A locally made liquid organic fertiliser that is being produced through the process of a digester could revolutionise our farming industry in Samoa.
For the past three years, Brenton Ellis of Bdehl Samoa has been developing this organic fertiliser that turns invasive plant species and produce waste into liquid fertiliser with the added advantage of also producing compost and bio gas.
The multiple benefits of the digestive process may hold the key to solving many of the problems faced by growers here on the island.
The digester is not a new invention but Mr. Ellis, who is an electrical engineer by trade from Australia, has adapted a design that suits the conditions of Samoa. Their test system is located in Matautu Lefaga and does not require any machinery parts.
“I’m an electrical engineer by trade in Australia, it had to be something that’s not too technical here otherwise it will not last which I had seen happen to a few projects out here so we needed something that was simple, it’s concrete, we can make it ourselves here and there’s no maintenance except just feeding it so it was a simple process that fits into the farming lifestyle.”
The process of producing the liquid fertiliser requires feeding the plant every day with plant waste.
“The resources are there,” he said. “We are currently using what people class as your invasive species which is your grass and your vines. We’re using that as our mix to get our fertiliser.
“Invasive plant species are fast growing species because it sucks all the nutrients out of the soil which causes our plants to struggling and people are putting chemicals into their plants and getting it to grow but the grass and weeds and vines are taking all these nutrients.
“So all we are doing is taking all these invasive weeds and chucking them into a system that is taking out all the nutrients back out of it and putting it back into the soil through the fertiliser.”
During the early development stages, Mr. Ellis sent samples of the fertiliser to S.R.O.S. and a testing lab overseas and found that his product was of a very high quality, which led to the revelation that the secret to such a rich fertiliser is attributed to Samoa’s own home grown soil.
“Our product is a lot better than the results they are getting from the same type of system overseas so I queried about that and it came back to us that it’s the Samoan soil, Samoan soil is very rich here.”
Bedhl Samoa performed their own trials of the organic liquid fertiliser over 12 months in 2017 where they gave out the product to 60 different growers and farmers to test on small plots.
Mr. Ellis said the response after the trial was overwhelmingly positive and an extra advantage of using their fertiliser was the possibility of speeding up the process of organic farm certification.
“We received an excellent response, it was amazing,” he said. “They turned away from their chemical fertilisers, which could speed up the process of a farm in Samoa being certified organic instead of waiting years. If they start using it straight away, it could come down to six months because that’s how much time it takes to see a long term effect.”
During the trials, they discovered that with consistent use of the organic liquid fertiliser, the higher the chances of getting rid of plant diseases.
“It can get rid of diseases, like the taro disease, it got rid of that,” he said. “All we are doing is putting the nutrients back into the soil, which means for the taro farmer, instead of them going to look for another to place to plant after he’s harvested in one particular area of the plantation.
“By using this fertiliser, he can replant in the same place once he has harvested, applies the fertiliser which puts back in the nutrients that the last taro plants took out. Also with the pesticide use, we noticed a lot of reports coming back that the weeds were being prohibited around the plants, they weren’t growing as fast anymore.”
Currently Bdehl Samoa are going through a process of certification and testing through S.R.O.S. before launching the final product and implementing plans to increase their production by outsourcing to villages around Samoa.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have taken interest in the many benefits of the digester and are lending their support to Mr. Ellis’s production hoping that it can benefit all villages with its ability to produce an affordable high quality organic fertiliser, generate a source of income as well as utilise the bio gas for their household needs.