A greenhouse is a structure with walls and roof made essentially of transparent material, such as glass, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown.
Crops mainly vegetables and flowers are grown under this arrangement that requires irrigation.
In Uganda, a few commercial farmers are embracing this innovation. Munir Bhatti is one of the farmers who have invested heavily in green house farming.
Bhatti runs Roohaz Agro Farms Ltd that is located in Komamboga along Gayaza road.
He shared his story revealing why he left Pakistan to invest in Uganda. He says he first came to Uganda in 2014 as a businessman trading cement.
“We had a cement store in Kampala but we were exporting it to Central South Sudan (Juba),” he says, adding that when political instability increased, he quickly thought of engaging in another income generating venture still in Uganda.
Bhatti explains that he zeroed on agriculture because of Uganda’s good weather conditions and friendliness of her people. This could partly be the reason he is married to a Ugandan woman with whom they are raising a baby girl.
Setting up greenhouses
In 2017, Bhatti acquired about three acres of land on a five-year lease. The main purpose was to set up a modern farm, which he did.
He went on to recruit a one, Ivan Sseguya, an agronomist and manager that has been involved in the farm since its inception.
He says that he spent about Shs30m to level the land because it was on a hilly area.
He also spent an additional Shs15m to fence the area and install a water system including a 50,000-litre water reservoir.
Additionally, he spent another Shs70m to build a modern nursery bed greenhouse, four greenhouses and other farm structures.
Bhatti mainly grows sweet pepper (red, yellow), tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and English cucumber.
He says his first year (2017) was not very good because he lost most of his tomatoes to a deadly disease which he says was new and mysterious.
To make matters worse, his co-partner had problems back home that necessitated him to go back to Pakistan. This meant that Bhatti had to give him back his share capital.
“In 2017, we learnt a lot of lessons about where to get the right seeds and how best to make money from green house farming,” Bhatti said in an interview, adding that towards
the end of last year he re-started again refilling the greenhouses.
“At the start, we started the four greenhouses at ago and we failed to give them the best care. Now we are investing in phases,” he says.
“You can see these crops look healthy. We expect a bumper harvest,” he explains at his farm, adding that they also supply seedlings to farmers as well as helping them set up greenhouses.
Bhatti is right now growing sweet pepper in all his greenhouses. His first greenhouse measures 8.5 meters by 30 meters and accommodates 1,340 plants.
The second is 8.5m by 32m and accommodates 1,400 plants. The third is 8.5m by 34m and accommodates 1,450 plants while the fourth is 8.5m by 36m and accommodates 1,500 plants.
This makes a total of 5,690 plants in the four green houses. He says that with very good farm management practices, each plant can produce 7-8 kilogrammes within 8-9 months period.
He adds that after planting, one can start harvesting from the fourth month up to the ninth month.
He says the minimum price for a kilogramme is Shs5,000 and that he has ready in Uganda and beyond.
“From my first greenhouse if I take 1,300 good plants and five Kilogrammes per plant, I will get 6,500kilogrammes. This will give me a gross profit of Shs32.5 million,” he says with a smile on his face.
He says from nursery bed to harvest time, he spends an average cost of Shs4,000 per plant.
This means spending about Shs22.76m on the 5,690 plants in the four greenhouses in the nine month period.
Quick mathematics gives Shs33.75m as his earnings from his second greenhouse (1350 plants × 5kilogrammes=6,750 × Shs5, 000=Shs33.75m).
Using the same calculation method, he would earn a gross profit of Shs35m and Shs36.25m from the third and fourth greenhouses respectively.
Other factors constant, in total, he would earn a gross profit of Shs137.5m from the four greenhouses that occupy almost quarter an acre.
In fact, he is optimistic he can earn as high as Shs114.74m as net profit in nine months from the four green houses.
Bhatti says while he has ready market, he does not have enough resources to put the remaining two acres to proper use given that he is running the four greenhouses at once.
He says he is looking for a partner or co-investor for expansion purposes.
“I want to have regular supply to my clients. I want a serious investor for an investment period of between nine months to four years. The minimum capital to partner with me is Shs20m and maximum of Shs50m. The return on investment is good and can be discussed with interested parties,” Bhatti says.
The writer is a greenhouse nursery bed propagator and CEO Business Focus