If you are looking for a lucrative agribusiness to start this year, why not consider watermelon farming. You know it, that juicy, refreshing fruit containing a very large quantity of water. In fact, watermelon is about 93% water and contains essential vitamins C, B, and A. It is high in protein, magnesium and is essential in managing weight, body temperature, and even blood pressure.
You see it being hawked by our brothers from the North in wheelbarrows or by roadside market women. Perhaps, you see it displayed in Shoprite and other high-end grocery stores but what you may not know is that it is a high on demand crop consumed by all classes of people and highly recommended for its medicinal and nutritional value by health professionals.
Another thing you may not know is that it is a kind of crop that can grow everywhere in Nigeria. Most importantly, as a business, you do not need a ton of money to start a watermelon farm. As a matter of fact, a little investment will give you a high return if you do it right. Yes, that is the only caveat; planting watermelon requires some level of knowledge on your part if you must succeed. If you do not plant it well, you may end up cultivating watermelons that are bitter in taste and therefore not sale-able. So before you venture into this farming business, do well to get some knowledge.
In this post, we provide general detail to stoke your interest in watermelon farming. We highlight how to make money out of it and what you must avoid succeeding.
What You Need To Start a Watermelon Farm
If you know nothing about watermelon, how to grow it, the variety available, etc, we usually advise that you find a successful farmer and understudy him for at least a few weeks. For example, there are different types of watermelon such as Sugar Baby, Crimson Sweet, Charleston Gray and Yellow Crimson Sweet. You have to know which variety is lucrative enough to cultivate, where to get to seed, the best way to plant and when to plant. Having this knowledge will ensure your success.
If, however, you are not disposed to do a brief period of apprenticeship, get someone who understands the processes and partner with him, then learn from him.
The major investment you may have to make is the acquisition of land. The size of land will depend on the amount of money available to you. Of course, the large the land, the more seeds you can plant and the more you will harvest.
With as little as N500,000 investment you can start a watermelon farm. We have seen people who started with much less but that will be possible if you already have a farmland and will not be using any form of mechanization. The ROI is huge and can make anyone wealthy.
Watermelon can be largely cultivated using the manual process but it will help to get suitable equipment as your business grows. You will also have to invest in seeding, fertilizer, irrigation for constant water supply and labour (farm hands).
Not all types of land are suitable for Watermelon farming. Watermelon thrives in a loamy soil, well drained with a pH of between 6 – 6.7. Watermelons are almost 100% water and therefore survive where there is a good source of rainwater, full sunlight and well-drained soil to grow properly. The size of land you get is largely dependent on your capital. It is important to note that watermelons will not grow in a waterlogged area, so be careful when choosing your farmland.
To get the watermelon seed for planting, we advise you take a trip to IITA at Ibadan. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is a research institute with a focus on developing input for agriculture and ensuring healthy crops. You can also buy from existing farmers but visiting the IITA will help you a lot as they are on hand to even you guide you by providing you with the knowledge that you require to succeed. Another good way to source your seed is to approach the National Agricultural Seed Council of Nigeria which maintains a database of seed producers in the country to direct you to watermelon seed producers.
The best time to plant watermelon is between March, June, July, and September if you are operating from the Southern part of the country. For those farming in the North the best time is between May and July. The reason for this is because of the difference in soil humidity. But we observe that with irrigation, watermelon is planted all through the year especially in the North. To get the most of your seed, space your ridges at 6 feet by 6 feet apart.
Between a period of 70 to 90 days, you can plant and harvest your watermelon. This means you can get a 4 planting and harvesting season in one year. The fruits are ripe when the vines start to wither or when their looks become dull.
The Market for Watermelon
Watermelon has a huge market. They are generally sold in the open market but you can do well to develop your own market. The best way to do this is to approach big grocery stores like Shoprite and other supermarkets around the corner and get them as off-takers. They will want to visit your farm to access the quality of your fruits. That is why you will need to implement a good farming method.
Success Factors In Watermelon Farming
To be a successful watermelon farmer and make money from it, you need to put good farming practices in place. You have to, for instance, apply fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen and potassium. Water supply is important. If your farm is not located near natural flowing water, please ensure you have a good irrigation system in place. Finally, put a system in place to take care of pests. Pests are the primary enemy to watermelons, especially, aphids, fusarium wilt and cucumber beetle. Most importantly, weed regularly.
Watermelon farming can be a lucrative venture. As is common with most of the ideas we discuss on this platform, watermelon farming is one business that is scalable; meaning that you can start with what you have and grow as you gain capacity. Do not wait until you get that large expanse of land at Lekki Free Zone.
Start with a half plot of land or even that empty space behind your father’s house, get some training, buy some seedlings and just start. You will find that within a short period of time, you will be in a position to do it large.
Buchi provides small business owners with strategic, financial, and digital support to help them build strong, successful and profitable enterprises. He is a Blogger at night and by day, Team Lead at Stalwart Investment Partners Ltd, a research, business and investment advisory firm.