AS the 2021-2022 summer cropping season intensifies, following the early rains that were witnessed in many parts of the country last week, one of the tough questions to face for many farmers is the subject of adequate fertiliser.
For Ms Kundai Ngwena, the hard lessons learnt as an aspiring farmer birthed innovative ideas that led her to grow an interest in liquid fertilisers.
“I thought farming was cheap and easy until I moved around asking for quotations for the project I was doing. One of the costs I found to be hard to foot, was the cost of fertiliser,” she said.
It was in her research for cheap alternatives to the traditional granular fertiliser, that she stumbled upon an interesting start-up.
“I came across a small organisation called Noble Gold, they were doing an organic liquid fertiliser called Hurudza. It sounded really affordable but I was sceptical of the quality and effectiveness,” said Ms Ngwena.
Being a metallurgy expert, and an environmental sustainability consultant, she preferred to be led by science.
She engaged farmers in Masvingo province and Mashonaland Central, who used the products on their crops, giving feedback at each stage.
The outcome exceeded her expectation, beyond becoming a customer, she decided to join the organisation.
She is now the organisation’s Quality Control and Research Manager.
Ms Ngwena says organic liquid fertilisers are environmentally friendly in that they are absorbed by the plant directly, without the soil competing for nutrients.
“Liquid fertlisers have a 95 percent absorption rate, compared to granular fertilisers which have around 60 percent absorption rate, the excess is left in the soil and has detrimental environmental effects in the long run.”
She said liquid fertilsers are much cheaper than traditional fertilisers.
“There is a business to environment balance, it costs about US$56 to have liquid fertilisers which cover a hectare. Using traditional fertilisers, the cost would be around six times,” she said.
Currently their fertiliser is applicable to tobacco, horticulture products and maize.
Noble Gold are a small company on the market, still operating from a modest factory in Ardbennie, Harare after getting certification from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement in 2019.
Currently they have capacity to produce between 1 000 and 2 000 litres of fertiliser per month.
The company was started by Mr Kudakwashe Mawere, a former accountant who took a leap of faith to quit his job.
“We have secured land to build a plant, but we are still struggling to raise the funds. Most of our processes are still manual and this affects our ability to service large orders. If we get US$20 000, we can produce our current monthly capacity every day,” said Ms Ngwena.
Besides the chemical function, Ms Ngwena said the transport element, which is a hidden cost, becomes manageable even to first-time farmers when they pursue the liquid fertiliser option.
“Trucks cost a lot of money to hire. However, liquid fertiliser comes in five litre containers which are then diluted with water for spraying on crops. Any small car can transport the fertiliser easily,” she said.