With so many sustainable buzzwords being tossed around these days, let me introduce yet another. You may have heard the word before but perhaps didn’t know exactly what it meant. The word is “bokashi” and, loosely translated, means “fermented organic matter.”
Bokashi is a fermentation process that has its origins in either Japan or Korea, depending on who you ask. It has been spreading rapidly across the globe. One reason for this rapid adoption is that bokashi speeds up the decomposition process of organic matter. Bokashi uses a trio of microorganisms, usually living happily on inoculated dry bran flakes or wheat middlings, to do the dirty work of breaking down food and plant waste. The microorganisms lactobacillus bacteria, phototrophic bacteria, and yeast combine to quickly break down organic material by a process of anaerobic (absence of oxygen) fermentation. This is a break from traditional aerobic (presence of oxygen) composting, in which air and moisture keep the micro herd happy.
The real benefits from having a bokashi system in place are the ease of setup and the management thereafter. The fermentation takes place in airtight vessels. Just open the container, throw in your kitchen waste and plant scraps, and sprinkle a few handfuls of the inoculated bran flakes on top. That’s all there is to it.
The first few days of the fermentation process will produce some liquid, as the microorganisms begin to break down organic matter. This liquid needs to be drained off. Having a spigot to drain the liquid goodness is a must for those building a DIY bucket. However, this liquid can be used as a nutrient too. Dilute it at a ratio of about 100:1, then water your plants with the diluted solution. The liquids can also be disposed of down the drain––they are totally safe for septic systems and city water-treatment plants. Once the bucket is full and drained a time or two, it’s time to let the natural acids do their job. Just put the container away for two to three weeks and allow the material to ferment or to become “pickled.”
After fermentation is complete, the remaining bio-pulp should be directly tilled into the ground or mixed with composts or soils. This last step finishes off the process. It returns the nutrients back to the soil, providing food for your garden. Bokashi is fairly acidic, with a pH of around 3.5 to 4.5. It should be mixed into the dirt, not directly applied to plants. Soil that has been enriched with bokashi bio-pulp has better nutrient uptake from the microbes the bio-pulp contains. Earthworms and insects finish breaking it down, creating well-balanced and plant-loving soil for better long-term soil health.
The future of organic waste management could include bokashi as a promising method to break down large amounts of organic material that would otherwise end up in a landfill. This method can be used for large-scale applications. In addition, this process does not produce as much CO2 or methane during the fermentation process, which makes this an environmentally friendly alternative. Many of the awful smells that typically accompany aerobic compost are not present with bokashi fermentation. The process occurs in airtight containers, so fruit flies and other insects don’t take up residence in your bucket.
Kind ReDesigned (KindReDesigned.com), a Colorado marijuana waste disposal company, is pioneering the use of bokashi fermentation to dispose of organic cannabis waste on a large scale. Founder David Martinez was quoted as saying “Our goal is to create a paradigm shift in the way the industry thinks about cannabis waste. Kind ReDesigned uses bokashi fermentation to repurpose cannabis waste into highly prized and 100%-natural by-products for use in a wide range of organic growing applications.”
Bokashi reduces the need for chemical nutrients, and growers actually use less water. This eco-friendly disposal process results in fewer carbon emissions. Bokashi is simply a better way to deal with cannabis waste.
Wishing to be better stewards of the planet, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to minimize our impact on the environment. It’s a lifelong pursuit. Learning innovative waste management techniques, such as bokashi fermentation, provides new and easy tools to use in your garden. Bokashi fermentation is ideal for small spaces. It works fast and, when managed properly, is odorless. Chemical nutrients largely serve to feed the plant. Bokashi, however, “balances and feeds the soil.” Your plants will love you for it––the results speak for themselves. Stay tuned for more on fermented plant extracts. We will have a “Making Your Own Bokashi” tutorial coming soon.