The company has a series of phosphorus, potassium and sulphur fertilizers produced from alternative sources, unlike chemical fertilizers. They are pulled together with an activated compost and biological mix to create regenerative fertilizers with the same nutrients as those produced from traditional sources. Given that two thirds of applied nitrogen and half of applied phosphorus is not utilized by the crops, with the excess often running off into rivers and lakes, the company’s regenerative fertilizer can lessen the impact of these GHG emissions.
The trials were completed in collaboration with Lethbridge College and soil functionality analytics firm BiomeMakers from West Sacramento, California. It was conducted at the Irrigation Research Demo Farm in Lethbridge. EarthRenew’s 2021 partner was Olds College in Alberta.
The EarthRenew product
Keith Driver, EarthRenew’s CEO, said the goal is to show farmers the fertilizer can provide, at a minimum, the same performance as its counterparts at a lower cost. It can also put more carbon back into the soil.
Part of his task is to convince the industry it is possible to be a regenerative farmer and save on expenses.
“There’s a lot of inertia. They literally bet the farm every year on the crop in the season. There’s a lot of pressure on that,” Driver said. “To displace those conventional products, we have to do this type of research that shows equivalence and performance that shows the cost benefit to the farmer because they’re not just on a whim picking (products).
“It’s a science-based approach they take. They measure their risk, and they want to make sure that they’re being prudent.”
Among the results, he said, were healthier potatoes. They were low (1.1 – 3.5 per cent) in common defects including scab, hollow heart, brown centre, stem end discolouration and growth cracks or greening.
The formula showed an improvement in the production of hormones like auxin and gibberellins. Salicylic acid, which helps with photosynthesis, also “improved markedly.”
“Farming essentially is mining the soil. So year over year, we mined the soil of carbon, we mined the soil of nutrients and the practice was to then use chemicals to feed the plant, ” Driver said. “Now with regenerative (fertilizer), we’re trying to feed back the soil.”
The latest trials were EarthRenew’s fourth trial and season with the Rebuilder product, but the development of the biosolid on which its products are based goes back about a decade prior, according to Driver. Over those four years, the company has seen 200 per cent growth each season, which now results in 40,000 tonnes per year of the product.
EarthRenew’s future plans
“We want to move to going through distributors. So we need to get more than anecdotal evidence. We can’t go farm to farm and win that one,” Driver said. “So now is when we stepped in (to do) some trials to create the third party data sets that will help us extend our market going from 40,000 tonnes to 400,000 tonnes within four years.”
As part of that plan, this year it will complete upgrades at its subsidiary Replenish Nutrients facility, upping production to 90,000 tonnes a year.
The company is also developing a facility in Bethune, Sask., hoping to have it fully commissioned by 2023 and producing 200,000 tonnes a year.
Aside from increasing the market for the product, Driver and EarthRenew plan to continue trials every year because “there’s always another crop.” It also assists in dealing with the different climates, geographies and seasons across Canada and North America.
In 2023, that means an expansion into the U.S., specifically Montana. It’s also looking at projects with universities in California and Colorado.
Driver also said trials this spring may involve combining EarthRenew products to make phosphorus available earlier in the soil, which would in turn increase soil fertility.