Having a degree in Information Technology did not stop Felix Mujyanama from trying his luck in farming.
On discovering that his piece of land was adequate and fertile enough to grow pineapples, the 26-year-old resident of Gatenga, Kicukiro did not hesitate to venture into a sector that employs most Rwandans.
Mujyanama, who holds a Bachelor's degree in IT from Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC)-Kigali, currently balances his IT engagements with pineapple farming which he says is proving to be profitable.
With a capital of about Rwf80,000, he ventured into pineapple farming in July 2016 in Masaka on the outskirts of Kigali city.
Today, his Rwf80,000 investment is earning him over Rwf 2,000,000 million a month.
He runs a firm known as M&K Company Ltd.
His venture has enabled him to buy a four hectare piece of land in Nyanza District where he hopes to expand his business as well as construct a house.
How he got started
Prior to commencing farming, he undertook a course on pineapple farming with the Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute.
"Much as I had passion to grow pineapples, I needed skills which I acquired from a number of training sessions at Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute," he tells Business Times.
He has since also trained farmers in Masaka in the skills.
Currently, he plants pineapples on a four hectares and harvests over 350 pineapples monthly.
New pineapple shootings are developed from developed fruits.
Mujyanama explains that one uses a fairly ripe pineapple fruit's crown to produce 'baby pineapples.'
After twisting off the top part of the fruit, one soaks the crown in water for a few days to produce roots.
One then prepares soil in a container such as a pot to plan the crown in to allow roots to develop enough.
The new plant ought to be kept in a warm environment but moisture conditions with some fertiliser applied once every fortnight.
For Mujyanama, he plants new plants every three weeks to ensure he always has fruits ready for harvest and to ensure he is not overwhelmed by new plants.
Pineapples take about six months to grow before they are ready for harvest. He sells each pineapple at Rwf500.
His best harvesting season is between May and August while growing time is normally between January and March.
Other than selling fruits, he has also ventured into value addition where he processes juice from the fruits which he currently supplies to two outlets.
Pineapple marketing, challenges
When the pineapples are ready for harvesting, Mujyanama and his employees embark on gathering the yield upon which they begin seeking market for the fruits.
They approach local fruit vendors across the city as well as local restaurants and bars to sell juice. They also work with shops in the neighbourhood to sell their fruits as well as juice.
"We also market our pineapples through social media platforms like Facebook. We have also been attending events such as exhibitions to expand our network," he says.
Though his success in the venture could lead to most to assume that pineapple farming is an easy trade, it's been quite an uphill task, he says.
Among the difficulties he says affect his business include changing climatic conditions which are often unpredictable and could lead to losses.
He adds that that he and others in the trade still fall short of the latest skills and practices, especially in aspects such as inputs (fertilisers and pesticide) addition.
"At times we lack enough skills on how we can improve in certain aspects of pineapple growing and value addition. For instance, we need more training on what fertilisers to apply and how to better protect plants from pests and diseases," Mujyanama says.
Like most entrepreneurs and young businesspeople, he cites inadequate capital for expansion which would allow him to add more value to his fruits fetching him more profits as a result.
"Sometimes you want to buy certain machines such as equipment for drying pineapples - which is very important as it keeps them for a long time without getting spoilt - buy you have no money," he says.
In the coming days, he says, he plans to get credit to expand his production capacity and improve quality of his output.
"I hope to get a loan from the bank in order to boost my business. I also plan to enroll my business in a regional competition in the coming days," Mujyanama adds.
The loan will go into buying two machines; one that produces fruit juice, which costs about Rwf 2.7 million, and another to dry pineapples, which is priced at about Rwf 6 million.
This would increase the number of machines currently in use at his plant from 2 to 4.
Beyond providing IT services to clients and fruit farming, Mujyanama is keen on venturing into the education sector.
Mujyanama calls upon fellow youth to consider joining the trade as it requires little capital to start.
He says that farmers are almost assured of ready market as most people are aware of the benefits of fruits consumption.