Azolla Farming in Kenya: How Farmers are Saving 80% on Animal Feeds

Little was known about Azolla farming in Kenya until just the other day. I bet it is the necessity to find alternatives to the high-cost animal feeds that gave birth to the idea of farming Azolla at a commercial scale. The production of this green sea weed has now become very popular among chicken, pig, goat and dairy farmers who use it to feed their animals. All this for a good reason as I will be telling you in this article.

Azolla Farming

What is Azolla and why Farmers love it

Azolla is a small aquatic plant with leaves that float on the surface of stagnant or slow-moving bodies of water, such as ponds or lakes. Many people know it as the duck weed, most likely because it grows well in stagnant water ponds where ducks go swimming and enjoy eating it. It particularly grows best in warm places, even though it can still be grown in cold areas. In fact, the Kenya, you can grow azolla anywhere.

How is Azolla used?

1. Azolla as animal feeds

Most farmers use azolla to feed their animals. While poultry and pig farmers in Kenya are the ones who have mostly embraced the use of azolla as animal feeds, this duck weed can be eaten by all other animals including cows, goats, sheep and rabbits.

The weed is simply collected from the ponds and fed directly to the animals. It can also be dried and mixed with other concentrates. Since animals and poultry take a bit of time to get used to the taste of azolla, I suggest that you start them off with dried azolla mixed with the commercial feeds your animals are used to. With time, they will get used to the taste and start eating the good weed plain. The plant has high protein content beneficial to animals.

However, it is not advisable to feed your poultry or animals on azolla only. While this plant is rich in protein and vitamins, it lacks in fats, calcium and Phosphorous. It also lacks fibre which makes it unsuitable as the primary feed for ruminant animals like cows and goats, which need a lot of fibre for digestion.

2. Azolla as a natural fertilizer

Farmers in Kenya are now using Azolla as green manure. It is very rich in Nitrogen because it uses a biological relationship it has with algae called Anabaena azollae to draw and fix nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that can be used by other plants.

The good thing with it is that it does not necessarily require composting before use; you can simply pick the azolla from your pond, drain the excess water and apply the green manure in the same way you apply animal manure. However, you can choose to add the green azolla onto a pile of other organic waste materials and compost to form farmyard manure. This enhances the nutrient content of azolla.

3. Azolla as human food, medicine and fuel

I just thought of adding this part to enrich your knowledge but I will concentrate on how azolla farming in Kenya is done for animal feeds and organic fertilizer production.

In some parts of the world, Azolla is used as food, a medicinal herb, a biopesticide and it is also being researched as a potential source of biofuel. To use it as food, it must be grown in clean ponds set aside for food production and rinsed well before consumption.

Freshly harvested azolla can be added to salads and sandwiches or used as a topping in various dishes.

Azolla can also be cooked by stir frying, sautéing or adding it as an ingredient in dishes like pancakes. For me, cooking azolla is better than taking it raw since it helps to improve its digestibility, reduce its tangy taste and eliminate any potentially harmful microorganisms.

Azolla is rich in protein and all essential amino acids that are very beneficial to the human health. It also contains other vital minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

How to start Azolla farming in Kenya

As we have indicated, you need a pond or a shallow dam in order to grow Azolla. The pond doesn’t have to be big; a 2x2m pond with a depth of only 30cm is enough to start with. Just make sure it is at a place where it will enjoy full sunshine.

Now with your water body ready, here are the steps to follow to grow miracle weed:

  1. Get the initial Azolla: there are quite a number of azolla farmers in Kenya now that are selling the fresh azolla that you can use to start your project. You only need a few grams or kilos to start you off. You can buy that from any farmer growing them near you or from Richfarm Kenya. To buy from Richfarm Kenya, simply call +254724698357 to make your order and they will deliver.
  2. Add the azolla to the growing pond: This is done by simply throwing the initial azolla into the pool. In fact, you can even grow them in containers like half-cut drums if you can’t get space for a pond. These contains can be arranged vertically as long as you ensure your plants will be exposed to sunlight for at least 6 hours every day.
  3. Add fertilizers: Azolla is a plant hence it requires nutrients from the water in order to grow. You add these nutrients by simply throwing animal manure into the water. 1kg of animal manure every 2 weeks will be enough for a 2x2m pond. If you see the colour of the azolla changing from green to red, it means the plants have exhausted the nutrients in the water and there is need to replenish immediately.
  4. Harvest immediately it matures: Azolla is a fast-growing plant, doubling in mass every 72 hours. Therefore, it is important to monitor it regularly to prevent overgrowth. When the plant becomes thick over the water surface, it is ready for harvesting and should be removed. It is also important to maintain the water quality by removing any debris or pollutants that may accumulate.
  5. Retain some plants for multiplication: When harvesting azolla, do not remove all the plants from the water. Ensure that you leave sufficient amounts in the water. These plants will act as the initial stock for the next generation.  

Azolla farming in Kenya for business

If you have the space, you can farm azolla as a business, targeting to sell the leaves as animal feeds to livestock farmers or an organic fertilizer to crop farmers. From a 2x2m space, you can harvest 2kg of azolla daily.


Anonymous said...

Your contacts

Anonymous said...

A good one

Anonymous said...

Just learnt about azzola today from a neighbour. Sleeves up ready to farm