JKUAT, Fujita Corporation partner to enhance potato farming in Kenya

JKUAT and Fujita Corporation officials pose for a group photo.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has partnered with Japan’s Fujita Corporation for a potato value chain project as part of the academia-industry linkage to catalyze innovation and tackle challenges.

Prof. Daniel Sila, a lead researcher of the project, said that the two organizations have a shared vision to revolutionize the potato value chain by leveraging cutting-edge research and industry expertise.

“Together, we aim to not only boost yields and enhance nutritional value but to also fortify resilience against the myriad threats that plague potato farming in Kenya. From battling pests and diseases to streamlining the value chain, this partnership embodies a commitment to harnessing innovation for the betterment of farmers, consumers, and the agricultural sector at large,” explains Prof Sila who is also the Principal, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Piloting with Nyandarua County, a region renowned for its vibrant potato farming, the project has set its sights on a comprehensive approach to agricultural enhancement.

According to the researcher, soil analysis emerges as a cornerstone, offering invaluable insights into optimizing nutrient levels and soil health.

Concurrently, rigorous pest and disease management strategies are being honed, deploying innovative techniques to mitigate threats and safeguard yields. Yet, perhaps most transformative of all is the venture into tissue culture – an endeavor poised to revolutionize potato farming by elevating seed quality and resilience.

Diversifying its scope, the project has delved into mechanization, marking a significant step forward in enhancing efficiency and productivity.

Among its notable achievements is the development of three pioneering prototypes: a sorting and grading machine tailored for potatoes; a harvester machine; and an innovative washing and peeling system.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, Prof. Robert Kinyua, expressed confidence in the partnership in strengthening academia-industry linkage and delivering sustainable solutions to the pressing challenges confronting potato farmers

“JKUAT has consistently been at the forefront of providing innovative solutions to societal challenges. For instance, our expertise in tissue-culture bananas is widely recognized. I am optimistic this collaboration will further elevate the University’s reputation as a center of excellence in potato research,” said Prof Kinyua.

General Manager of the International Business Division at Fujita, Seiji Kimishima, echoed Prof. Kinyua’s sentiments, emphasizing the broader societal benefits that the enhancement of the potato value chain will bring.

He pledged Fujita’s unwavering commitment to collaborating diligently with JKUAT to address societal challenges, thereby laying the foundation for a brighter and more sustainable future for potato farming in Kenya.

He was represented by Dr. Hiroshi Ikemi, Business Transformation Division Executive Advisor, who was accompanied by Kiyoyoshi Kimura, Manager, Middle East and Africa Office, International Business Division in a meeting at JKUAT on February 9, 2024.

As part of the collaboration, support will be extended to four postgraduate students from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the College of Engineering and Technology to the tune of Ksh4 million.

The collaboration spearheaded by the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project domiciled at JKUAT has established a cold storage for potatoes in Kinangop, Nyandarua County, a significant stride towards enhancing post-harvest management and reducing losses in the potato value chain.

By Kamau Njoroge

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