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Students find a way to grow greenhouse cash

Taita Ng’etich and Brian Bett are raring to change farming in Kenya and make big money.

The two University of Nairobi students spurred by failure in their first greenhouse farming, are spending hours at the varsity’s Fablab to develop the first-ever farm automation system in Kenya.

“Importing the system from the US was very costly so I decided to develop one,” said Ng’etich, a third year mechanical engineering student.


The Fablab is linked to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The farm automation system, added Ng’etich, helps a farmer to monitor his farm regardless of the distance.

It is installed in greenhouses to detect if the conditions (lighting, humidity and temperature ) are right.

If the levels are not okay, the device sends two SMS alerts to the farmer, and if he/she doesn’t respond, it makes a call.

“The constant nag ensures that the farmer gets enough alerts and responds immediately,” he said.

To enable texting, the system has a SIM card which has to be loaded with airtime. In areas where there is no electricity, a solar panel is attached to supply power to the system’s battery.

“Before I developed this device a month ago, we used to import the whole package of the system (which consists of the light, humidity, temperature sensors and the booster) at Sh80,000 but what we are designing costs Sh18,000,” said Ng’etich.

The light and humidity sensors cost Sh5,000 each, the temperature Sh1,000 while the booster (that collects all the information) goes for Sh4,000 and installation at Sh3,000.

The pair has hired staff who install the system in greenhouses. This way, they are able to study uninterrupted.

They are also in the process of registering their company — Illuminum Greenhouses Company.