The Compost Process and Consultation
All on-farm-composting starts with an initial consultation. It is important to understand what is driving the property owner. Is it increased production, enhance soil health or even correction of soil structural issues? It could be moving to a cleaner, greener way of farming or even increasing nutrient density of crops or pastures.
The process of on-farm-composting is explained with reference to inputs, timing and potential customising of the batch.
The initial consultation may also include signing off on a farm agreement that includes all the obligations and responsibilities of Geelong Compost when making compost on-farm.
A suitable site is selected on the property taking into account gate access for heavy vehicles, sensitive dwelling and waterway proximity.
Soil testing is the cornerstone of our tailored compost programme. Soil testing is used to identify any limiting factors that may be effecting production be it soil structure, nutrient imbalances or nutrient deficiency or excess. Compost can be amended to address the issues potentially highlighted in a soil test.
Delivery of Inputs
Raw inputs are delivered on farm into designated zones for rowing up. Inputs may include green organics, breadcrumbs, fruit pulp, sugar mud, grape marc, chicken manure and more.
Typically all inputs are delivered over the course of 3 days.
Utilising our dedicated loaders the inputs are formed into long rows of raw materials that are layered like a cake. The rows can be placed in a range of configurations such as one long row, two rows side by side or multiple rows side by side. Each row will be around 2.5 metres wide by about 1.5 metres high. Most of our rows are formed into two rows side by side about 90 metres long.
Our specialist custom built turner is brought in via tractor to turn the materials together. The turner performs several functions including mixing raw inputs, breaking up bigger lumps and aerating the inputs to allow oxygen in to the rows to stimulate aerobic bacteria. Aerobic bacteria growth and activity creates heat and is the fast stage of breakdown. We generally see our rows reach 65 degrees Celsius within 2 – 3 days of the first turn.
Each batch through the 5 – 6 month composting process will be turned 6 – 8 times.
Microbiology in the compost rows need moisture to move around and function. From time to time we will add loads of potable water into the rows via the turner to increase moisture levels.
Our raw materials such as green organics can arrive with an element of inorganic materials eg: plastics. We send our team of manual pickers out regularly to pick over the rows and remove any visual contamination and remove it from site.
Over the past 12 months we have reduced green organics contamination by more than 50%. This will be an ongoing quest to keep reduce contamination levels to a minimum.
We test and monitor all rows regularly keeping an eye on and recording temperatures, moisture levels and breakdown status. All the data is recorded and maintained in our head office.
Once the compost has matured and temperatures have levelled off we bring in our Trommel Screen to screen out any remaining contaminants and oversized materials.
We are currently screening down to 9.5mm leaving a rich black and fine compost end product.
Each batch of compost is sampled and tested for nutrient levels and pathogens. We also regularly test for weed, seeds and propagules as well as a raft of specific analyses in line with the Australian AS4454 Standard for compost.
Once the test results are back we let the property owner know that the compost is ready for spreading.
We can work with the farmer to work out spreading rates and applications.