Fully automatic composting machines

Just Google “fully automatic composting machines”, a number of companies making out-of-the-world claims pop up instantly. Among them, “composting in 24 hours” is the most common.

I have been approached by a few vendors in Bengaluru to write about their products as a community composting method. When I met them, each vendor made different claims although all of them ran on similar technology. Some had sophisticated temperature display panels and the rest were basic. The shapes and sizes varied, too. But all of them seemed to consume power and let out CO2 intensely. Interestingly, none of the vendors buckled when I pressured them to get compost samples tested. They politely said they would, but never came back. Secondly, none of them came up with carbon emission analysis either.

Composting in 24 hours?

Please refer to this post on how composting happens. Composting is a process that progresses in stages and at each stage, certain types of microbes enter the pile and work their magic on it. Can all this happen in 24 hours, flat?

The claims

When I grilled a vendor, he claimed that they have imported “special microbes” from Canada. What does that mean? These particular microbes are not present in the Indian soil? Or, are these typically those that survive at sub-zero conditions but become suddenly hyperactive in a hot region?

I have been told that this ‘process’ doesn’t need a shredder as the machine itself will take care of it inside. In fact, even thick branches get ‘composted’ in 24 hours. How does that happen? A vendor replied that the temperature goes up and helps break down the material completely. As already discussed, only extremophiles survive at 122°C. Does that mean these machines are loaded with only extremophiles? If yes, then who will fill in for fungi and actinomycetes?

One vendor also claimed that these microbes can survive without food for one year. Now that’s another claim one should be wary about.

Is it compost or burnt carbon?

When I cross-checked all these findings with an expert, he said that “what comes out of these machines is not compost, but burnt carbon”. Since he has also been promoting his own composting system, he didn’t want to be quoted for obvious reasons. However, he regretted how government authorities are falling for these claims and letting such machines hit the market without due diligence. More importantly, he was concerned about the wrecked-up electrical conductivity of such ‘compost’ which can damage the soil composition and kill the plants.



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