GFAR blog

YAP proposal #367: Hydroponic Vegetable Production in Greenhouse (Beatrice Peter, Kenya)


Untitled2I am Beatrice Peter, 28, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in seed science and technology. I am a member of Kibwezi Hortipreneurs Youth Group (KHYG) formed under the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) youth agribusiness incubation programme in Kenya.

We are hosted at the University of Nairobi Dry-land Research Station in Kibwezi. This station had an abandoned greenhouse complex remaining from previous project strategically placed on the Mombasa/Nairobi commercial corridor.

The group conducts irrigated vegetable farming and fish rearing in semi-arid, lower eastern region (Makueni county). It sits along the spring-fed Kibwezi River and operates in two acres of the farm.

The group has been practising conventional vegetable production (using soil) in greenhouse. This has been characterized by high water usage for irrigation due to dry and extremely high temperature spells often experienced at the region

Due to our current conventional method, there has been a build-up of soil borne pests, diseases and nematodes.

This has resulted to intensive use of chemicals, which are often washed-off to the nearby river when continuous flooding/furrow irrigation is done to supplement drip irrigation. Leaching of nutrients and minerals is another consequence of the same, leading to high use of fertilizer and nutrient supplements.

In order to increase the production per unit area of vegetable coverage, the group intends to use hydroponic farming system in their drip irrigated greenhouses.

Hydroponic technology is the art of growing plants in soilless conditions. It has been used in addressing some of these challenges.

A visit by Prof. Njoka from University of Nairobi and some of his colleagues—initiators of hydroponic fodder in Kenya, enlightened and motivated the group to research more towards the idea of hydroponic vegetable farming.

The simple hydroponic Dutch bucket system appealed to the group for hybrid tomatoes in one of its greenhouse measuring 2,000 m2, with a carrying capacity of up to 2,400 plants.

Seedling production will be set in the nursery, a proportionate mixture of fine volcanic gravel (available around Kibwezi town), pure sand, vermiculate, basal fertilizer and compost manure (vermi-compost) will be made and wetted.

Clean plastic buckets of 40 cm diameter by 60 cm depth with 2 mm diameter reservoir outlet each prepared and placed in greenhouse rows where drips have been fixed.

A small clear pipe (2 mm) will be fixed at the outlet and then connected to the feeder pipes, which will drain excess water to main pipe leading to the collection container.

Having fixed that and drips adjusted to better height ,1/8 bucket will be filled with pure fine volcanic gravel (at the bottom) and the remaining filled with the wet mixture made up to three-quarters.


Seedlings will be transplanted, drips run over the buckets, plants are allowed to grow for a few weeks, then the remaining ¼ filled with the mixture; normal agronomic practices such as fertigation, pruning and trellising will then follow.

This process ensures maximum utilization of fertilizer, water and nutrient supplements by their containment at the plants root zone thus translating to increased yield per plant.

Excess water is then drained back to the system thus avoiding water wastage and reducing some unnecessary production cost.

Pollution will be reduced since most chemicals applied will be contained in the bucket. Weeding will also be reduced as most part will be covered by buckets. The gravel can also be washed and re-used after the crop cycle.

Success and efficiency of this project will be measured in terms of output and return on investment.

In simple calculation a plant of hybrid tomato in these conditions is supposed to yield not less than 10 kg in one cycle (six months).

With average price of USD 0.5. Population of 2,400 plants should thus give not less than USD 12,000. This technology ensures constant production and therefore two cycles can be obtained in one year, translating to USD 24,000 or more per year.

This will serve as a learning ground for the community and small-scale farmers along Kibwezi River who are practicing conventional farming techniques and therefore help reduce water pollution and make it safe for household consumption (reduce risks of some chronic diseases like cancer).

Families around Kibwezi town whose farm is nothing but volcanic rocks will have an avenue to learn on how to put their so called “useless land” into useful form and generate income.

The USD 5,000 will be used as follows:

  • Invariables i.e equipment and tools (Dutch buckets, two polythene liners for compost pit lining and PVC pipes) for USD 2,700.
  • Variables will include inputs (potting mixture ingredients, hybrid seeds, chemicals, fertilizer and nutrient supplements) costing USD 1,100, transport cost USD 500, labour USD 200 and contingencies USD 500.

Variable costs will be distributed evenly to cover the two cycles in one year.

This is how distribution of activities will be:

  • 1st month: procurement of all materials, plant seeds in nursery and set up hydroponic system
  • 2nd month: transplant tomato seedlings and carry on all the agronomic practices required.
  • 3rd month: agronomic practices will continue and towards the end, first harvest will be done.
  • 4th, 5th, 6th months: harvesting and normal agronomic practices will carry on and uprooting, bucket sterilization will be done in the last week of sixth month
  • 2nd cycle initiated to carry on from the 7th month to the 12th month (end of year).


Blogpost and picture submitted by Beatrice Peter (Kenya): iitakibwezihortipreneurs[at]

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


This post is published as proposal #367 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:

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Have a look at the other “YAP” proposals too!

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“YAP” is part of the #GCARD3 process, the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.


187 thoughts on “YAP proposal #367: Hydroponic Vegetable Production in Greenhouse (Beatrice Peter, Kenya)”

    1. Thanks tabbs pls can they start with my farm it looks like yua yaani famine is over please do it fast

      1. Ashford, no more famine with this technology. your corridor will be enough to supply you vegetables

  1. İ’m highly interested in the art of
    growing plants in soilless conditions & every technology incoporated alltogether .. Pretty sure your production will be tremendous n huge returns will b realised too..

    1. Yeah! with this technology production is highly enhanced. Justus no more dirt its time to be smart and earn from innovations

  2. Go on and feed people and the surplus be sold to earn a living I make a request that the piloting program be begun on my farm offer free

  3. Excellent, seems to be well researched. Looking forward to learn about this new technology. All best Beatrice n team.

  4. Tis a great idea that needs to b propagated to higher notes… am really looking forward to meeting u and add more knowledge.

  5. Great project beatrice it shows how quick return can be obtained. all the best l will come to learn some techniques.

  6. You are challenging people like me. Proceed and shine. You have shown us that it’s doable.
    I like it.

  7. Great minds birth great ideas and innovations. This is great idea will address great number of sustainable development goals: zero hunger, good health and well-being,clean water and and sanitation. I an idea if adopted will take our country in the next level of production using sustainable ways.

    1. Dickson thats it. Very sustainable technology socially, economically as well as environmentally.

  8. Brilliant initiative by young motivated agripreneurs. Kudos tabz n team. Make this happen n set our region famine-free.

    1. Benjamin thanks. With this technology that dry region will be set free from poverty and hunger.

  9. Good work,this is knowledge based agriculture for not only Kenyan but also African revolution

  10. Good idea. I think it will be of great benefit to Makueni peoples and others by extension
    Wish you good luck

  11. that’s great.can technology work at kinangop.a high altitude area with different soil.and what is the cost of setting it up

    1. Yes, no soil type consideration in this. it can be applied anywhere. cost is a factor of materials, space and crop type.
      thanks martin

  12. am intrestd to know more about this project.i think witinformation from you i can also adapt it in my home farm.

  13. A great proposal emanating from a great and determined mind. At all the levels and stages of implementation, production and harvesting; I wish you success.

    1. Kutu thanks.
      this project will impact many people postively. Our target is that if it goes through we replicate it all over the country

    1. Thank you Dr. Judith, its true our inspiration and passion keeps us going and in this we will make it

  14. Gteat minds puting into practice your knowledge.wish you success in this mordrn technology.its already a success.

  15. wonderful initiative young people.i suppor your move to expand production in the agricultural sector.

  16. good intitiative guys need to challngr the economic situation of our country aggresivly as you’ve done

    1. Yes ezra.
      we have to figure out way on improving our productivity and still conserve our environment. with this technology i strongly believe we are on the right track.

  17. I hav some youths in kericho who together can benefit from yo technology.can we arrnge for such?am realy impressd

    1. Anita just keep in touch, this technology is real and our dream is to spread through trainings, demos and shows. we aim high.

  18. Most of the hydrophonic technology is practiced to produce folliar feed like barley… This diversion is important..

  19. Glad to see that u know realize that it has come to a time for youths to engage in agriculture..

  20. Atleast doing this oractically at ukambani, laggards will learn n will change their mindset..

  21. Guys thankyou so much i really appreciate your warm support in this. hope for the best. And lets continue joining hands and embrace this technology together.

  22. Thanks Beaty for re-awakening the citizenry on the importance of agriculture in the growth and development of the economy.

  23. Beatrice and your are participating in returning agriculture in it’s rightful place..

  24. After reading the article, it is noteworthy to say that the face of agriculture is transformimg.

    1. Yes, use watering can for your small portion if you are doing it in open area you can also depend on showers from rains.

  25. If youths engage in agriculture, they will help raise professional man power like you are doing Beaty.

  26. The pride of a Farmer is during harvest… The photos potray good produce… Walk with all the courage

  27. That’s a very brilliant idea. We need such innovations in the postmodern era. If implemented, there will be a significant change of people’s living standards in Kibwezi and beyond.
    The method is economical and environmental friendly.

    1. Thanks Obadiah for you emphasies on this. we need to conserve our environment as we increase our per capita and this method is a good way to go.

      1. Waaooo..! Great mind at work…right from ukambani to solve ukambani food shortage… great work beatrice… wish u well…keep it up….would like also to adopt this technology..

  28. Haki bueatie c u start with my kashamba hapa matuu, nwy great ideas with great people, bravo.

  29. Beatrice this is a brilliant idea. Keep it up and extent that technology to other dry parts of Kenya and probably in Africa as whole. Kudos

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