­ing in a part­ner­ship; “While my friend handled the hands-on farm­ing, I sourced for and provided mar­ket link­ages,” he says of his first step in farm­ing. Though he had no back­ground in ag­ri­cul­ture, he un­der­stood the ob­vi­ous: food is an es­sen­tial. 

Tuka­lime was foun­ded one year later. This was driven by his evid­ent ini­tial suc­cess; “Friends out­side the coun­try sought me out to provide a more re­li­able and trans­par­ent way of in­vest­ing in ag­ri­cul­ture bey­ond ‘send­ing money to a cousin’,” he said.

With a back­ground in eco­nom­ics and fin­ance; Kevin best ex­plains his busi­ness’s suc­cess model thusly; “Eco­nom­ics ba­sic­ally in­volves study­ing factors of pro­duc­tion and how to best util­ise them to get an end product. The mar­ket for the ser­vice we offered was there in people look­ing to make an extra in­come through farm­ing. Food is an every­day es­sen­tial, mean­ing the byproduct of our busi­ness also had a ready mar­ket. As an eco­nomy largely held up by ag­ri­cul­ture, skilled ag­ro­nomic la­bour was also avail­able to us.” The com­pany cur­rently has four per­man­ent em­ploy­ees—like many busi­nesses, the Corona pan­demic forced a shav­ing off of staff.

The firm of­fers a wide range of ser­vices tailor-made for par­tic­u­lar and wide-ran­ging cli­ent needs. These are de­term­ined by factors such as land size, re­gion, and a wide range of op­tions that cater to vari­ous com­plex­it­ies.

The first step in­volves a farmer reach­ing Tuka­lime and ex­press­ing what they want to real­ise with their farm­land. The com­pany will then con­duct an as­sess­ment to en­sure the in­fra­struc­ture cap­able of ac­tu­al­ising what was out­lined is avail­able.

A soil test is then con­duc­ted and a budget for­mu­lated with the in­form­a­tion gathered from the farm­ing site. 

A cli­ent is then given the budget to re­view and if ap­proved, the pro­ject is ini­ti­ated and ex­ecuted ac­cord­ing to the budget and plan.

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At the final step har­vest­ing and mar­ket­ing of the pro­duce is fi­nally un­der­taken be­fore a post mortem of the en­tire pro­ject.

Every step has to be ex­pertly ex­ecuted to real­ise the farmer’s ob­ject­ive; “Farm­ers are char­ging me with ac­tu­al­ising their hopes, am­bi­tions, and dreams, if I failed in my role as their farm man­ager, I would be crushed, “Kevin said.

Kevin Kamau is amongst this year’s Ag­ri­pren­eur of the Year fi­nal­ist at the Founder of the Year Africa (FOYA) awards.

His vis­ion for­Tuka­lime is for it to be­come farm­ing’s equi­val­ent to Airbnb; an on­line rental mar­ket­place that has more rooms than any hotel chain in the world without own­ing a single build­ing. “We want to be the lead­ing drivers of safely and af­ford­ably grown food without ac­tu­ally need­ing to own farm­land,” he il­lu­min­ated.

Tuka­lime: +254 (0)709 094 000/ +254 (0)734 330 044 

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