Businesses across Australia are being driven to find new innovative ways to become more sustainable, especially when in regards to food waste and its impact on our environment. Whether it is the Corporation’s Sustainability Manager, a city Councillor or local Farmer, organisations are dealing with varying volumes of food waste, and Eco Guardians are working with then to implement sustainable solutions into their operations.
When we discuss diverting food waste from landfill, we usually focus on the reduction of carbon emissions, and rightfully so. The methane created by rotting food is much more potent than the more commonly publicised carbon dioxide, and considering Melbourne alone generates over 900,000 tonnes of food waste per annum, this is major problem affecting us all.
Now businesses are now beginning to consider food waste as a valuable resource, and Eco Guardians wanted to demonstrate how their SoilFood™ systemcan bring businesses together with Australian farmers, and in turn give back to the community.
The SoilFood™ system dehydrates food waste at source using high temperature (100’C during several hours), evaporating the moisture content and taking the material beyond pasteurisation to pathogen-free status. In this process no green waste or any other additive is required and there is a volume reduction of typically 80 – 85%. This is not only sustainable in reducing GHG emissions but also provides a new platform to grow fresh, organic produce without the need for any chemical fertilisers.
Recently, Eco Guardians partnered up with FareShare Food Charity and a leading Agronomist running a Broadacre farm in Northwest Victoria. The aim of the partnership was to test the effectiveness of SoilFood™ through a trial of growing Kent pumpkins. These pumpkins would be 100% organic, as the land being used has never had any chemical fertilisers used on it and the end product of the SoilFood™ system is an organic fertiliser. The resulting pumpkins would then be donated to FareShare Food Charity to help feed families in need.
As soon as pioneering SoilFood™ clients and Sustainability Award winners Prahran Market and South Melbourne Market were informed of our project, they both volunteered to lend a helping hand by donating around 4 tonnes of their SoilFood™. Each of these sites process 1.2 tonnes of food waste daily which creates approx. 200 kg of SoilFood™ per site, per day. The waste consists of the typical market produce of fruit and veg while also mixing in the day’s fish offal and used coffee grounds. The resulting SoilFood™ has similarities to blood and bone with highly desirable levels of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus all of which are key elements used in growing strong organic produce.
Prahran Markets Operation Manager Bill McMaster claims “the SoilFood™ is a rich organic fertiliser which is in hot demand from market patrons”. The market has a stall setup that provides 1 kg bags for patrons to take home for their gardens and they go through a few hundred kg per week this way.
It was a struggle getting some from South Melbourne Market as well as they have a local farmer who after delivering his consignment of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower each week then collects approx. 1 tonne of SoilFood™ created at the market to take back and use on his farm to regrow the vegetables thus completing the cycle. The waste management operators on site claim it can be difficult ensuring that there is enough SoilFood™ to go around as the market is also selling it in 2 kg bags.
Our partners at the Broadacre Farm were just as keen as us to validate at field level the tests carried out in the laboratory to define the characteristics of SoilFood™, measure its effects on soil and predict the benefits to plant growth. Strips of soil that had earlier been dressed with compost were treated with different application levels of SoilFood™ (between zero and 300 gm / sq m) when planting marrow seeds. A visual comparison during plant growth showed extremely clearly that SoilFood™ improved plant strength and eventual fruit yield. The optimum application rate on this soil was 150 gm / sq m.
After a couple of months (which included some unprecedented heatwaves exceeding 40 degrees as well as an unseasonal downpour causing some flooding) the pumpkins all survived, and were harvested in early February. Total harvest was 180 beautiful organic Kent pumpkins that averaged 8 kg each which is just about double the regular size and all without any chemical additives. As Organic farming is becoming more and more popular and as demand grows we are seeing dedicated aisles in supermarkets for such produce and our Farmer was keen to point out that these pumpkins would yield a handsome profit if on sold. However, as promised this demonstration was all about reusing waste to create food for those in need, and pumpkins were then delivered to FareShare Food Charity headquarters in Abbotsford.
By thinking sustainably and using food waste as a resource, Eco Guardians SoilFood™ systems create an organic fertiliser from food waste in one 10-hour process. This practice reduces the need for any garbage trucks to collect the waste from site thus reducing the carbon footprint while also avoiding those potent methane gases created with landfill. To learn more about this SoilFood™ trial, or how your business can implement a SoilFood™ system, please contact Eco Guardians here