Derrick, aged 27, is the first born of three siblings – two boys and a girl. His father is a businessman in the textile sector while his mum owns and runs a chemist in Nairobi. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Education Arts and IT in 2018. “I am a serial entrepreneur,” he stated with a chuckle. He started his business involvement while at university, where he ran a fast-food joint. However, it did not last because he had to concentrate on his studies and the manager he had hired did not do a good job. “You know how people you employ can be dishonest sometimes. I think that is what brought that business down,” he said.
After that, he tried his hand at maize and beans farming, and in brick making without much success in either. Thereafter, he went into onion-growing in Bondo and made some good returns. “My first crop gave me a profit of Kshs 48,000 and I felt that all I had done in business had not been in vain,” he recalled. Derrick’s entrepreneurship journey did not stop with the onions. He came to Nairobi and used the proceeds from his onion business to set up a laundry and a beauty shop. Unfortunately, he could not replicate the success he had with the onion farming in these new lines of business. It was about this time that the Young Africa Works Project came calling. A friend told him about it, he applied and was accepted.
Derrick reported for training at Miramar International College in December 2019 and completed in March 2020. Miramar International College is the anchor partner in charge of training beneficiaries in hydroponic farming. Other anchor partners on the project are Gearbox who manufacture the greenhouse parts and Arcskills who construct the greenhouses. While at Miramar International College, Derrick met Ruth Mumbi, and they agreed to set up a business together that they named Greentalows. In August 2020, they were allocated a greenhouse at Ngong Kibiko and proceeded to prepare it for planting, and later planted tomatoes.
The period of nurturing the tomatoes came with several challenges. In the first week of life of the crop, there was a lot of work to do since the tomato crop had to be fed five times a day. After that intensive first week, things cooled somewhat, and feeding would happen once a day early in the morning. The second challenge was at the level of maintaining hygiene in the greenhouse. Keeping visitors and other curious individuals out became a constant task. Finally, Derrick and his partner have had to be vigilant against pests. At the first sign of an infection, they have had to spray to control and eliminate pests. Through all these challenges, they have stayed focused and relied on the support of the Miramar team who have guided them in overcoming the difficulties.
On the 8th and 12th November 2020, after three months of labour, Derrick and Ruth harvested their first tomato crop, bringing in over 200 kilograms of tomatoes valued at Kshs 12,000. By the 9th February 2021, they had harvested a total of 2.5 tonnes and sold it at KShs 109,680 to Miramar, the project off taker for the period of the programme.
Derrick and Ruth’s greenhouse is located at Ngong-Kibiko farm which hosts 100 greenhouses. These greenhouses are the first steps towards setting up 28,000 hydroponic greenhouses to be rolled out countrywide.
Derrick’s long-term vision is to build expertise in agriculture so that he can grow into other levels of agripreneurship, especially in value addition businesses. He believes that he is also on his way to becoming a consultant for other greenhouse owners who may need guidance.