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Less is better

What is better?

Let’s say you have a good hybrid tomato variety capable of producing at least 200 fruits.

Would it make more sense to grow just one plant to yield the 200 fruits or four plants each yielding 50 fruits with minimal care because they’re too many to look after?

Here is the idea, do less and obtain much more productivity from a single plant. Have one plant and manage it well.

That above our dear friend is the point behind lean farming.

Focus on its feeding and protection from disease as well as pests.

Properly managing the above i.e watering, feeding, pests and diseases will eliminate or exclude physiological shocks to each individual plant thereby ensuring greater productivity per plant.

Remember if well fed and well looked after, each fruit could weigh at least 100g translating into 20kg. At least for most hybrids.

Depending on how much you would sell a kg, you stand to earn more.

So, what’s better?

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Applying the lean farming philosophy

Lean farming philosophy is a thinking that places the goal of maximizing a single crop’s productivity and therefore its maximum value at the center.

Everything else then that doesn’t serve this purpose is considered wasteful.

Which is better?

Ten acres of tomatoes coming to harvest at a time when the prices are so low or half an acre with continuous production?

Is a smaller acreage that yields more plus a shrewd way of accessing market better?

It will cost you time and effort to establish such a system but it is definitely worth it.

Some of the insights we gained from our trial farm include:

  • Smaller acreage is far better.
  • Liberally spacing your plants leads to higher productivity.
  • Eliminating or minimizing physiological shock to plants leads to greater productivity. Shock can come from late or improper transplanting, pests, erratic watering, poor feeding and disease.
  • Establishing routines when it comes to fertilizer application, watering, disease and pest control are key.
  • Sell the fruits yourself.

Fewer trumps many

The key to lean farming is avoiding waste starting straight from the farm.

It is therefore important to understand that anything that doesn’t lead to higher earnings and crop productivity is a form of waste.

In several instances a farmer might think he’s being hardworking yet in actual sense he is being wasteful.

Consider this, technology in form of greenhouses increases yields 10 times in comparison with open field farming.

The advantages of such a technology includes less ground to be covered. Fertilizer application, spraying, watering and so on become less demanding.

In terms of crop numbers, an open field measuring one acre can carry up to 10,000 crops. A greenhouse of 1,000 plants will yield equally.

But this productivity isn’t exclusive to greenhouses. Small scale open field farms also yield highly with good management.

Using approaches that maximize fertilizer use and increase tolerance to uneven watering regimes like our seed coating technology works wonders.

This fertilizer marketed as Biofert relies on microbial community composition re-engineering. You can read about Biofert here

At our demo and data generating farm we pushed productivity from each plant to 200 and more tomato fruits per plant and we had about 3500 plants by then.

Of course it’s extremely hard to achieve such efficiency due to many uncertainties associated with farming delicate crops like tomatoes.

But here is the argument, don’t focus on how many acres or plants you can grow. Instead focus on productivity per plant.

Make it a point that all the flowers that blossom translate into sizable fruits.

Spread your production through out the year

Once you accomplish maximizing revenue from your produce by creating your own way of reaching customers directly, create a network of consumers.

This will ensure continuous cash flow and build shock absorbers within your system in the event that the markets don’t play nice.

Fight the temptation to want to earn large sums of money all at once. You’re drawing a higher risk of failure compared to continuous cash flows.

Sell the fruits yourself

At that time that we ran our trial farm, a box went for 50k during the last quarter of that year.

This was in contrast to 750k at the year’s start.

Regardless consumers still bought a tomato at 100shs or 200shs.

What we did then was to sell directly to the final consumer.

One begins to see the advantage of smaller or fewer being better.

In case of a flooded market, continuous production and a market responsive production schedule beats one time high volume production.

Thus, producing what is needed by the consumer, no more no less is the sole target.

Avoid the headache of too much produce that ends up being discarded or rotting or being sold off at a loss at all cost.

Other lean farming considerations

To successfully profit from farming, the philosophy of lean farming should become a way of thinking.

The principals that underpin it don’t stop at the growing stage.

Rather, lean farming should also apply to how one acquires market for their produce.

But more importantly, the mindset should be to seek to improve on everything involved in production.

Whether fertilizer application through such approaches as fertigation or structured pricing or controlled production, lean thinking should be able to successfully address these challenges.

Lean farming employs an experimental approach

As an example, watering via drip twice a day at the exact times leads to greater productivity compared to inconsistent watering.

Such a result cannot be obtained without experimentation.

As it turns out every other aspect of the farming experience must be subjected to experimentation and not a thing left to chance.

The objective is to yield more with less, to increase efficiency.