Agriculture Experts

How has your connection to Agriton come about and tell us about the establishment of your company, Biome Connect.

In 2020 I read an article about a process called bokashi.  From a farming background, I knew it would be something I would be interested in because of its ability to feed the life within our soil and it was an achievable process. 

Another thing that I recognised, as a huge positive, was the way bokashi cut the amount of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions lost to the atmosphere.  I began to research Bokashi, its processes, products and timeframes, and that’s how our relationship with Agriton began.

I did a lot of research on Agriton and after seeing what they do and the ethos they have built around the company I knew it would be something that would be of benefit because of the environmental pressures that the agri sector are facing right now.  Agri is one of the few industries that can turn a negative into a positive and I believe our soil is key to helping our agricultural industry meet the current pressure it is under.  

With the guidance of Agriton I began my own Bokashi process at home using FYM and right away I could see the benefits it can have in Agriculture.  I was able to see the whole process through in a short period of time.

We started Biome Connect to help farmers build soil health and move towards a more environmentally friendly farming system we therefore became distributors for Agriton products.

Mal Hughes

We also realised the key to good management was good measurement, so we reached out testing companies, Eurofins and Biome Makers, to help us offer the agricultural market the most up to date testing options available and in turn we provide customers thorough soil analysis broken down to give the customer a clear report that is easily read and has clear solutions when needed.

What are the benefits of using Actiferm on farmyard manure?

By using EM Actiferm as part of the bedding system there are a lot of advantages, one key benefit is to retain nitrogen and other nutrients within the FYM through microbial action within the bedding. It also helps maintain healthy livestock housing by reducing ammonia emissions and promoting beneficial microbes and decreasing harmful bacteria through competitive exclusion. 

EM Actiferm has a huge amount of application possibilities because of the 80 different types of beneficial microorganisms can have within our soils, from slurry additive to organic row crop production. All of these advantages can help farmers move towards a more environmentally farming system  

The beneficial microorganisms work synergistically to create a more balanced soil environment, that will help benefit all types of agriculture.  Actiferm and FYM are a great combination because organic matter is one of the most important aspects of our soil ecosystem and is the engine room that drives a fully functional and beneficial soil microbiome. 

The benefits of using the FYM bokashi system are:

  • Your FYM is ready to spread in 8 weeks
  • It will decompose in approx. 3 weeks
  • It retains nutrients within the heap
  • Bokashi promots a healthy soil ecosystem (microbiome)
  • For every ton of bokashi you spread you replace 40-50kg of bagged fertiliser

How is it applied?

Its easily applied.  Actiferm needs to be diluted in unchlorinated water.  It can be spread over your bedding area with a knapsack sprayer or a watering can or if you have a large operation, it can be attached to your bedding machinery and put through a dosing system.  It should be applied on a regular bases before fresh bedding is applied.

How much will treatment with Actiferm cost?

The cost of using Actiferm varies depending on your usage e.g. Bedding, bokashi etc.  

Using Actiferm in the bokashi process costs approx. £8 per ton 

However, if you are adding it to straw bedding on a regular basis, it cost approx. £1.50 per ton.  The reason for this is the straw acts as a pH buffer and any effluent is reabsorbed by straw so it can be removed and covered without having to apply any other ingredients. 

Farmers are familiar with treating grass with an additive when making silage. Is this comparable to treating FYM with an additive?

Yes.  Treating your FYM with Actiferm has the same effect as treating your silage.  Fermenting your FYM leaves it pre-digested and ready to be consumed by the all the living organisms within our soil. The life within your soil will perform better when fed with fermented FYM.

What are the benefits of Actiferm as a slurry additive?

The main benefit to treating slurry is its ability to feed the life within our soil.  As slurry sits in our tanks for months on end, unless it is treated it is putrefying and can harm the soil microbiome and kill worms which is never a good thing.  There is also the benefit of cost saving by retaining nitrogen within the slurry rather than it being lost to the atmosphere. 

Trials have shown an average of 12% more nitrogen within slurry that has been treated with EM Slurry compared to untreated slurry.

When should it be added to the slurry tank?

October is a good time to treat your slurry if you have just emptied your tanks and you still have livestock in house.  If your livestock are going out, then a good time to treat your slurry is just before the livestock return to the housing.  We are happy to give advice on any of our products to help!

You have said treatment with Actiferm can lead to fertiliser savings. What level of fertiliser reduction is possible without affecting sward performance?

There are so many variable factors it’s almost impossible to say exactly. What we do know is that treating slurry with EM Actiferm and N-Hance will result in an additional 12% more total Nitrogen per meter cube of slurry. If you have a 30,000m3 slurry lagoon that is full and has been treated then you will have an additional 4,500kgs of Nitrogen. Nitram comes in 600kg bags and contains 207kgs N. This means 30,000m3 of treated slurry would have the equivalent of 22 bags of Nitram EXTRA in the 30,000m3 treated slurry. 

Treated FYM and slurry acts as a soil conditioner. How does it improve soil and how will this be obvious to the farmer?

One of the main drivers of soil performance is the bacterial fungi ration.  By treating FYM and slurry with N-Hance and Actiferm and using low emission techniques such as dribble bar or trailing shoe you are contributing to a healthier and more balanced soil microbiome.  We offer testing to cover all aspects of agriculture but the best and simplest test any farmer can do is with a spade and his own observations.  With continued use of beneficial products like Actiferm and N-Hance the farmer will notice his worm count rising, worms are a sign of a healthy functioning soil ecosystem.

Will its effect on soil mean there is less need for regular lime applications?

The key to growing crops in a productive and nutritious way and also looking after the environment is a healthy living soil ecosystem. 

By working with nature to enhancing the soil microbiome it gives farmers the opportunity to farm productively and also help the environment.

Lime is used in a lot of diary systems to kill microbes within the cubical houses.  When lime is spread on land it can also kill these microbes within the soil ecosystem.  These microbes are essential for nutrient release and nutrient plant availability.  Spreading 1 tone of lime will also react with moisture to release approx. 440kgs of CO2.

Lime will also react with the clay humus complex. Calcium has a 2+ charge making its attraction to the clay humus stronger than other elements, therefore, it will push other elements out causing them to leach and further impact the environment.  We have proven more than once that you can grow the same yield of potatoes or wheat in soil with a PH of 5.5 as you can with a PH of 8.  The reason why applying lime often sees better yields is because of calcium not PH.  If your PH is low, you often have low calcium which is the 4th most important element after N-P-K.

Often it is calcium that is needed rather than lime.  The most efficient way to maintain soil pH is to promote a strong living biodiverse ecosystem within our soils.  Bokashi, EM treated slurry EM Actiferm will all assist with the maintenance of healthy soils.

Ammonia emissions is a big issue for farmers. How can Actiferm help reduce emissions?

What we are finding, with the soils we test, is that a lot of our soils are very nitrogen heavy, but this nitrogen is not plant available.  So, we as farmers have to apply more and more N to get response of growth. Nitrogen being just one example of nutrient lock up.  By using EM Actiferm your applying 80 different beneficial microorganisms to aid the soils’ ability to process nutrients in a way that nature intended. Thus, reducing the reliance on bought in fertilizers and reducing global emissions. 

There are also emissions savings to be made by using products that capture and enhance everything that is produced on farm, Biome connect carry a large range of products to service these needs.

Treating forage with EM Silage is another possible way to reduce the amount of costly bought in feed ration by conserving the maximum amount of energy within your forage crop.

EM Silage maximises home growing forage crops to lift feed values, improve anaerobic stability and lessening the reliance on expensive unnecessary and sometimes environmentally damaging inputs. Within a beneficial mix of fermentative microbes that include lactic acid bacteria and yeast, the lactic acid bacteria converts sugars into lactic acid and acidic acid, acidic acid being the main driving force behind aerobic stability, the added yeast is unique to EM silage and produces alcohols and organic acids within the silage to further improve aerobic stability and feed values, the yeast also produces propanediol more commonly known as propylene glycol.  EM Silage can produce as much as 10grams of propylene glycol in every kilogram of silage offering another big saving with a product that is produced on farm.  All of this is adding to the farmers ability to reduce global emissions. 

Farmers are also raising concerns about the need to sequester carbon on their farms. How will Actiferm help with this?

In terms of carbon sequestration on farm getting our soils to perform in a way that is beneficial to both the farmer and the environment is key to carbon sequestration.  By having our fungal and bacterial balance in sink and by promoting a healthy soil ecosystem this gives farmers the ability to do both. 

Actiferm contains 80 different microbes belonging to 5 different families we know what’s in Actiferm and we know the positive impact they can have on microbial population in the soil.  

The five main families are:

Yeast: contribute to essential ecological processes such as mineralisation of organic material and distribution of carbon and energy through the soil ecosystem

Fungi: Important as decomposers un the soil food web.  They convert hard to digest organic material into forms that other organisms can use

Lactic Acid Bacteria: Speeds up the decomposition of organic matter and releases available nutrients to plants and organisms.  Also suppresses harmful microbes.

Phototropic Bacteria: Critical to nitrogen and carbon cycling within soil as well as soil productivity, water retention and soil stability.

Actinomycetes: Large family of microbes including antibiotics, nitrogen fixing bacteria and decomposers of lignin, chitin and insect exoskeletons.

By having such a diverse range of beneficial microbes within in your soil structure it promotes the growth of fungi and the ability to ferment organic matter and retain nutrients within the soil.  The microbes also produce bio-active substances like enzymes, vitamins, antimicrobials and phytonutrients which favours the development of plants and helps prevent diseases.

Competitive Exclusion: In soil microbiology there are 3 main types of microbes.  The positive dominant microbes, the negative microbes, and a large group of followers.  By using Actiferm you increase the number of positive microbes ensuring their dominance and helping to maintain that bacterial fungal ratio.

How do you feel these practices will help farmers in the short term with environmental issues. 

One of the ongoing themes in recent years seems to be a prolonged spell of dry weather.  Having experience of this ourselves when we reseeded last year.  We felt we had lost all the good work that had went into getting it in but by a stroke of good luck it came good in the end.  The importance of organic matter within our soils is going to be key in how we manage this ongoing theme of weather extremes.  Building organic matter will give soil the ability to act as a buffer when these weather extremes take place, it also retains nutrients and water within the soil structures.  Bokashi is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way of introducing FYM and external soil organic inputs into our soil structures while also enhancing the soil ecosystem (soil microbiome) . With a 1% rise in organic matter soil can hold 144000L of water and then release this slowly back into our water courses. By creating a soil structure that will promote deep rooting systems this will help farmers when traveling with machinery and defend against compaction.   

If you any questions please get in touch
Mal Hughes


This article originally featured in Farm Week Monday 25th October 2021