You will be mistaken into thinking you are at the headquarters of the national grains agency.
There are sky-piercing silos; ceaseless noise from machines; gigantic stores full of an assortment of farm machinery and equipment complete with a weigh
Add to the equation the workers clad in full factory gear, dense air heavy with grain dust and visitors leaving or entering and you get the idea of how busy the place is.
This is the property of George Kili, an unassuming apron-clad man who you cannot pick out from among a group of farm drivers communing over lunch in the yard.
He walks towards us, acknowledging our earlier call about the visit with a mild complaint.
“You know I am on leave,” he says, explaining that he usually takes his annual leave before the planting season begins.
Expansive maize farm
Later it dawns on us that he is serious after he instructs his son to take us round the vast farm.
Nonetheless, Kili gives us a 30-minute interview after three hours with his son Evans Kiprotich Kili, 29, a graduate of electrical engineering. He also works as the farm manager.
Kili is a prominent member of a group of wheat and maize growers in Uasin Gishu — made up of wealthy men born in the 1930s and 1940s.
They share common attributes in the breadbasket county: hard work, vast land, political influence and connections, elders of the African Inland Church (AIC) whose children were mostly educated at the then exclusive Hill School, Eldoret, and Greenfields in Kitale.
They always drove the same car model — Peugeot 504 — and wined and dined at the Lincoln Motel in Eldoret.
In the past, they were humorously taunted as living in grass-thatched hovels which were dwarfed by gigantic maize stores and combine harvesters parked outside. Today, they have some of the best mansions in the country.
Kili cultivates 400 acres of maize and 600 acres of wheat. He harvests 35 to 40 bags of maize and 18 to 22 bags of wheat per acre.
A week before planting, he sprays the farm with glyphosate — a pre-emergence non-selective herbicide — and uses an ultra-modern sprayer fitted with a global positioning system (GPS) gadget imported from South Africa that sprays 24 metres wide at a go.
The GPS has a satellite sensor that detects sprayed areas and shuts the affected nozzles to avoid overlap. It sprays with outstanding precision — allowing only a one per cent error.
“I reserve 100 acres of land to plant maize seeds which I sort out and inoculate using a machine for my own use here. I don’t buy maize and wheat seeds,” he says.
According to Kili, ideal planting requires 120 kilogrammes of DAP per acre, and not the 50 kilogrammes which farmers ordinarily apply.
He then top dresses his crop with 75 kilogrammes of CAN when the maize has five to seven or six to eight weeks old or knee-high. In his farm is a runway for a small plane he often hires for fast top dressing.
He advises farmers to spray maize three to four times because pests and diseases have developed resistance.
“Urea should not be applied directly, as most farmers do to the soil as it acidifies it,” he says.
Instead, it should be liquefied — two kilogrammes for two litres of water before spraying.
Harvesting is also highly mechanised with combine harvesters dispatched to different locations trailed by tractor-pulling carriers.
Harvested grain is carried and drained into an underground reservoir linked to the factory cleaner by a conveyor belt which relays maize to another smaller reservoir under the cleaner.
An elevator fitted with special cups scoops and ferries them to the cleaner. The cleaner sieves and removes foreign particles, light, deformed, broken, small and rotten grain; metal pieces, stones and chaff. Clean, large healthy grain is carefully collected.
Moisture content is taken and if it is found to be below 13 — the ideal content — the grain is stored in the nearby silos. If not, they are conveyed to the dryer which brings down the moisture to 13.
The grain is then conveyed to four silos, each storing 4,000 bags. One wet bin, a conical based silo with a capacity of 3,000 bags, is used to drain grains awaiting drying. All the silos are water, air and pest tight.
The 70-year-old employs unique practices, which he calls conservative tillage.
His farming cycle begins in January and unlike other farmers who use the disc plough, he uses a chisel or mulch tiller.
These implements are fitted with large spikes which cut maize stalks into pieces and spread them on the soil top. They break hard bans and maintain soil structure.
He uses a cultivator with small tines during the second tillage. This further mixes the top soil with stalk cuttings to improve soil texture and fertility as stalk turns into compost. At the same time, soil aeration and water percolation are stepped up.
Ordinary farming, he says, involves the use of the disc plough which overturns mulches deep into the soil and exposes red infertile soil to the plant thus disturbing soil structure and discouraging water percolation.
“Rains begin to show signs in March and planting should follow a week after,” he says.
But how does he do his
“I use the traditional method: observation. I have a sixth sense; I know when real rain begins,” he says. He terms modern weather forecasts as incredibly unreliable.
“They say the opposite. I do not even listen to them,” says the millionaire farmer.