Waste Not

Singapore company Biomax Technologies has developed a process that can convert waste into organic fertiliser on an industrial scale in just 24 hours – and this patented technology is showing tremendous potential in agricultural countries around the world.

TEXT SASHA GONZALES
ILLUSTRATION RODRIGO FORTES

 

T

o produce fertiliser, Malaysian company Glomus Ecology relies on a process called rapid thermophilic digestion technology. This method, which is used in its factory in Sabah in East Malaysia, converts municipal, agricultural and organic waste from surrounding hotels and restaurants into organic fertiliser that is odourless and free of pathogens and pests. The fertiliser is then packaged and sold, and typically used for landscaping, home gardening and commercial farming.

The technology yields a high-nutrient fertiliser that greatly benefits plants and crops. But that is not the only reason why Glomus Ecology utilises it. Phang Joo See, its managing director, says: “The driving factor for using the technology is knowing that the organic waste is not reaching landfills, but is instead transformed into fertilisers and used widely on small and big farms.”

 

Rapid thermophilic digestion technology is the brainchild of Singapore-based Biomax Technologies, a green tech firm founded by chief executive officer Sim Eng Tong, chief technology officer Dr Puah Chum Mok and deputy CEO Fion Chua.

Sim, a serial entrepreneur with over 30 years’ experience in the food industry in Singapore and China, was concerned about the food waste problem at home.

According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency, which is responsible for improving and sustaining a clean and green environment in the country, close to 800,000 tonnes of food waste are generated in the country a year. Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of the total waste generated, but only 13 per cent of it is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills after incineration.

In 2004, Sim challenged his friend, Dr Phua, to develop a technology that can convert organic waste into premium-grade fertiliser within 24 hours. In 2009, after a great deal of research, Dr Phua developed and patented the breakthrough rapid thermophilic digestion technology.

“We hope to create a valuable end product that goes back to the soil and to farms. We are closing the loop in the food production cycle. This is important because relying on minerals or chemical inputs for food production is not sustainable in the long-term.”

Anton Wibowo, operations director at Biomax Technologies

Today, Biomax is the only company in the world that can convert waste into organic fertiliser on an industrial scale in 24 hours. “Unlike traditional methods of bio-digestion or composting, which take weeks or even months, our technology takes just 24 hours,” says Anton Wibowo, operations director at Biomax. Although other companies also produce digesters – machines in which biological reactions occur to convert waste to fertiliser – the speed of their processes cannot match that of Biomax. Their capacity is also limited to below one tonne, while Biomax can process up to 50 tonnes of waste per day in one digester.

ECO-FRIENDLY TECHNOLOGY
Its technology has immense potential in agricultural countries that depend on expensive fertiliser for their crops, such as Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and Kenya. It is in use across a range of industries, from palm oil milling and poultry farming to natural dye manufacturing in these countries.

Agricultural communities also benefit from greater cost savings and improved crop yield through the use of fertiliser produced with Biomax’s technology. For instance, rice farmers in Myanmar increased their yield by 20 per cent and spent less on fertiliser when they switched to its organic fertiliser.

Due to the short lead time, Biomax’s technology requires little land space, making it suitable for use in cities like Singapore. A digester with a conversion capacity of 15 tonnes of waste per day occupies just 40sqm. The Grand Hyatt Singapore, for instance, has adopted Biomax’s technology to help keep food waste out of the country’s landfills. “By converting organic waste into high-quality fertiliser, we divert the waste from the landfills, minimise the amount of greenhouse gases produced, and reduce the need for chemicals to fertilise farms,” says Wibowo. Its technology also emits less greenhouse gases than composting. About 460kg of carbon dioxide is produced through composting one tonne of waste, compared to 165kg of carbon dioxide generated with the Biomax process.

Wibowo adds: “Besides minimising carbon emissions, we hope to create a valuable end product that goes back to the soil and to farms. We are closing the loop in the food production cycle. This is important because relying on minerals or chemical inputs for food production is not sustainable in the long-term.”


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