Updates from the Soil Lab
Soil Feeder: Fermenting my Everyday
13 NOVEMBER 2014 — More than two months in the making, I just completed this short video. It is an attempt to bring the concept of human ecology onto the personal level. While rendering the process of reconnecting to the natural food web, I hope to capture something of the ritual and rhythm involved when one is subjected to the protocol and sequences of fermenting and composting. NOTE: Audio is essential for full watching experience.
Making Human-derived Soil
Terra Preta ‘Dark Earths’
This long term project aims to make safe soil using the daily supply of urine from the project initiator's kidneys. This fertilizer will be used to grow healthy vegetables. After that, the kidneys help make new fertiliser to grow more vegetables. In this way, The Nutrients Recovery Project will close the loop of resources on the individual level with the smallest possible ecological footprint.
The controlled metabolism of Terra Preta depends on the balanced and well timed inputs of ingredients like fresh wood shreds (to provide ligno-celluloses), plant-based charcoal powder (for carboxylic moieties), living soil and ash. This stimulates the desired microbes to participate in the conversion towards vital soil and plant nutrients.
Feeding Social Organisms
Making Terra Preta
As shown in the latest research on plant nutrition and the role of soil microbes, Terra Preta provides regenerating, long-lasting soil fertility. The system is based on a balanced input of green waste and human waste products that are treated in a two-step process of lacto-fermentation, followed by worm composting.
The controlled fermentation of urine in the absence of oxygen — contrary to spontaneous, destructive decomposition process — aims to eliminate pathogens and to ‘fix’ nutrients. Stabilized urine neither releases ammonia nor C0₂. There is a range of microbes suitable to inoculate (kick-start) the substrate.
Courtesy of Human Kidneys
Properly metabolised, human urine is a precious, well rounded fertilizer. The vitality that originates in our kidneys can be passed on across different kingdoms of life all the way to the plants we eat. Current food production relies on scarce resources of mineral phosphate and CO₂-derived nitrogen.
The Nutrients Recovery Project is located within the The Sustainability Learning Community’s (SLC) Organic Garden on the campus of the Australian National University in Canberra. This helps to make this slow growing, work-in-progress pilot project accessible to the interested public and learning community.
Food for Thought
The discussions leading up to The Nutrients Recovery Project made clear that there is significant resistance in our modern day culture to the idea that utilising human waste products make sense for producing food. Making anthropogenic soil therefore situates us in a special place because we are engaging with the natural world on one side and the social world order on the other.
Interview with Michael Leung
How did the idea of making personal, human soil come about? During an artist residency in Hong Kong, Markuz Wernli launched a petition to protect a rooftop tree on a vacant house. In a conversation with Michael Leung — an urban farmer and designer who living next to the tree — we speculated about how human urine might have caused this tree to flourish on concrete.
Motivation & Social Organisms
The goals of the Nutrients Recovery Project (TNRP) are to learn about the meaning of health, self-reliance, the rhythms of daily life, and about community. It is also about the satisfaction of producing something often ignored or taken for granted. On the individual level, making Terra Preta black soil is about self-determination.
The Nutrients Recovery Project
If you want to know more first hand what we do and how the anthropogenic soil is coming along, meet with Markuz Wernli at The Nutrients Recovery compost location on weekdays over lunch break or after 5pm. Visitors can also help attend to the this urban garden project.
- Making Human-Derived Soil: Terra Preta 'Dark Earths'
- Feeding Social Organisms
- Recovering Nutrients
- Recovery Tracker: Courtesy of Human Kidneys
- Controlled Fermentation
- FAQ: Food for Thought
- Open Lab: Public Activities
- 8 September 2014: Updates from the Soil Lab
- About: Motivation & Social Organisms
- Fertile Urine: A Conversation
- Get in touch with The Nutrients Recovery Project