Assessing feasibility of pest-exclusion nets
Project Title: Netting Technology for Small-Scale Vegetable Growers in Sub-Saharan Africa: 1-year pilot project to assess the scalability of netting technology in Kenya
Target Country: Kenya
Principal Investigator: Vance Baird, Michigan State University
- Thibaud Martin, CIRAD (France) and icipe (Kenya)
- A to Z Textile Mills, Tanzania
- James Simon, Horticulture, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, USA
- Laurent Parrot, Socio-Economist, CIRAD, France
- Richard Kohl, Center for Large Scale Social Change, LLC, USA
This 1-year pilot study will examine the commercial feasibility of scaling up the use of AgroNets, also known as Eco-Friendly Nets, for sustainable production of fresh market vegetables in Kenya. Very promising research results show that netting technology leads to increased yields and increased marketable produce, while simultaneously reducing the use of synthetic insecticides or eliminating their application altogether. As such, use of the nets has generated significant interest among growers (particularly smallholder farmers), grower associations and netting manufacturers.
The use of the nets with French bean (green bean), tomato and other high-value vegetable crops is of particular interest as this technology precludes or minimizes the need for insecticides for crop protection — enhancing exporter compliance with strict European Union requirements of minimum pesticide residue levels. Some growers are now using and promoting the nets, yet questions remain that need to be addressed in order to better determine the probability of success for their broader and long-term adoption.
Until now, the focus has been on research relative to technology application and refinement, while noting its limitations. Key concerns to be resolved when seeking to determine scaling potential are:
- Return on investment (ROI) in relationship to the crops grown (e.g., French bean, tomato and/or cabbage) and the demographic of the potential adopters (e.g., largescale and smallholder farmers)
- Barriers to sustained adoption of the technology by the target audience, including (a) broad awareness of the technology’s potential impact as well as availability, and (b) grower access to innovative low-interest loans or savings schemes that provide the investment capital needed to purchase the technology
- Long-term commitment and investment by the prime partner manufacturer to provide the AgroNets and in addressing future designs improvements (wear and tear, bulk roll dimensions, support frames, etc.).
In addition, secondary issues that may be addressed include: the optimum physical design and engineering of support structures such as tunnels and nethouse kits; the range of specialty crops that can be profitably grown under the nets; and the cost-effectiveness of combining proven biological control agents or biopesticides with net technology.
Our team conducted a rapid study tour to meet with exporters, grower groups, smallholder farmers, private sector partners, commercial net manufacturers and biological control agent providers to help identify what information gaps exist in order to judge the potential for scale-up. This proposal is designed to determine ROI and address those information gaps, after which a better-informed decision can be made about scaling the technology.
This project builds on a previously completed project:
- Demonstrating nets and floating row covers in Kenya and Benin
- Pest-exclusion nets protect crops to boost yield, PDF fact sheet created by the Horticulture Innovation Lab
- Mosquito Net Company Partners with Research Institutions to Tackle Crop Pests, article in Feed the Future newsletter. Success story also available in one-page PDF version