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Made from natural sources, organic fertilizer has become a popular solution to providing nutrients to plants and soil. Commonly, organic fertilizers are produced by using animal manures and agricultural residues and by-products. These readily biodegradable materials make organic fertilizers a better nutrient source than chemical fertilizers (or sometimes called synthetic fertilizers). It is therefore widely used in the production of organic foods.

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Synthetic fertilizers are known to contain chemically produced nitrogen and phosphorous, while natural fertilizers have higher moisture content to dilute its already low concentration of nitrogen and phosphorous content. Therefore, it is important to efficiently dry organic fertilizers in order to be applied on a large plantation scale. Though dry fertilizers release nutrients slowly, it brings organic carbon and nutrients to improve soil and plant health.

Making organic fertilizer from plant and animal waste

As an alternative to commercial fertilizers, plant waste, harvest residues, animal manure can be used to produce organic fertilizers. It is usually produced in a solid form of granule or pellet with nutrients that dissolve slowly. Before drying and pelletizing, organic fertilizers need to be (pre-) treated with the help of a shredder, grinder and a screener and go through the process of windrow composting. Thus, high value-added fertilizers (i.e. balanced in their composition, having slow release, defined properties, specific to each application) can be produced via a completely environmentally sustainable process at a relatively low cost.

Fluid bed drying to convert waste into dry fertilizers

Dry fertilizer releases its nutrients to plants in an extended period of time. Dry fertilizer lasts longer than liquid fertilizer and is therefore often used when large areas have to be covered. Fluid bed dryers are used to dry wet granules and create the dry fertilizer.

How does this fluidization process work? First, hot air is blown in the machine to dry the wet granular fertilizer, passing air through the particles. The speed of the air lifts the product, converting it from solid-like state to a fluid-like state, while the machine shakes up and down. At this point, the suspended product seems to be a bed of fluid. The direct contact of each particle with the hot air maximizes heat transfer and creates uniform and efficient drying. See below video of the Ventilex fluid bed technology for further explanation.

Dried poultry manure as a valuable organic fertilizer

Animal manure contains high nutritional value and can be converted into organic fertilizer. To minimise nutrient loss to the environment during application the manure is dried first. This increases value, reduces odour and ammonia emissions and is better for the environment.

Once dried the manure is pelleted for easy handling and storage. To avoid high transport costs it would be most convenient to dry manure on site or on the farm itself. A good example here is provided by Dorset. They have designed a full drying and pelleting line for poultry manure that can even make use of the warm air received from the poultry house. The complete pelleting line is provided with an intake bunker, crusher, screw conveyor, pellet press, cooler. See below a video of their full drying and pelleting line explained.

How to pack your fertilizer safely?

Bagging process is widely used for packing organic fertilizer. Fertilizer packaging is a combination of feeding, weighing, filling, and sealing stages. Weighing and dosing stage is essential to have the same measured portions of a product into different bags. After dosing, the weighted product is poured into bags through the filling system. As always in packaging, protection of the product from external environment plays a key role. Therefore, bags have to be tightly sealed. Usually, parts of the fertilizer packaging equipment that come in contact with the product are made of stainless steel to be corrosion resistant. To prevent respiratory pollution for operators when packing fertilizer, a hygienic and dust-free environment is recommended.

Organic fertilizer production videos

Organic fertilizer from farm waste

Regenerative agriculture

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