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.