Soil Trust: Belonging-to-the-Field (回歸田嘢)
2021-ongoing ‧ Exploring agri-innovation with households of vegetable co-purchasing platform.
- Soil commons ‧ collectivised nutrients cycling ‧ native bokashi fermentation ‧ food-enabling Hong Kong.
Supported by Hong Miu Organic Farm (康苗有機農場), TinYeah vegetable co-purchasing platform (田嘢), Design Trust (信言設計大使), PolyU Research Institute for Future Food (香港理大未來食品研究院) and PolyU School of Design.
Collaborators are Ho-ying Mak, Nicole Lam, Shing Wai Ng, Joshua Wolper, Sheren Ho Yiu Ngan, Kam-fai Chan, Hai-rong Yan, farmer Cheong Gor, Ka-hing Wong, Kevin Kwok, and Wai-ying Pang.
Nutrients cycling revolving around the principle of fermentation: the culturing of both microbial and social life.
Responding to the absence of household-level organic waste recovery in Hong Kong, Soil Trust (泥玩 :集「棄」還田) is building a soil commons — a community of flourishing — around recovering food scraps that brings food consumers and producers together for mutually invigorating local soils. Particular attention is paid to the processes involved to make grassroots nutrient cycling desirable for urban households without land access.
The aim of Soil Trust is to (1) make foodscrap cycling an integral part in Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) for strengthening producer-consumer relations, (2) stimulate eco-farm practice innovation towards probiotic soil regeneration, and (3) demonstrate the importance of a vibrant, localised First Sector in Hong Kong for resource recovery as well as climate change mitigation. Mindful of storage limitations, cultural acceptance issues, and the subtropical conditions of Hong Kong, Soil Trust applies bokashi fermentation to ensure cleanliness and soil regeneration. In bokashi fermentation, layers of kitchen scraps are
pressed with alternate layers of inoculated rice bran into an air-tight bucket for maturation. What effectively is an anaerobic, pH-lowering pickling process locks up nutrients over time, and therefore: (a) prevents methane and malodors; (b) proliferates valuable fungi and microbes essential to soil life; (c) functions independently from any electricity and chemicals; (d) integrates flexibly as compost input, soil conditioner, or animal/insect feed; and (e) affords direct community engagement since bokashi production is an enjoyable, social outdoor experience (even more so in pandemic times).
For exploring bokashi fermentation as metabolic link between urban households and local production farms, Soil Trust established since autumn 2021 a field trial inside the Hong Miu Organic Farm (康苗有機農場) with 17 member households of the community-supported agriculture (CSA) platform TinYeah (回歸). At the bi-weekly Farm Care Mornings, the families are invited to produce their bokashi bedding, tend to compost, mulch the soil, and raise the vegetables grown out of it. At their homes, families source-separate, collect, and bokashi-ferment their kitchen scraps, as well as self-document their experience. Families unable to attend Farm Care Mornings send their bokashi-filled bins and receive empty bins as well as bedding supply through the CSA’s weekly vegetable delivery system. The Soil Trust team with the support from the Research Institute for Future Food (香港理大未來食品研究院) provides the necessary know-how transfer, scientific validation, social arena, and material supplies for orchestrating this native bokashi collective. 'Native bokashi' means to upcycle waste with waste whereby all inputs and tools are sourced from locally recovered materials, including: rice bran (bedding), citrus peels (enzyme starter), sawdust (composting), cardboard (mulching), and recycled plastic containers (fermentation).