Tiger nut farming has been in existence centuries ago, in fact the Egyptians have long planted them as edible seeds. They are not actually nut but tubers just that the share the same characteristics with tubers and nuts.
Cyperus esculentus is the botanical name for tiger nuts. other names are; earth almond, yellow nut, chufa and nut grass ( I will be using them intermittently in this post). It is both an annual and a perennial plant. tiger nut can grow up to 3ft (90cm) from tuber.
Do you know that the demand for tiger nut is increasing every day, because many people prefer tiger nut drinks to other food drinks. Some people consider it as their best snacks. It is gaining popularity even in the Western world. Many supermarkets in Europe and USA now have tiger nuts in their shelf. African land is rich enough for their farming. Tiger nut farming can be done in the Urban center with containers. And it can be grown successfully both in the Northern and Southern regions. Very few persons are into commercial tiger nut farming so you have less competitors to deal with if you start today.
Tiger nut farming has the potential of employing many youths. It is a sector that has several value chain. This post is a complete guide on tiger nut farming, however, you need to write a business plan before starting.
ABOUT THE POST
- You will learn how to prepare the land
- how to grow chaffa chaffa
- Weeding pattern
- Irrigation is it necessary?
- how to harvest tiger nuts
- drying process
- storage of tiger nuts
- market strategy
Chufa grasses are crops from the sedge family Cyperaceae. Their presence cut across several countries of the world such as Spain, India, Egypt and many African countries. Some people consider them as weed especially those from the South. Tiger nut is cultivated mainly for edible nuts, aesthetics and commercial purposes. If you go to many schools or Institutions they are used in designing fields for football and other sporting activities.
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Nothing or little was known about them until recent researches found out that they have high level of nutritional values and several health benefits. Their popularity is now growing by the day. They are called Aya in Hausa, Ofio in Yoruba, Imumu by Igbos and Isip Isong in Ibibio.
TIGER NUT FARMING BUSINESS
Do you know it is a business one can throw money into and go back to sleep without fear of losing. It is a very lucrative business which is self sustaining. They hardly die even if it is only the rhizome that is left it will germinate to spread beyond borders.
In Nigeria they are mostly cultivated in the Northern part of the country for commercial purposes. Because of much awareness they are no longer sustaining again as their demand far outweighs their supply. It is because of this, that I am writing this post to encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity and start commercial tiger nut farming business.
You can start by cultivating on a small scale until after establishing success you can then go ahead to plant them in a larger scale. Also you can plant tiger nuts for personal use. They require low care and can be planted in a container. Now that Government is seriously laying emphasis on farming, tiger nut farming should not be left to the North alone; how about trying them out in the South.
Apart from planting for local consumption, we can also see the opportunity they provide in their exportation.
Use tractor to till the land if you are doing large scale tiger nut farming like a hectare. This is a plant that the roots penetrate up to 30-60cm so it will be wise to make the tilling deep to allow for easy penetration of the roots. Tiger nuts plant can grow in any soil type but for good performance use a moist sandy soil rich in organic matter.
READ ALSO: How To Start Carrot Farming In Nigeria
You can prepare bed or plant them on a flat soil, when preparing bed, you have to create channels for erosion control. Tiger nuts can survive adverse conditions such as drought, flooding and heat. They require a soil PH of 5.0-7.0. Do not plant them in a waterlogged soil or apply water that is salty, they can’t stand it.
HOW TO GROW TIGER NUTS IN NIGERIA
Nut grass plant requires a mild temperature to do well but can be greatly affected by severe cold temperature or heat. The rhizomes, foliage and basal bulbs die during extreme cold and severe heat but sprouts again during summer. Plant them manually 6-8cm into the soil and 15-29cm spacing between seeds. The planting period is during raining season April-May.
You can plant through seed (tubers) or through rhizomes. Rhizomes are the creeping part of the plant just by the root. Their leaves are slender and their stem triangular in nature. The leaves are 3-10mm; they appear in two colours; green and golden brown.
Tubers start forming (developing) after 6 weeks -2 months after seedlings sprouting. They grow very vigorous 4-5 months after planting (July- August). The nuts or tubers mature between 3-4 months. A hectare will require 120kg of tubers for planting while an acre will need 107lbs.
The tubers grow up to trigger rhizomes, which in turn produce basal bulb near the soil surface. The basal bulb triggers the stems and leaves above the ground and a fibrous roots underground. Tiger nuts plants can be pollinated by wind.
Tiger nut farming can be done in containers/ Mix equal amount of soil and manure together and fill the container. Plant them one seed per container and Keep in a warm environment. Weeding and harvesting can be easily done in containers..
IRRIGATION IN TIGER NUT FARMING
Tiger nut is a plant and as such will require adequate amount of water to do well. Irrigation should be done in tiger nut farming weekly until the crops are harvested especially when there is shortage of rain or during period of intense drought.
You can dig borehole for it if you are doing commercial tiger nut farming or dig a well and then use drip irrigation for quality result.
WEEDING/MANURE APPLICATION IN TIGER NUT FARMING
Although tiger nut plants are very rigid and dominating some stubborn weeds can mar their performance or slow it down. That is why you shouldn’t allow weed at all in the farm. Tiger nut farming is not like other plants to allow weed until you are ready to remove them. For weeding to be effective try to identify and remove them early before it becomes difficult to deal with.
Since it is the tubers that is the subject of interest, manure that has much nitrogen should be avoided especially when the nuts start forming. Nitrogen can prevent the forming of seeds while encouraging foliage performance. Low temperature, light intensity can inhibit flowering tiger nut plants. Whatever treatment that is given to other plants to achieve success should be applied in tiger nut farming.
Tiger nuts are harvested after 8 months between November-December depending on which month they were planted either April or May. Because the plant is very hard and well established in the soil it will be difficult to do manual (hand) harvesting so the use of combine harvester (machine) is very necessary. The machine harvests the plants by pulling them out of the soil; you can then use your hand to remove the seeds from the plant. The seeds are attached to the roots and rhizomes.
When the leaves appear withered or trampled (scorched) then the earth almond is ready for harvest. Wash them immediately after harvest in other to remove sands and small stones from them. Tiger nuts can produce hundreds to thousands of seeds (up to 2400 seeds) per plant. Average yield is between 10-19 tonnes per hectare of tiger nut farm.
DRYING OF TIGER NUTS
Drying takes a very long time up to 3 months and can only be done with the use of the sun for now. Spray them in an open place where sun can hit them very well and keep turning them every day in other to achieve uniform drying. Aya nuts will sustain a long shelf life if they are well dried, it should be to the bearable minimum moisture content.
Making them completely dried will also help in preventing rot or other bacterial infections. Drying make the nuts wrinkle, shrink and hard. They can be revived back by soaking them in water before use.
Tiger nuts lose a lot of moisture during drying thereby reducing carbohydrates contents which is present in them. This singular action in turn increases the amount of sugar in the nuts during storage.
USES OF TIGER NUTS
- Tiger nuts have various uses; they can be eaten raw just like palm kernel nuts (as snacks)
- They are used in making milky beverages; example is the chufa in Spain and kunun aya drink in Nigeria. This is a mixture of tiger nut juice with dabino (dates), honey or sugar and water. Tiger nuts are good replacement for kukun made from millet, corn, sorghum etc,
- Confectionary industries use them in baking, here the nuts are roasted. Most biscuits companies are now seriously including them in production because of the great taste produced.
- Oil extracted from tiger nuts can be used in soap making, it can also be used as starch extract and as a flavoring agent in ice-cream.
- Earth almond are added to the production of beer and jam.
- Tiger nut milk can be used as alternative to milk especially useful for those who are not fans to dairy milk as they can serve the same purpose.
- They can produce 1.5 metric tonnes of oil per hectare and 174 gallons in an acre, an alternative source of fuel, according to research.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO INTO TIGER NUT FARMING BUSINESS
- Tiger nut farming is very profitable; take a look at the ones that are carried about in wheel borrows in my location, a tomato cup is sold for #50 while tin milk cup is #100. Imagine the amount you will make from selling even as a wholesaler..
- The demand for tiger nut is increasing on a daily basis so you are sure sellingl them after all. The good thing is that they can’t go bad so easily as long as the water content is greatly reduce then they can last until you dispose them.
- With #100,000 you can start tiger nut farming that is excluding capital expenses. I will advise that you do the farming in your own land because they are perennial crops.
- Tiger nut business is sustainable. Once you have established the farm, all that is required from you is to maintain it because that is your ATM machine that will be spinning money to you yearly. Other upcoming farmers intending tiger nut farming will come and purchase the plant from you.
- As the farm grows you will become an employer of labour because you won’t be able to do it alone as you will need additional hands to push it forward.
Advertise the product on different market stores both offline and online. Locate those boys that push them on wheel barrow and sell to them. Supply to market men and women.
Sell to cosmetic and bakery industries. You can buy tiger nuts down in bags at cheap prices during on season and sell them off for good profits during off season. Another way is to add value to your tiger nut farming by establishing a tiger nut drink company.
THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT TIGER NUT FARMING
There are similar grasses of the same family but you will have to discover their characteristics to be able to distinguish them. Example:
- Cyperus (sledge), they have grass-like leaves and have same resemblance in appearance with esculentus, you can distinguish them by their triangular stem.
- Cyperus rotunda (purple nut sledge), it is also similar to esculentus and can be found growing in the same place, you can dinstinguish them by the purple spikelet on them. Also, tubers formed by rotundus are multiple instead of one at the tip. Their tubers are bitter instead of milk almond taste flavor found in esculentus.
WHERE TO BUY TIGER NUT SEEDS
- Agro premium commodities- Lagos
- Golden Chiche Ltd. Iyanapaja, Lagos
- You can make contacts with tiger nut farmers in the north and buy from them.
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