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Industrial Composting with the Heron IVC from Earth Probiotic

The Heron VC composter next to a composting sign on an outside wallHave you ever wondered what industrial composting looks like? How does it work? What is the cost compared to disposing of food waste in a landfill?

We caught up with Gavin Heron from Earth Probiotic to find out about the locally made Heron IVC Composter and the results from their pilot study at the Tshwane Food Produce Market. Earth Probiotic specialize in locally manufactured in-vessel composting solutions that come in a variety of scales.

Here’s what he had to say about the problems associated with sending food waste to landfill:

“Food waste has become a key issue for municipalities, government and even the United Nations. With food waste rotting and pushing out 335kg/tonne CO2 emissions, these days it’s rare not to hear food waste mentioned as an environmental, financial and health problem”.

Earth Probiotic has been operating in the food waste composting space since 2010. They initially offered home composting kits and then expanded into commercial and industrial composting. Their latest offering, developed and manufactured in South Africa, is the Heron IVC in-vessel composter.

The Heron IVC took over three years to develop. It is capable of processing over 1 000kg of food waste per day and is targeted at industrial food manufactures, large malls and produce markets.

After rigorous testing, a unit was installed at the Tshwane Fresh Produce market on a trial basis. Key metrics for this test were:

  1. Can it handle the volumes promised?
  2. Is it a cost effective solution vs. landfilling?
  3. Can it produce compost which is of an acceptable quality for reuse in gardening and agriculture.

The project was independently assessed by GCS Environmental Engineers (Pty) Ltd. an environmental consultancy based in Pretoria.

The Heron IVC passed all three measures with flying colours:

  • During the test the Heron IVC processed an average of 826kg of food and waste cardboard per day.
  • GCS analysis indicated that on a larger roll out the economic benefit accruing to the Tshwane Municipality of R271 000 excluding CO2e saving and potential compost sales.
  • Compost produced by the Heron IVC during the trial was tested by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).
  • The tests indicated high potential for the compost produced with an NPK ratio of 6:5:1
    • NPK is a measure of the three key macro nutrients in compost with Nitrogen (N) levels being equivalent to chicken manure; Phosphorus (P) being standard for compost; and Potassium (K) being higher than average compost.

The Heron IVC represents a significant opportunity for companies and industries looking for alternatives to landfill dumping. It is simple to operate with a sophisticated project logic controller (PLC) which automates the composting process according to a strict cycle. Bokashi bran is added to speed up the process, as does pre-macerating the food waste.

Food waste from South Africa’s produce markets is a massive concern.  Volumes are driven by safety considerations with thousands of kilograms of vegetables and fruit being condemned for a number of reasons every day. The Heron IVC, among other key green technologies, is one means of ensuring that this condemned waste doesn’t negatively impact our planet but rather goes back to feed soil; and thus produce more food.

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