Compost sales

Opportunities and barriers to on-farm composting

A recent European study assesses the challenges to marketing on-farm composting startups

Four recent studies, based on surveys of European farmers, assess the challenges to marketing of compost and the barriers to farmer uptake of composts and organic farmers expectations.
These studies indicate that relatively few publications to date address composting (and other recycled nutrient) with a marketing customer focused approach, rather than the producer of the products. Studies of surveys of compost marketing information online and on 21 in-depth interviews (June~December 2014) with companies marketing compost were selected across  Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands and France. These interviews included composters, biogas plant operators, agricultural contractors, soil and organic fertiliser manufacturers, brokers and technology suppliers.

Key issues for marketing

  • Compost & Digestate marketing is often driven by difficulties of disposing of local / regional nutrient surpluses or because the operator itself does not control farmland
  • New business niches: e.g. agricultural contractors or organic fertiliser manufacturers can act as value-chain intermediates finding customers and suitable applications for product.
  • Certain products a best used in specific markets: organic farming, speciality horticulture and home gardening
  • Product quality is the key to marketing, including hygienisation (pathogen limits), nutrient content, contaminants and foreign materials (glass, stones). Quality control systems, for both feedstock and output are vital.
  • The product quantity will help define possible markets and appropriate product packaging and distribution channels
Sale prices depend on whether it is sold in bulk or in small-scale/retail, as well as on the degree of additional processing. While farmers often understand the ability of compost & digestate to bring organic carbon to the soil and also calculate the economy against traditional fertiliser.
Richard Hawkes was working as an agronomist when he decided to grow a small trial patch of potatoes using compost

Using Compost to improve crop yields

Richard Hawkes was working as an agronomist when he decided to grow a small trial patch of potatoes using compost to improve crop yields on his family’s 56ha property at Boneo, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Now that patch has grown into 16ha with seven varieties — about 80 per cent of which is sold through Sydney and Melbourne wholesale markets, with the remainder sold through a farmgate shop — in ­addition to their crops of carrots, spring onions, parsley and radish. From from next year they will lease an additional 6ha of land. Given the soil is sandy, Richard said he works hard to retain moisture and nutrients, with crop rotation key to high yields.

“A Compost spreader is an expensive piece of machinery
but in the long-term I believe it will pay for itself,
because we’ll have happy worms, grow better crops
and make more money,” Richard said.

An ideal two-yearly paddock rotation would start with a green-manure crop of broccoli. In the past a break crop has been caliente mustard, but this year Richard has leased land to broccoli growers, in order to get a harvestable crop that provides a boost to ­organic matter and breaks the weed cycle. Broccoli is grown for eight weeks, followed by potatoes, then carrots, spring onions, and radish, then repeated.

SOIL TESTING TIME

SOIL is tested annually for ­nutrition and an agronomist advises on soil needs. “As much as I’d love to be hands on, working as an agronomist, my role is now as a generalist.” With an annual average rainfall of 450mm, soil is constantly monitored for moisture, with solid set computer-controlled irrigation applying both bore water and class a ­recycled water from the Eastern Treatment Plant.  He said potato farming on sandy soil was a balance of irrigation and disease pressure — “every time you water you create a disease event, it’s a ­vicious cycle” — with small amounts of fungicide ­applied following irrigation.

 

Hawkes Farm Store is a family run business that sells produce grown on site, as well as products from local growers. The aim of the store is to bring together great produce from around the Peninsula.

 

 

 

READ MORE
About Hawkes Vegetables
Mornington Peninsula farmer Richard Hawkes has eyes on the future
SARAH HUDSON, The Weekly Times
October 17, 2017 11:00pm