The shortage of raw materials remains a headache for most entrepreneurs. To ensure a steady supply of canola seeds, Agventure Pure Mountain, a cooking oil manufacturing company in Timau, Meru, sought to train and contract farmers.
The company owned by multiple shareholders, says the move has not only ensured that farmers retain the health of their soil through minimal tillage of their farms but also sustained supply of raw materials at its processing plant.
Agventure, which started operations 10 years ago, has been working with non-irrigated farms. Its contact farming model has wooed farmers struggling to break even while growing wheat and barley.
The farmers receive Sh75 per kilo of canola seeds they deliver and Don White, the CEO, says the pay is most times dependent on the prices of canola seeds in the global market.
“The prices change monthly as per the dictates of the global market,” he says.
With an annual production of 8,000 tonnes of canola oil, the company supplies locally and exports to Uganda.
Agventure has contracted farmers from Laikipia, Nyeri, Meru, Nakuru, Eldoret, and Isiolo counties. For farmers to be signed up, they need to put at least 30 acres under canola. Small-scale farmers come together and meet the required acreage.
Economies of scale
Sarah Davies, the marketing officer of the company says bringing the farmers together leverages the economies of scale while creating markets for the produce.
Rotation of crops, she adds, allows farmers to mitigate diseases that invade the cereals and also interrupts the pest cycle.
“We have been advocating for crop rotation or sustainable agriculture to maintain the health of the soil and consequently increase farmers’ yields and a better income for the farmers,” she explains.
Canola oil is the flagship product for the company but they have expanded their products to three types of honey – wildflower honey, sunflower, and rosemary.
Besides virgin canola oil, they also manufacture canola oil that is infused with herbs such as rosemary and pepper.
The company also produces pulses such as Lupin, green and white peas, and chickpeas.
John Gituma, one of the contracted farmers says before canola, he grew wheat and barley on his 50-acre farm.
Through crop rotation, he has managed to increase his yields and his income as well as enrich the soil on his farm.
On the farm, he harvests at least 15 to 16 ninety-kilogramme bags of canola.
“The introduction of new crops such as canola, peas and sunflower on contract farming has really benefited farmers,” he says.