Expanding waste-free agriculture

AIM Environmental group processes city waste into farm valuable fertilizer

By Jennifer Jackson

Organic waste is an inevitable product on many farms. Whether it be manure for the garden or lawn, for example, we often see urban residents finding use for this organic farm waste. An environmental company, however, also shows how farmers can benefit from the waste of city dwellers.

AIM Environmental Group’s compost product, Lifecycle, is made of organic waste from the green bin program in Ontario. AIM markets the compost to Ontario’s agricultural industry, thus displaying a true waste cycle from farm to consumer, and back to farm again.

AIM operates municipal compositing units across Canada, collecting and processing city waste into valuable compost.

In the mid-1990s, the Province implemented regulations to force many municipalities to establish organic waste composting programs. These regulations drove and developed Ontario’s market in the residential use of such compost, according to Frank Peters, general manager of Lifecycle Organics. When Peters began working with AIM in 2007, the company was looking for a bigger customer base, shifting away from the competitive residential use market.

“Being a farmer myself, I brought some of the compost back to my farm for (nutrient) trials,” Peters says. “Pretty soon I was selling it to my neighbour and eventually working with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on (nutrient) trials.”

From that point on, Peters was marketing the compost to farmers across southern Ontario.

“We found, with the declining number of farms with livestock, there has been a real decline in soil organic matter,” he says. “Now these farmers are gaining the fertilizer value in the compost, as well as the beneficial organic matter and bacteria keeping the soil healthy.”

His customers now vary greatly in terms of type of operation – from cash crop farmers to orchard fruit growers to ginseng growers.

Depending on the municipal waste program, the compost will vary in nutrients, Peters says. “With green bin waste, we can see 40 pounds of nitrogen, 25 pounds of potash and phosphorus, and a makeup of 40 to 50 per cent organic matter.”

City Waste Bins

    Photo credit: KCHL/iStock/GettyImagesPlus photo

This compost is just another way to maintain your soil’s health, says Peters. He advises customers to treat the soil as a bank – you invest the valuable bacteria nutrients for your plants’ health.

Lifecycle’s practice of organic recycling creates benefits for both the environment and farmers’ crops.

“First, the city produces the organic waste. The waste is then composted and eventually used on farmers’ soil. Ultimately, these nutrients grow the plants that feed the city again – it’s a constant rotation,” says Peters. “As we see our phosphorus and potash (percentages in the soil) dwindle, this (composting and) recycling of nutrients will be very important. We’re going to have to think about how we recycle and use (our waste). This is one way.” BF

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