Here are useful tips on how to start a cucumber farming…..
Step #1: Conduct a feasibility study
Before you start any business, a thorough background search and a study to determine its feasibility is important, and the same is true for any kind of vegetable farming in Nigeria as well. There are several breeds/varieties of cucumber that are specific and thrive best in a specific regions. Thus, before you start cucumber farming in Nigeria, you need to gather all of the necessary information in order to setup your farm at the right location, right time and the right cost.
Your feasibility study will help you understand the implications of starting your cucumber farm, including the required capital, your competitors and potential customers.
A feasibility study will also help you clearly identify what marketing methods to use to reach and attract customers once your crop is ready for harvest. One of the best things about choosing cucumber farming is that cucumbers can be grown throughout the year, provided you have a sufficient water supply available.
Step #2: Have a well structured business plan
While the average farmer may not pay enough importance to having a viable business plan, you should because it will give your cucumber farm the structure needed to ensure that you generate the profits that you have worked hard for.
A business plan is what you need to run your farm in an organised and structured manner. Also, if you do not have all the capital required to start your cucumber farm, then with a solid and defined business plan, you will be in a better position to attract bank loans, private investors, or even government grants that are becoming widely available.
Even with sufficient capital, investors and extra capital generated through loans will help you set up a mechanised and subsequently more efficient farm.
Step #3: Find a suitable location for your farm
While the basic requirements for setting up a cucumber farm include a sufficient supply of water along with sunshine that is not all you need to take care of. Cucumber best grows in land that has rich and humid soil.
If you are working on a budget and want to save on operational costs, then choosing a farmland in a highly fertile and humid area will help you cut down on the costs. The most ideal situation would be to secure farmland that is close to any waterbed.
The logic here is simple- while you may be able to grow cucumber in an area that has less rain and is far from a river, it will take a lot of resource and time to ensure that your cucumber crop is constantly moist. This will add to the costs that you will incur on irrigation as well as other operational costs.
If you do not have a lot of knowledge about lands, then consulting with an expert before you start your cucumber farm would be wise. Since you are trying to produce cucumber on a commercial scale, it is essential that you cultivate it in the best conditions possible.
Step #4: Land preparation and cucumber planting
Once you have finalised and secured your land, you will need to prepare it before you begin the plantation of cucumber seeds.
Land preparation is arguably the most crucial step in cucumber farming in Nigeria, and it is important that you pay the utmost attention to it. Some things that you must do as a part of preparing the land for the plantation includes:
- Clear all weed and grass competition in the land
- Till the land
- Apply fertilizers to the land, especially if you are not bent on organic farming
- Dig holes in the land, each about 2.5cm in depth for planting the seeds; with a space of 40cm apart to allow for good growth
In order to make it easier for tractors and humans to pass through the land for purposes like watering and harvesting, you can prepare the land in columns and rows.
Types of cucumber seeds to use
The most important factor that will determine the success of your cucumber farm is the seeds that you use. You need to determine the following:
Is it a local or a foreign seed?
Is it an open or a closed seed?
Is it a hybrid or General seed?
Some of the other information that you will find out are are that some seeds can produce 1tonne of cucumber per hectare each harvest; others can produce 500kg, 200kg, even as low as 50kg. And some can produce up to 2-3 tonnes under the same agricultural conditions.
Another role that a seed can play is in deciding how long you can harvest. Some 3-5 times some 5-10times while a select few can go 15-20 times before they wither. (Other factors contribute to how long harvest lasts)
Cucumber seeds are also very responsive to fertilizers, and you can use them together with organic manure. As they grow, you can nip off the tips of the main stems so that branching is encouraged.
From this you can see that the type of seed used is a vital factor in determining the direction of your cucumber farm.
Step #5: Labour
If you are starting small with about one plot of land you can probably handle most of the labour yourself, and only hire people for difficult tasks such as making the beds. This will reduce your costs and increase your profits.
But if you start big or grow your business you will need to hire labour. As a guide, you can expect to pay around N20,000 a month per person.
Labour can sometimes be your biggest challenge so don’t take it lightly. I’ve seen some promising businesses fail because they hired lazy or incompetent labour.
I’ll therefore suggest that you start small and build up your labour force gradually with trusted, hardworking personnel.
Step #6: Irrigation
As I mentioned earlier, over 80% of cucumber composition is water, so the need for constant water is key.
Personally, Securing suitable land and a constant water supply are the most important parts of a successful cucumber farm.
Your constant source of water could be a nearby stream or a sink borehole in the land.
If you don’t have a constant source of water, your cucumber farm will not even survive past the first harvest.
If your plants are not well watered, the primary effect is that the cucumber will taste bitter. Have you ever eaten bitter cucumber before? Let’s just say it’s not very nice, even animals will refuse to eat it. The end result will be that nobody will buy your cucumbers and you can wave goodbye to your profits.
Secondly, the plants won’t last long before they wither and die.
Step #7: Harvesting
Cucumber fruits are harvested before they are mature, which varies between 1 and 2 weeks depending on when they flower. The time of first harvest is around 40 to 60 days after they have been sowed. This again varies as per the climate, and can be done either every other day or after a gap of a few days.
Step #8: Marketing
Like most businesses your initial marketing efforts will be time consuming, but once you have built momentum you will not struggle to sell your cucumbers.
Cucumbers can be sold in retail, wholesale, in a market near you, or in one of the many companies that specialise in cucumber processing. All you need to do is ensure that you cucumbers are green, big, attractive, fresh and juicy, and of a high quality. So ensure that you have put in place high quality regulation for your cucumbers.
Cucumbers are in high demand, and as long as you inform local customers that you have harvested cucumbers from your own farm you will have them queuing to buy them.
I’ve known people that have gradually built up their business and are now making millions, but started out by selling to local offices, schools and churches. They focused on supplying locally because it was low cost and low risk, and locals favoured their business because they knew that they were local.
But as their farms grew bigger they started selling in bulk to market women at a reasonable price. Now, no matter the quantity that they produce, it does not last the next day.
Don’t underestimate the selling power of the local market women. They will struggle and fight for your products if they are of high quality. Selling to them is not as profitable as selling retail but you will sell bigger volumes and the money will come quicker and faster, which is important because one of the most crucial parts of business is cash flow. Your cash flow is vital for daily operations, taxes, purchasing inventory, paying employees and operating costs of your cucumber farm.