What is Compost?
Compost is the product of controlled biological decomposition of organic matter into a humus-like, odourless product with soil-conditioning properties and varying nutrient value. Compost is not a visionary product. On the contrary, it has been used in agriculture in many societies in different parts of the world across history. Over time, it has proven to be satisfying and efficient for its users. However, once chemical fertilizers (only efficient on a very short term) became widely available on the global market, compost and the composting process started to loose popularity. As a result of the overuse of chemical fertilizers, long term soil fertility has begun to decline globally.
The composting process is based on the natural decomposition of natural waste in the presence of oxygen. This process, thanks to the activity of several micro organisms, leads to a stable final product: compost. The quantity of compost that should be applied varies a lot, according to the type of plant cultivated and the type of soil present. It generally varies between 1kg and 10 kg per m2.
The compost that we produce is a high quality product with soil-conditioning properties and with a high nutrient value. Our compost is made out of the waste of the Kalimati fruit and vegetable market. It is meant to answer the needs of local farmers who are located at a distance of less than 100 km around the city of Kathmandu. We will expand our production to produce 1’000 tons of compost per year. From that point onwards we will either continue to scale compost production up, or go on at the same level of production and make other products such as biofuels with the remaining waste.
What does compost offer?
In contrast to chemical fertilizers, compost “feeds” the soil through the fine organic matter and available nutrients that compose it. It allows keeping the fertility of soils in the long term, avoiding that all nutrients are washed out with the first rains and end in the groundwater and the rivers. Compost also offers a better capacity of water infiltration and thus augments the water storage capacity of the soil and the refill of the groundwater stock, helping the struggle against desertification. By increasing airing and porosity, it also facilitates digging which improves growth of the plants. Finally, compost permits to consolidate the pH of soils and avoid acidification. All these elements help to guarantee the fertility of soil and therefore the output of the cultures on the long term. Compost introduce a positive cycle improving soil quality that so requires less fertiliser and water, as it can storage them. Along with the product, the plan is to offer training and demonstration sessions, as well as create a centre of expertise in the area of compost. Moreover, the company will offer advice and help in finding ways to add value to organic crops, for example by creating a brand and potentially by linking compost distribution to organic crop collection.
Why compost organic waste?
- To manage the waste problem
We know that waste is a huge problem in many cities of developing countries and that organic waste represent almost 80% of the amount of waste. By composting this organic waste, we can help alleviate a large part of the waste management problem.
- To produce a new useful and valuable product
Knowing that chemical fertilizers are mining the soil and are not available for every potential client (they are often expensive and not always accessible), we can offer a more accessible product that is eco-friendly available at a stable price.
- To reduce Greenhouse gas emissions
In opposition to uncontrolled anaerobic fermentation of organic waste in landfills, compost and the composting process do not produce methane and therefore do not add any Greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Methane has a global warming potential 24 times stronger than CO2.
- To produce organic fertilizer
The demand for organic food is increasing in Kathmandu valley, but organic farmers experiment a lack of fertilizer, as chemicals can’t be used in organic farming. Biocomp will provide a good quality organic fertilizer, so ensuring the increase of vegetable production and revenues. Organic farming improves biodiversity and soil quality, increasing the quantity of organic carbon included in soil. Organic carbon in soil maintains water and nutrients; some researchers suggest organic farming sequestrates carbon in soil, reducing greenhouse effect.
Co-composting is the mixing of different materials; for instance mixing faecal sludge and organic solid waste for composting would be considered co-composting. In order to raise the level of the important nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen in our compost (significant for the production of effective compost), we are exploring the uses of urine and have started urine collection at our waste management plant. All Biocomp staff use the same urine-collecting ‘bucket’ from where the urine trickles down into a container. Once the container is filled, and after a stabilization period of 25 days, the urine could be used to enrich the compost’s nutrient value. Talk about effective nutrient recycling!
However, for the time being, it is mixed with water and used for the vegetable garden. We hope to start using this technique once we have explored more about co-composting, the properties of urine and once we perfect our composting technique to reach a more mature stage in the project.