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Bokashi Factory

The tradition of Bokashi fertilizer dates back to early Japanese civilization when chemical fertilizers were yet to be invented, farmers used them to enhance rice and vegetable crops. The word “Bokashi” is loosely translated in English as “mixed organic materials”, just a simple method of mixing biodegradable waste matter, inoculants and microbes into compost material, returning to nature what was originally from it.  In the centuries that followed, this method became part of agricultural tradition and was later to become a world known method in the practice of sustainable  farming.

Bokashi recipes are family kept secrets in Japan passed on through generations of agricultural farmers.  On certain years when the bokashi mix was considered a powerful concoction, these were given to family and friends as gifts. It was all made in their own particular way and using only biodegradable waste.  They would use the rice hull and rice straw from their fields, spent grain from milling the rice and other biodegradable waste around their farms. To this day, it is still being used and practiced with the same intention, to nourish the soil in a sustainable  manner with natural materials completing the organic life cycle as nature would do it.  Inevitably, any compost mixture would require a nitrogen source which is most vital to plant growth. And the best source of nitrogen was always, well, shit.

bokashi fertilizer

My earliest introduction to organic farming was, interestingly, full of shit. We had a lot of these, too much in fact. Our farm was then operating a poultry contract growing business as a separate division and we were growing a total of population of 120,000 chickens around 7 times each year. The poultries required rice hull for its bottom beds to catch manure, then there was the manure itself that the chickens produced. We were producing hundreds of tons of poultry waste each year. We had a solid waste management nightmare. The waste rice hull was being dumped in heaps around the farm, the chicken manure had a small storage facility where we also processed our compost. We would have mountains of chicken dung surrounding this structure and the farm, naturally, smelled like shit. This was to be my first task working in the farm, to handle the waste material and turn it into usable compost. A tall order even for someone who had just spent the last three years in Boracay managing a solid waste management project. Bokashi seemed to be the solution to our problem. It needed work but it was not impossible. It was, at the very least, worth my best shot.

windrow turner

I researched. I observed. I experimented. I tested. I learned the story and the logic of Bokashi. I proposed and constructed a compost factory structure. We mechanized some of our operations. I watched how this was made day in and day out. I had totally immersed myself into this project. I streamlined our operations, built a team, branded our product, tested for efficacy, had it certified organic,  and registered it with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority for commercial sale. Our own bokashi blend fertilizer, now branded as OM PLUS – taken from Organic Matter Plus. It is essentially what we sell, high organic matter content plus inoculants and other microoganisms in compost form. It has also produced excellent results, all our produce is reserved for use by a small and select group of clients.

Today our farm produces over 1200 tons of Bokashi blend organic fertilizer a year, with over 7o percent of its raw material coming from our very own farm waste. A solid waste nightmare turned around 360 degrees, now  a major revenue stream for the farm. A triumph for waste management processing.  All borrowed from the early Japanese. All part of recycling nature. All in the interest of the preserving the planet and reducing global warming. All geared at promoting the organic farming revolution and a healthier environment around us. And all profit too – about turning shit into profit. Oh Shit!