Composting is the conversion of organic materials and waste materials into useful and nutrient-rich products for plant growth and development. Compost can be produced by using different materials and different techniques.
While composting is possible in both open environments and closed structures, the decomposition and compost-making process favors controlled conditions and indoor enclosed structures which offers far more benefits.
To help indoor farms and companies make their composting process more efficient, this article highlights the significance and benefits of composting in the controlled environment agriculture systems.
Composting and Controlled Environment Agriculture
Composting is the biodegradation of the bio-decomposition process of degrading organic matter to stable and simpler forms in the presence of oxygen and microorganisms. Microorganisms’ feeds on the complex substrates and produce heat, water, and carbon dioxide. In this process the volume of waste is reduced by multiple times and a hummus-like substance is produced that is an excellent fertilizer for the plants. The effectivity of composting process and nutrition profile of compost is highly dependent on the environmental conditions and physicochemical properties of the substrate being used
Controlled environment agriculture helps growers achieve sustainability in their growing systems through circular approaches to manage resources. A significant amount of biowaste is generated from the growing substrate residues and crop production. Inefficient disposal of this waste is creating huge concerns for environmental safety, animal life, and human health.
Closed-Loop Management of Resources
A closure resource loop can help to reduce the adverse health effects and environmental concerns due to the excessive use of synthetic chemicals by avoiding the waste of rich sources of nutrients and valuable products that are crucial for sustaining crop production and food security. Carbon dioxide recovered from the composting can also be used to enrich the enclosed indoor atmosphere and nutrients can be used as organic fertilizers. Plant nutrients and carbon dioxide are major outputs of the composting, and their output levels can be easily maintained and managed in the controlled environment agricultural systems.
The efficient use of these recovered resources is helpful to reduce the use of fossil fuels, non-renewable resources, and synthetic chemicals. Thus, growers can save a huge amount of money and consumers will also be protected from the harmful effects of chemical residues in foods and food products.
In-Vessel Method for Composting in CEA
Composting process in the controlled environment agriculture system must be done in the controlled in-vessel conditions due to odor and space concerns. In this method there is the retention of the substrate in the closed container and decomposition is allowed under the forced aeration. Crop residues produced from the yield in the controlled environment agriculture can be composted alone or with other biowaste and feedstock.
The produced compost can be directly used as a fertilizer, growth medium, or can be stored for further processing. Processed compost is an excellent replacement for peat and can also be used as a healthy growth substrate due to its nutrient provision capacities.
Minimizing Gaseous Contamination
There is the involvement of various chemical and biological processes resulting in numerous gaseous products nitrous oxide, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and methane. These gases may produce odor in the enclosed structures and can cause significant disruption for the plant processes. Emission of these gases is also hazardous for the environment, aquatic life, and human health.
Conversion of organic nitrogen and carbon in the organic matter substrate to the gaseous components causes reduced recovery efficiency. Therefore, the contamination of these gases must be minimized by using effective management measures.
Co-composting is the process of composting two or more complementary and distinctive feedstocks to improve the quality of end products. It can also be used for alternating the carbon to nitrogen ratio of biomaterials and feedstock mixtures.
Biowaste from grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, and kitchens can also be used for co-composting.
Addition of Minerals
Some mineral additives like lime phosphogypsum, bentonite, and zeolite are greatly effective amendments for composting due to their role in improving the composting processes and minimizing greenhouse gases emissions.
Addition of Biochar
Numerous scientific studies have shown that biochar is the most effective amendment for accelerating the composting process. The addition of optimal levels of good quality and contaminant-free biochar helps reduce moisture contents and improve the pH that in turn minimizes the denitrifying activities.
Biochar has porous nature and thus it improves the matrix structure of the compost leading to enhanced mineralization, and improved aeration.
Recovery of Nutrients
Finished and well-prepared compost is a dense and rich source of essential plant nutrients, but the mismanagement of the crop residues and waste may result in nutritional losses and environmental concerns. Nutrients present in the compost should be effectively recovered and mineralized because growing plants can only take nutrients in the mineralized form.
Usually, compost contains nutrients in the mineralized form, but some nutrients are still bound in the form of organic components. The nutrients in the form of organic components can be made available by using secondary processes for improved nutrient cycling in controlled environment agriculture.
Microbial mineralization also called multiple parallel mineralizations can be used for mineralizing the organic nutrients. There is the utilization of microbial inoculants in these processes for mineralization of organic nitrogen by a series of processes such as ammonification and nitrification.
Bioponic system is focused on enhancing microbial activities for releasing nutrients in the hydroponics growing media. Normally there is the extraction of nutrients by the placement of organic matter in the aerated water tanks for improving the microbial activities. This technique is mostly used for brewing compost tea. The release of nutrients is favored to the aqueous medium by the process of microbial-based mineralization and solubilization.
Bioponics also favors the establishment of microbial biofilms on the structure of roots. These biofilms cause the mineralization of organic material and enhance the bioavailability of essential mineral ions to the roots of growing plants. These biofilms also improve the pathogenic resistance to the growing plants.
Ozonation is an oxidative process and has great potential for the mineralization of organic matter to release nutrients for crop production. electrochemical oxidative and advanced oxidative techniques are also important for the mineralization of organic material in the water. All these techniques are essentially important for addressing phytotoxicity and pathogenic problems during the mineralization of organic material.
How Redbud Helps
Most modern trends towards industrialization and urbanization and peri-urban and urban centers the importance of agricultural localization, waste management, and recovery of resources for achieving resilience and sustainable ecosystems. Integration of composting and controlled environment agriculture is significantly helpful for sustainable waste reduction and recovery of resources in the most desirable way.
However, tracking all of this while managing your indoor farm can be overwhelming. This is where RedBud comes in. Redbud is the ultimate software platform for Controlled Environment Agriculture operations.
From lab testing and soil samples to individual crop monitoring, RedBud Software captures all the intricacies of indoor farming in one application. It’s the next generation of indoor farming technology, poised to streamline operations and increase efficiency. Teams can collaborate from different farm spaces through the app, creating synergy and symmetry in the way things are handled.
Embracing solutions to help move the agricultural industry forward by way of indoor farming is inevitable—and producers who aren’t relying on data to manage operations will be left in the dark. Improve yield and efficiency the right way, using Redbud Software. To find out more, request a demo or contact us to meet our team.