Thermophilic Composting and its Relevance for MENA

Thermophilic composting of organic waste is getting increasing attention worldwide because of its ability to convert solid wastes into organic fertilizer within a short period of time. The system consists of an enclosed reactor laced with a microbe-enzyme cocktail. The commonly used microorganisms are naturally occurring bacillus sp., pseudomonas sp, bifidobacterium sp., lactobacillus sp., streptomyces sp., corynbacterium sp etc. Enzymes such as proteinase, keratinase, lipase and cellulose are employed to accelerate the aerobic digestion process.

Salient Features

The most important feature of thermophilic composting process is its operating temperature range of 70 – 80 °C which eliminates all pathogens and harmful bacteria present in the waste stream, and activate the thermophilic enzyme thus shortening fermentation time.

During the digestion process, complex organic waste is digested into simpler organic matter, which forms the backbone of quality organic fertilizer after 24 hours of processing in the digester. Organic waste can be of animal or plant origin such as organic fraction of MSW, slaughterhouse waste, animal manure, food wastes, vegetable and fruit market wastes etc.The end product is odor-free and pathogen-free high-quality organic fertilizer.

Acceptability in the MENA Region

The high rate of growth and consequent rise in solid waste generation in the MENA region makes it imperative on governments to make use of latest waste management technologies to manage wastes in a sustainable manner. Thermophilic composting is a promising innovation which can address a variety of solid waste management issues. A wide range of organic waste can be processed into organic fertilizer which can, in turn, be used for growing food and cash crops in the Middle East.

Organic fertilizer is important in the MENA region due to the sandy soils condition. Sandy soil has poor nutrient and water retention, which are vital for agriculture. With the use of organic fertilizer, the organic matter content will improve the fertility of soil and more sand space can be added value for sustainable farming activity.

The organic fertilizer produced can also be mixed with chemical fertilizers to produce “fortified organic fertilizer” which combines the benefits of both organic and chemical fertilizers. Such fertilizer is getting more popular because it is cheaper and environment-friendly compared to chemical fertilizers. In some countries around the MENA region, quality organic fertilizer is a scarce resource which is more expensive than chemical fertilizers.

The market adaptability of organic fertilizer allows it to be used both in organic farming and conventional farming because the quality organic fertilizer is able to bring in intangible benefits such as healthier soil which helps to lower down future fertilizing costs. This allows the producer to tap into both farming markets.

However the growth of organic farming is strongly dependent on the constant supply of organic fertilizers with consistent quality and big volume which can be ensured by introducing modern composting systems, like thermophilic composting, in the Middle East. Such systems are currently being used in Southeast Asia, Europe and North America and shall find market acceptance in MENA on account of its ability to address environmental issues, generation of attractive business opportunities and promoting entrepreneurial initiative across the region.

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About Khaled Fouad Najjar

Khaled Fouad Najjar is an Agriculture Engineer from Beirut having rich experience in biotechnology, genetic engineering, waste management, composting and agri-business. Currently he is the CEO of Najjar Ag (Lebanon) which offers agricultural materials, especially organic fertilizers, across the MENA region.
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