A technology to assist in production of ammonia and phosphates,two key ingredients in fertilisers, entirely through organic wastes like meat and food waste is being developed, a move that would be welcome by Kenyan farmers and government spends over Sh2billion every planting season in imports. This has had an effect on food production with lack of fertilisers or late arrival being blamed for 50 percent of the food production shortfall the country experiences between planting and harvesting.
Kenya heavily relies on DAP, NPK 23-23-0, NPK 20-20-0, Single Super Phosphate (SSP) types of fertilisers which all contain either ammonia or phosphate as their key ingredients. However virtually all of these are imported which explains the exorbitant prices. A 90 kg bag costs between Sh2900 and Sh3500 a factor that has led to low fertilizer consumption in Kenya. The country is regarded among the lowest consumers regionally with farmers using 31 kilos a hectate compared to 437 kilos in the same area in Egypt.
The technology being developed by Ductor Corp, a Finnish biotechnology company is 100 percent biological, and involves the use of bacteria to produce the ammonia and phosphates used in organic fertilizers from organic waste. The ammonia and phosphates produced by the unique process can be converted to fertilizers by licensed manufacturers.
“The world needs more food to be produced with fewer resources and less dependency on fossil raw materials. Producing effective fertilizers organically is an alternative that will significantly improve the current resource-intensive chemical processes and reduce carbon dioxide emissions,”noted Ari Ketola, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ductor.
The company says it expects to finalize the technology in the course of the year before rolling it out to especially developing countries which are still struggling with fertilizer problems.
“We have an industrial-scale process where nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer substances are produced organically and cost-effectively for mainstream agricultural use from ammonia and phosphates. There is a high level of interest currently from partners to license, manufacture and market our technology and future products”, said Jukka Ropponen, Chief Operating Officer of Ductor.
Such technology transfer in Kenya would ensure there is year round supply as the country has tonnes of organic waste un utilized, scientists agree. For example, For example Nairobi city alone produces 29,000 tonnes of organic waste, 80 per cent of which is raw vegetable and fruits wastes while 15 per cent is left over foods according to a research conducted early last year by Environmental Cost Management (ECM) and Waste Netherlands shows. This is enough to produce over 20 tonnes of fertilizer using this new technology.
This could further save government the ballooning cost of importing fertilizer that is further thwarting other efforts to make agriculture more productive. For example, in the coming planting season, the government has already imported more than one million bags of fertilizer at a cost of Sh2 billion.