Livingstone Waithaka’s home in Asia-Quarters estate in Nyeri looks like a garage.
Motor vehicle spare parts, some that have become obsolete, sit in different parts of the compound.
A Seeds of Gold team finds him in his workshop inside a huge wooden box installing red and black wires.
He cuts the figure of an electrician or a mechanic repairing a vehicle.
Waithaka, however, was making a solar incubator.
“I have to finish this machine lest my client comes and finds I have not made much progress,” said the technician, who was making the gadget for a poultry farmer from Arusha, Tanzania.
The automatic solar incubator, said Waithaka, will hold 10,000 eggs and he would sell it for Sh450,000.
It is his biggest project since he started making the gadgets three years ago.
The 39-year-old makes incubators powered mainly by solar energy.
LOVE OF PHYSICS
The Form Four graduate has not undergone any formal training but he says his love of physics and desire to experiment with gadgets made him start making incubators.
“I loved the practical part of Physics. Whenever I saw something interesting, I tried not to make an imitation but improve it.”
It is this drive that made him think of coming up with solar incubators.
“I decided to modify and better what is in the market to suit the needs of local farmers. Most of the imported incubators use electricity but many farmers don’t have power,” says Waithaka, who did not proceed to college due to lack of fees.
When he started, he was making manual machines, but farmers complained because turning the eggs physically was a challenge.
Farmers using the gadgets also had to keep checking the temperature with a thermometer to ensure it is at the right level.
The techie turned the machines into the automatic mode by adding a gadget to regulate temperature and another to turn the eggs.
He started making the solar incubators in January after a client from Arusha prompted him.
The man had been introduced to him by a poultry farmer from Machakos whom he had sold an electric incubator.
“He challenged me. He asked whether while making the electric incubators I thought of poultry farmers who had no electricity.”
Waithaka took the challenge head on. He worked on one of the electric incubators he had made and after four months, he had figured out how to make it use both solar and electricity.
“The solar incubators are also automatic as they turn the egg-trays after some hours.”
To make the gadgets, Waithaka starts by sourcing chip boards from hardware shops and joins them himself to make the outer compartment.
Among the electric gadgets he uses are small solar panels, alternators to change alternating current to direct current, diodes, tuners and temperature regulators.
So far the techie has sold more than 350 incubators in Arusha and 290 locally of various sizes from Sh30,000.
“I usually have two or three gadgets for display but I make the incubators on order because clients have different preferences when it comes to egg-holding capacity.”
A solar-powered incubator with a capacity of 70 eggs goes for Sh30,000.
“Demand for incubators has risen because many farmers are now rearing Kienyeji chicken thus they hatch their own chicks rather than buy.”
The techie, who also rears chicken, says hatching own chicks comes with a lot of advantages.
“One gets a particular breed he needs and the number of chicks he wants. My incubators can be used to hatch eggs of any kind of bird including ducks, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl, pigeon and bantams.”
A mature bantam, he says, goes for Sh2,500 while a day-old chick costs Sh500.
He sells the gadgets through social media where he has created a page on Facebook.
His products are yet to be approved by Kenya Bureau of Standards but he is in the process of patenting them.
“You have to start at Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (Kirdi). I have a letter from Kirdi that permits me to continue with the business before they fully approve the gadgets.”
By BONIFACE MWANGI