GFAR blog

YAP Proposal #285: Hydroponic greenhouse system (Maina Kibuthu, Kenya)

MainaKibuthuSuccess isn’t just about what I accomplish in my life, it’s about inspiring others. I am passionate about inspiring young people and empowering them to achieve their God-given dreams, to develop skills and networks and to build their countries and communities.

My name is Maina Brian Kibuthu. I’m 22 years old and from Nairobi, Kenya.

I am an interior architect/designer, a Kenyan-African youth leader and advocate for better youth policies in Africa to move Africa to the next level. I am very hardworking and a team player, creative and innovative, confident, intelligent, competent, vibrant, dynamic, enthusiastic, self-motivated and proactive with a can-do attitude.

I have a great sense of initiative and am ready to go beyond achieving academic excellence but also to take initiative to positively impact society.

It is after years of playing second fiddle to the older generation that I have decided to transform the perception of farming that has long been entrenched in my community and the nation at large. Most Kenyan farmers believe farming is a labor intensive task, back- breaking and hardly remunerative.

However as a young farmer I wish to challenge this notion while at the same time causing a paradigm shift that will cause farming to be regarded as a profitable venture and a potentially rewarding enterprise.

Hydroponic Greenhouse Garden

A hydroponic system is a system in which plants are grown in growth media rather than natural soil. All the nutrients are dissolved in the irrigation water and are supplied at a regular basis to plants. This is done in a greenhouse. A greenhouse creates an environment that more favorable to plant growth than the natural environment.

This project uses hydroponic greenhouse technology, powered by renewable energy, to grow food. The project is connected with rural and urban sustainability.

A greenhouse is designed to absorb as much natural heat from the sun and the ground as possible. It is also designed to capture rainwater that falls on it using the fitted gutters. The rain water recirculates and is used in the irrigation of the plants. I believe that hydroponic greenhouses can grow and distribute vegetables using half the en­ergy required by traditional growers.

I intend to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in waste drain systems and lettuce, kale and herbs in gravel flow systems.

Hydroponic farming has been proven successful in multiple economic and social aspects. Not only will it offer new job opportunities in my community, but it will empower youth, women and people with disabilities.

Also, because of the increase in growth rate and vigor of the crops, there’s a greater chance of success. Another positive aspect is that my community will be able to participate in sustainable crop production through hydroponics and help ensure a secure food supply at a lower cost than gardens that use soil or other planting media.

I intend to have workshops to increase visibility and education opportunities around sustainable food systems. This will result in strengthening the culture of healthy and conscious approaches to food for my fellow youth and the nation at large.

Apart from the rainwater, during the dry season potable water will be is used. The water will be taken down to the base­ment, run through a filter, and their nutrient content assessed. More nutrients are added to the mixture and re-circulated back into the hydroponic system and into the plants.

The nutrient solu­tions supply the plants with all the necessary elements and ions needed for growth and develop­ment – calcium, nitrate (nitrogen), potassium, phosphate (phosphorus), magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, and molybdenum.

The solutions are made up with salts, such as calcium nitrate and magnesium sulfate, which are mined and/or refined to generate sufficiently soluble compounds for use in nutrient solutions. This process will be done on site and on a small scale so the transportation energy component is minimal and the processing energy component is negligible.

Hydroponics, if incorporated into community farming, have the potential to optimize food production on an exponential scale. However, there is not much data that is statistically significant to show the exact metrics that compare hydroponics and conventional farming, and I want to spearhead the movement to build evidence.

Since I was a young boy my parents taught me the importance of agriculture, but I really didn’t like the conventional farming methods. I would always get back home tired and blistered, which really made me dislike the idea of heading to the farm.

Later on I enrolled in interior architecture and design where I came to learn how to design great infrastructures. I had an especial interest in designing farm related infrastructure that would revolutionize conventional farming to modern farming. While doing my research and sketches I came across hydroponic systems.

It is an indubitable fact that at the rate at which arable land is being converted to real estate coupled with food and water waste, the already skyrocketing prices of food will only get worse in Nairobi and undoubtedly in many other African cities as well. A case in point relates to the situation currently happening in the Central province counties such as Nyandarua, Kiambu, Nyeri and Murang’a and including areas like Embu and Meru which are the main food baskets of Nairobi.

Due to devaluation, most of these places are turning to real estate, a seemingly more lucrative venture for most impoverished families. Bearing this in mind, it is important to find alternative methods of farming that not only cater to the price of food for the end consumer but are also eco-friendly.

I have been representing young people and articulating their issues in national and international meetings. For example, I was a representative at the consultations on thePost-2015 Agenda where we discussed and championed the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

During this period my focus was on how I could help my community and how hydroponics as a project would help. That’s when I realized it could help achieve the following sustainable development goals:

Goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal number 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
Goal number 1: No poverty
Goal number 2: Zero hunger
Goal number 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Goal number 12: Responsible consumption and production
Goal number 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Goal number 15: Life on Land

The importance of agriculture in Kenya’s economy cannot be overstated. The agricultural sector in Kenya directly accounts for 26 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in addition, agriculture contributes immensely to rural employment, food production and rural incomes.

I am very passionate about providing young people with opportunities to realize their full potential and their active participation in decision making processes on matters that affect their lives. I am an expert in designing youth-focused programs particularly in the area of empowerment, employment and environment.

As a technophile, I have done a lot of research on this field and have been able to convince my parents, who are willing to help add up to my savings by issuing me a space to actualize the pilot project. I have also pitched my project to many youth and inquired for the help of the county agricultural director who happened to connect me with likeminded people.

I will only be able to measure my success if the revenues generated by the number of produce sold in baskets will bring in profits to the business. Indeed, if the program is successful and if enough funding is provided, the program can expand its eligibility to create more appropriate greenhouses even in urban areas, which is my main goal.

I will also feel accomplished if the number of unemployed youth in the area is reduced and when I am able to address issues of food insecurity as well as most of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The $5000 grant will help cover engineering and design as well as installation of hydroponic garden systems and system equipment. It will also be used for purchasing the seedlings. In addition to building the greenhouse and other hard costs, the budget includes training operators and empowering youth, women and people with disabilities by training them to use the greenhouse systems.

This project will provide innovative farming methods to my community. I would be very grateful if your organization could help me to build connections with agricultural entrepreneurs from other countries at GCARD3. I am convinced that my participation in GCARD3 will act as a stepping stone for me and will help me acquire more knowledge from my fellow youth.


Blogpost and picture submitted by Maina Kibuthu (Nairobi, Kenya) –[at]

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.

This post is published as proposal #285 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.

As a reader, you can support this speaker’s entry:

  • Leave a comment (question, suggestion,..) on this project in the comment field at the bottom of this page
  • Support the post by clicking the “Like” button below (only possible for those with a account)
  • Spread this post via your social media channels, using the hashtag: #GCARD3


Have a look at the other “YAP” proposals too!
As a donor, support young agripreneurs and sponsor this unique project. Check out the side column for our current sponsors.
“YAP” is part of the #GCARD3 process, the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.

36 thoughts on “YAP Proposal #285: Hydroponic greenhouse system (Maina Kibuthu, Kenya)”

  1. Keep up and more young people need to be encouraged to think outside the box. Wish you the very best

  2. Amazing work. We need such initiatives in order to transform our country. All the best you’re headed for greatness keep up.

  3. It’s encouraging seeing a fellow youth take action for a better future in this country especially in the area of food security.

  4. This is a wonderful idea and initiative. It will really revolutionalize the agricultural industry.

  5. This is interesting. A society with enough food reserves must flourish. I am impressed you want to venture into farming since this field has been neglected for years but truth is, it is the key to success.

  6. This is a great competition and i am sure you will get lots and lots of educated young farmers taking part.. Good job!

  7. Congrats..good work,may the Lord continue using you as a great youth to bring about development to our nation and continent…KEEP IT UP!!

  8. I like the ideal. More youth need to be encouraged to think agribusiness since it’s the root of our economy.

  9. Great work May the Almighty continue instilling in you great thoughts to help the nation

  10. Quite impressive!Thanks for being an example for other youths to follow because it is always good to see young people taking the initative to make this world a better place for us to live in

  11. Quite impressive. Thanks for setting an example for young people to follow as u take the initiative to make the world a better place

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