listen to Lecture at Oxford ORFC

Hereby some pictures, of the team, enjoying their time during lecture we gave in Oxford during the last conference of the ORFC last 4-5th January. It was great fun to answer and discuss the potential and scalability of bio-fertilisers.

Unforgettable.

Recording and presentation available here

The room was more than full. People sitting on the floor, standing everywhere, filling all gaps. There were more than 65 souls on the room and at least other 20 people could not get in the lecture room. Inside, waiting for us to start, we could see a lot of expectation in the faces of the participants. They all wanted to see what bio-fertilizers are, how are they made and what they can do for the soil, the plant and the farmer. Our goal was simple: to inspire, inform and entertain the participants with new fresh and useful information about a new way to look at organic agriculture.

Matt Dunwell chaired the lecture and introduced us and kept track on the time and questions. We divided the presentation in three parts:

  1. JuanFran brilliantly explained the working principles of the bio-fertilizers and presented the current research he is carrying at Ragman’s Farm.
  2. In a top-speed workshop, JuanFran explained the receipt of a basic bio-fertilizer while I was mixing ingredients into a small jar.
  3. I explained the practical applications of the bio-fertilizer and the many experiences we are having with farmers around the globe.

The session was planned for 1 hour but questions kept coming. After the lecture, doors went open and some people went out but many other people got in as we were still answering questions.

Thanks to Juanfran, Matt and the rest of the Ragman’s Farm team and the volunteers and participants for the interesting questions.

Listen the recording and/or download the presentation here.

 

Rocks 4 Life

The art of dissolving rocks to feed plants is a basic skill any farmer must have to produce a lot healthy crops for a long time. Volcanic rock dust is the source of many minerals that most of our soils are missing.  Because the soils miss the minerals, the plants miss them too and so do our cattle and so do we.

If we put rock dust directly in the soils it works as soil amendment but it has slow results on plant nutrition.  Before rocks can feed plants, they need to be transformed by the microbiology of the soils. They have to be made bio-available.   DSCN1047

How to get rocks:

Many rock mixtures can be bought at special agricultural stores. When a mineral has good potential application for agriculture it is labelled as agro-mineral. Rock dust suppliers take the best agro-minerals and mix them in different proportions to create their commercial recipes. What make a rock good for the crops?

The most fertile soils on earth are volcanic soils. they have the highest mineral diversity. Basically the most important factor of a rock to improve soils is the diversity of minerals, in the right proportions in a way that they allow they support the development of life in the soil. The more mineral diversity in the rocks we use, the more elements of the periodic table will be able to be embodied in a bacteria or fungi, passing to the soil food web the more fertile the soil is.  One of the rocks with more mineral diversity are the basaltic rocks.

How to dissolve minerals:

Rocks in soils undergo a serie of processes before they release minerals. The first process is erosion, then it comes the bio-assimilation. The process of erosion and bio-assimilation take thousands of years. We can mimic this process and accelerate the mineral release and take advantage of it (biomimicry). We mimic erosion when we crush rocks.

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We mimic the natural bio assimilation in the soils when we put soil microorganisms in contact with rock dust. Bacteria, fungi and yeasts use organic acids and enzymes that extract minerals from rocks. 

Dissolving rocks with microorganisms in own farm does not require high investments nor complicated technology. Small Bio-digesters can be mounted in reduced spaces where experimenting is easy and affordable to any farmer.

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The art of reproducing microorganisms to dissolve minerals from rocks is a simple but powerful tool in hands of farmers. It can bring fertility to soils an accelerate the chemical and biological rehabilitation of exhausted soils.

It is a strategy that any farmer can experience. In my vegetable garden, I produce and test my fertilizers on a small scale. I test them in vegetables and fruit trees. If I like the results, scaling-up is always possible.

Thousands of farmers in South America know how to make their own rock dust based fertilizers and are able to feed their crops. They do not depend from external inputs but they increase production and quality of their products and leave better soils for their children.

Urban cows and organic gardening in Addis Abeba

In march 2013 Rocking Soils and MetaMeta circular economy started to test the production of organic fertilizers in the urban environment. With basalt rock dust, cow dung and a few more materials we mounted a system that is been tested for urban gardens in the city.

In Addis Abeba people enjoy the best fresh milk. Lack of refrigeration facilities forces urban farmers to keep dairy cows in the city. Many urban farms in Addis supply the largest amount of fresh milk to the Ethiopian middle and low class. Local cows are  kept nearby the urban mills where the flour from maize, teff, wheat, chickpea, beans, among others is produced for the people and the husks are set apart for the cattle living next door. It minimizes transport proving that best logistics are where you do not need transport.

The presence of cattle in the city means also that small amounts of fresh cow manure are often available in the urban environment. Often is this resource underused. Sometimes this manure is dried and sold as fuel for the kitchens, but due to the smell this practice is slowly been abandoned in the urban areas. This manure is an excellent resource for the urban organic gardener.

Many gardeners already showed their interest as they are aware of the high prices of the artificial (imported) fertilizers.

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From left-up and clockwise: Mothammed, Mulu, Sandra, Abebbechm, Afra & Ruben … more photos

Rockin Soils Integrates simple instruments to restore the natural fertility of agricultural soils and ensure healthy food production systems by using local resources. Together with farmers we design and implement production systems that turn waste into organic fertilizers that feed the crop and increase its resistance to pest and disease. 

We learn from natural forests because they are strong and resilient. They harvest rain water and nutrients. They purify the soil, water and air and they enable diverse forms of life. Natural forests are very productive systems. Rockin Soils mimic conditions of natural forests to restore the fertility and multi-functionality of the agricultural soils.