Evergreen Herbs, part of the Agris group of companies, has implemented a successful organic composting project, taking waste from Majestic Mushrooms and turning it into nutrient-rich compost for Evergreen Herbs. Operating a business with a diverse footprint offers many benefits including being able to take waste and by-products from one operation for the benefit of another.
Reducing Carbon Footprint and Food Waste
The composting project will deliver substantial benefits to soil structure and health and will significantly reduce the companies’ carbon footprint. Thomas Skaper, Managing Director of Evergreen Herbs, says ‘as an ethically-driven food producer it is not possible to separate benefits to the climate, and the communities in which we operate, from benefits to the commercial development of the business. Food waste is an inevitable part of the growing process that needs to be managed very carefully, nowhere more so than in Africa.’
The 2021 UNEP Food Waste Index Report indicates that 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated in 2019. Estimates suggest that 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed. Food waste not only includes food which would be considered edible (those intended for human consumption) but also the inedible parts of food, for example roots and off-cuts.
Majestic Mushrooms Compost Benefits
The compost being utilised in the trial by Evergreen Herbs in Kajaido, Kenya, is produced from the trimming and uprooting of the mushrooms. It takes up to five months for the compost to be usable through a process of turning and solarisation.
Amir Kerner, Technical Director of Evergreen Herbs highlights the mushroom compost’s specific advantages. ‘It is high in active microflora and clean from any contaminants that may be found in animal compost, helping to protect plants from disease. The compost is very aerated and assists with increased water retention making it the ideal choice for hydroponics. In soil compost keeps bacteria alive and replenishes it with nutrients but in hydroponics compost is the only medium to feed the plants’ growing environment.’
Hydroponics offers exciting benefits for herb growing in Kenya, including the need for less irrigation. Using exactly the right amount of water to meet the plants’ needs reduces the amount of run-off which in turn decreases the amount of water and fertiliser required as well as reducing soil born disease. When organic compost is used it further reduces the need for non organic chemicals in the growing process. Evergreen Herbs’ hydroponics trial is currently underway with plans to develop a business case for future roll out. So far it has used 72 tonnes of compost, with 32 tons of premium mushroom compost coming from Majestic Mushrooms, enough for the first half acre.
Expansion of the Composting Trial to Reduce Carbon Emissions
Evergreen Herbs continues to look for ways to reduce and reuse food production waste to decrease its carbon footprint. A similar composting project is planned for the Athi River farm where large amounts of waste materials are generated. Our food waste needs to be assessed carefully and managed correctly,’ says Skaper. ‘Some of our current waste from the Athi River farm is used to feed cattle within the local community and this must continue. There is a responsible hierarchy of need, food for people, food for animals and then the remainder for fertiliser. It is critical that we implement a more holistic approach to managing food growth and food waste globally.’
Evergreen Herbs has recently achieved the One Carbon World International Standard. The vision is to actively manage all of the Maris agricultural divisions food waste by utilising as animal feed, compost or fertiliser. Looking at ways to turn food waste negatives into positives is critical to our carbon footprint reduction objectives.