A world first project that has seen three local businesses collaborate to convert weed and waste products into high value soil additives is preparing to launch for the first time this month. New ‘for purpose’ business venture, Atlas Soils, is striving to improve local soil health and resource efficiency in the Townsville landscape by turning various urban waste products into humisoil©, a product that improves soil health, can extend landfill life, reduce the cost of waste disposal, and activate local jobs.
“Atlas Soils licenses world leading technology from local biotech provider VRM Biologik Group and is the product of two local businesses – Ecocentric Services and Hannahbull Hydro Excavations – who are making low cost soil improvement products from local waste,” explains Jason Lange, who is one of the co-founders and Directors of Atlas Soils.
“We are using billions of task specific microbes to rapidly break down various organic waste products, cotton and other waste materials into valuable products used globally in generative agriculture called humisoil© and XLR8 Bio®, which are soil additives that stimulate the local biological community to rebuild topsoil.
“Essentially we take what happens with nature in 50 years and amplify it by applying the right biology to the waste to get it to break down and turn into a product which would naturally generate on the rainforest floor.”
The low-cost blend is made entirely from local upcycled organics, with the waste and weed products, as well as the probiotics that are essential for the process, being sourced from local businesses in Townsville.
Instead of local waste material being taken to landfill at a high cost and producing methane and other carbon emissions, it is brought to our Townsville based site where it is sprayed with the catalysts, covered and left to break down over a six-month period,” continues Jason.
“We then go through a process of uncovering, screening, flipping and turning it into our core product, the humis-rich soil foundation, that is used around the world for agricultural, horticultural and land rehabilitation applications.”
Jason and his team are building an economy around waste and are using applied and validated nature-based solutions to create an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to chemical based fertilisers. They are also now exploring collaboration opportunities to collect food waste to create and sell other safe biological products for lawn health.
“Townsville as a whole is a clay dominant soil meaning our rainfall rarely actually infiltrates or soaks into the soil. As a result, people apply chemical fertilisers, which are a highly unsustainable and harmful way of improving crop yield and health in the lawn,” he says.
“We wanted to offer a sustainable alternative to this and instead use safe, locally made biological inputs to foster resilient lawns. In doing so, we also wanted to combat the issues surrounding excess waste disposal.”
Thanks to the support of Townsville City Council, Atlas Soils has already saved the local community over $20,000 in waste disposal cost, engaged more than 20 businesses around Townsville and has ultimately catalysed an industry.
“We want to activate local businesses, create meaningful work and use the brilliant thinking that exists right here in Townsville to transform waste into healthy urban soils.”
“When waste goes to landfill, there is hardly any business activation at all, so our goal was also to activate jobs in the process and demonstrate that there is an economy in waste.”
Their collaborative product is being made commercially available for the first time this month. However Atlas Soils has already achieved major success with businesses, schools, mine sites and other local governments looking to utilise their services to build soil and soil products from waste.
“Already, we’ve turned aquatic weeds and council cleanout material into high value topsoil conditioner that is now used to reduce water on lawns, increase agricultural abundance and improve flood restoration soils for vegetation,” he continues.
“Our products are used in local schools with another world first application at St Benedict’s Catholic School where we used the material made from weeds to improve their sporting field.
“We are now teaching other businesses how to do the same and exploring how we might use similar biological technology to treat other city problems like contamination, street sweeper waste and drain cleanout material.”
Atlas Soils has gained international attention for combining circular economy principles and social enterprise action to their growing business, which Jason says is the driving force behind their work.
“The opportunity to apply circular economy principles to organic waste in the city is profound,” he said.
“We are also collaborating with the Endeavour Foundation to develop sustainable innovation around packaging and are working towards being able to break down the packaging so we can include it back in the production process.
“There is still lots to be done but we are proud to be part of the solution to this problem and play a role in helping our region become more economically and environmentally sustainable.”
15kg Buckets of Activated Humisoil© will be available from Addisons Mitre 10 and are in limited supply. $2 from every bucket sold will be donated back to sustainability initiatives through Sustainable Townsville Pty Ltd.
By Georgie Desailly.