Nutrarich Pty Ltd is a manufacturer dedicated to the production and distribution of fully matured, organic compost products. After directing a number of overseas composting operations in Southeast Asia, Barry Chittleborough and his son, Jason, made the decision to establish a business on the family farm in Brookton, WA in 2005, sourcing agricultural waste and nitrogen sources to manufacture their first mature compost product. Today, Nutrarich removes and recycles household waste from up to 300 000 homes in the Perth Metropolitan area, and receives agricultural and industrial waste from a variety of supply streams throughout regional Western Australia.
From research carried out by international research bodies and individuals, Nutrarich grew to understand that soil biology is a critical factor in soil health, and have found a strong correlation between the population of soil organisms and the soil’s overall performance. “We endeavour to make a compost that is formulated in a manner that we can get a nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous value out of it like a fertiliser, but we also have stable carbon in the soil. This way, you have something that is held in the soil that can absorb moisture that also compliments that soil’s biological life.” Nutrarich compost’s moderate fertiliser value allows customers to reduce their fertiliser use in most commercial settings by half while recycling carbon sources, and assisting in waste streams. The company also accepts large volumes of green waste, and has established municipal compost connections in order to acquire compost made from household bins, and improve it to offer fertiliser qualities.
By supplying its carbon source to growers, Nutrarich enables them to use an organic form of nitrogen that is readily available to the plant, which has shown evidence of reducing NOx emissions. “From a carbon footprint point of view, we can reduce a greenhouse gas in the greater agricultural area,” Jason says. “Additionally, by working with Municipal Waste, we’re diverting material from landfill and reducing methane emissions, and with that relationship with metropolitan waste, and us being able to improve it, we are finding a home for that material that has a financial benefit for the user and for the person who generates the waste.” A major objective for the Nutrarich is the development of a large-scale closed-loop system, in which the company operates a complete cycle of use for waste materials. An example of this system is the group’s production of a compost product specifically for turf, made using the turf debris from ovals and parks in the metropolitan area. “We compost it, and we produce a fit-for-purpose product that can go back on turf, reducing their fertiliser use, improving their moisture holding capabilities, and reducing their water use,” explains Mr Chittleborough. “Most of the time, we can get the material that we’ve taken from an oval back to that oval, and we just repeat the process again the following year.”
The Perth Zoo recently invited Nutrarich to provide its composting service for the manure of the total volume of all of the zoo’s animals, as well as some green waste. The project was carried out in compliance with the Australian standards for compost, and Nutrarich has introduced a product to supply to the public, as a fundraiser to the zoo, entitled ‘Creature Compost.’ The company also collects sludge from the water treatment of country towns in the Upper Great Southern area of Western Australia as a nitrogen source for its products, and is currently working with the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council, who supplies Nutrarich with a compost for sale to farmers, as well as a variety of different composted materials that the company aims to begin re-composting and offering back to the householders that generated the waste.
While working overseas, a significant achievement for the Chittleboroughs had been their deep involvement in a number of greenhouse abatement programs, by special invitation of the Western Australian Government. In their Australian operation, Jason views the healthy expansion of Nutrarich’s market and customer sales stand as strong examples of the company’s prosperity. “We’re currently licencing over 50 000 tonnes of production,” he says. “I think that’s a good answer as to whether we’re successful or not.”
Nutrarich works in partnership with a variety of groups in a range of industry and government roles. In particular, the company frequently collects local government materials, such as turf and municipal bin waste, using them on a contract basis to secure its feedstock.
To Jason, the compost industry’s distinct lack of solidarity and advocacy stands as its greatest challenge for the years to come. “I’m looking to provide a higher dynamic fertiliser solution to soil,” he says. “Terms such as compost mulch, and composted manures, they demean what we’re trying to do as far as compost goes.” Mr Chittleborough points out that the industry has failed in its attempts to gain entry into government policy decision-making processes or to be recognised as a viable processor, and is not, at present, part of the supplier chain to the market. “We tend to be looked at as a problem that needs to be watched closely, whereas we are a solutions provider. There’s ten years of research ahead of us that we could do for the carbon benefits, compost use in soil, soil dynamics, microbiological research…we don’t seem to be spending money in that place, which would help our market greatly.” Compost has developed a poor reputation in Western Australia and has been drastically limited by regulation and policy, largely due to the lack of a strong advocate for the improvement of organic waste streams. “We’re looked at as the poor cousin of manures, even though we are quite a sophisticated operation. The problem that we’ve got is that we’re seen as producing an evil product. We’re viewed as being a pollutant, not a processor. That needs to change, but it also inhibits your ability to secure waste streams.” Jason also notes that fertiliser companies grow nervous whenever compost begins to be sold in large volumes, out of fear of losing market share. “We would need to produce 600 000 tonnes of compost to be able to meet the potential interested market,” he says. “We’re clearly not going to force fertiliser out of the marketplace.”
Nutrarich is working towards a number of important goals for 2015, from licence expansion to the growth of its market share, as well as its drive towards closed-loop processing. On a personal level, Jason feels that the company’s recent work alongside the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council had a notably positive impact, despite the project’s challenges. “We’ve been rewarded with internal research by being able to say ‘Here’s a product that’s not quite good, and we can make it very good.’ It may have had limited markets, but those markets are improving.” The completion of the ‘Creature Compost’ project in conjunction with the Perth Zoo was also of great significance for Jason. “It was something that we had to work hard at, to produce a product that now will not only benefit compost awareness;” he says, “it provided a product that offers some entertainment value in the printing of the bags, and, of course, we have assisted the zoo with the handling of a material that did have some negative health and environmental impacts. We’ve turned that around and made it a positive use product, and it can also support the zoo. It’s one of the more enlightening and pleasing projects that we’ve been involved with.”