After working in the flower industry for 25 years, Shailesh Kumar Rai was ready to dive into a new adventure and started his own rose farm. He bought a 60 ha land plot in Rumuruti, Kenya, on which he built 12ha of greenhouses and named the farm Heritage Flowers Ltd in 2019. It has been a challenging first year, but Kumar Rai is more than pleased with where the company is now. "We even gained more direct clients."
Starting up the farm
For a couple of years, Kumar Rai has been looking for a site to establish a farm and found a 60ha virgin land plot in Rumuruti. "The deciding factor was that it is located close to the equator line which gives abundant sun light and appropriate diurnal temperature which gives a bigger head size. On top of that, he also selected this production location for its vegetative soil conditions. "It is based on Kenya’s unique Agro - Climatic Zone Map which demonstrates that the farm is spread across Zone II & III providing exceptional vegetative soil conditions, mainly moist, enabling optimum plant growth environment with very low risk in crop failure."
Kumar Rai had to start from scratch and choosing the right equipment and varieties to grow was according to him one of the major challenges. Regarding cultivation, he could draw upon his experience and he is pleased with the quality of the crop, and the head size in particular. "Despite we are at an altitude of 1,900 meters above sea level, we are able to compete with the higher altitude farms in terms of head size. We produce super intermediate roses with head size 4.8cm+, mostly 5cm+."
The farms water source is perennial stemming from an all year round permanent river.
Currently, the farm employs 280 people and grows 16 varieties of roses which are almost all being sold directly. "We sell to Europe, the UK, Middle East, Australia, Japan and Russia".
More clients gained due to COVID-19
April and May were not the best months because of the pandemic, Kumar Rai explains. However, for them, the situation improved quickly after, gaining more direct clients. "In the past few months, most of the flower farms production went down. They went for labor reduction and reducing fertilizer chemical cost while we continued as usual which gave us a contentious production. This gave the opportunity to get many direct clients which helped us establish our brand name - Heritage Flowers Ltd - in the international flower market."
The packing facility which serves not just for straight lines roses packing but also for Packed at Source Mixed Bouquet Lines
Only 12ha of the in total 60 ha land is under greenhouse. So, there is plenty of room to expand the farm and that's exactly Kumar Rai's plan. "Business wise, I'm very pleased with this year and I am looking forward to expanding our acreage under greenhouses. So, the next step will be adding 10ha." Eventually, the idea is to expand to a production of 40 ha of roses as well as 12 ha of outdoor spray carnations and other summer flower crops.