DIY: fish hydrolysates

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by ParadiseLS, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. ParadiseLS

    ParadiseLS LawnSite Member
    Messages: 76

    Does anyone know how to make your own? I was looking at a potential supplier online that referred to the product as "fermented salmon". fermentation as i've known it generally means that you're getting alcohols as outputs of the process. this doesn't sound right as a soil conditioner, so i figure maybe the term "fermented" was used very liberally in the product description.

    Well, my parents live on teh beach, and have countless dead fish washing up on shore. obviously, working with dead fish to produce a lawn care input doesn't seem all that appealing. on the other hand, the price is right and my parents are scooping up and tossing away the dead fish a lot anyways to clear them (and their smell) off the shore.

    how do you turn those slimy suckers into delicious bacterial foods? or maybe i should just start a separate composting setup specifically for fish and add something to speed up decomp of the skeleton, and let that compost work itself out, then blend it into other compost once it's ready.

    any ideas?
  2. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    The problem is once the fish begins to smell you can't get it out of the hydrolysate, if you make them into an emulsion it is even worse

    It is not like beer or vodka, it is a low pH acid bath basically, there is plenty of info online to get you started

    you can mask the smell with different oils

    your customers will not appreciate the smell especially as the weather warms but it is a great source of micro-nutrients and N, farming is not an issue, cows and corn don't care
  3. Fish hydrolysate is a pH stablized substrate, so it's not fermented or heat processed. The racks, heads and guts are ground down finely and strained through a sieve. The oils are NOT siphoned off so this is why it's considered to be a more useful fungal food resource.

    It's stablized with phosphoric acid (the pH is brough down to about 4-4.5). This is done to eliminate much of the microbial activity which would otherwise cause fermentation/putrification. I personally believe it's not an offensive smell, but I work around it quite a lot!

    Fish emulsion is an entirely different substrate. It's heat processed which kills much of the microbial activity. The processing is otherwise similar in regards to the grinding and removal of particulates. Many of the oils are siphoned off in the processing, so it's considered to be more of a bacterial food resource. The odor is offensive to most. I wouldn't suggest applying it around someones foundation when it's nice out!

    Fermentation is an anerobic process. Carbon dioxide is a by-product, and yes, sometimes alcohol/lactic acid as well. Ask yourself if anerobes are going to help plants in high concentrations. It sounds like you know the answer.

    I think it would be a labor intensive process to make your own, but if you have lots of spare time, go for it. Let us know how you make out! :waving:
  4. ParadiseLS

    ParadiseLS LawnSite Member
    Messages: 76

    this sounds like a vote for composting the fish, letting the beneficials soak into the compost, then turning it into an input for CT apps.

    granted, just composting the fish sounds like a ***** but i think if i dig a couple feet down, add some healthy doses of straw to help hold some air, and then bury/cover the pile, it should block most of the smell and keep scavengers from getting too interested.
  5. It sounds like you have some good ambitions for making compost.

    I wouldn't suggest composting in a pit. How much air is down there? Not much. And it will be a pain to get it out when it's done! I'm not so excited to use compost like this to produce compost tea. I've had better success using plant residues as substrates to make compost for CT.

    Fish is a high source of N for composting, it's just that you have to offset that N with enough C. Keep in mind also that high N sources are usually pretty wet and aeration can be a limiting factor.

    I have some experience composting animal moralities in a forced air system and have seen some amazing results (FYI, this is NOT the compost we sell!). We use (and sell) these awesome systems. There are people who compost fish waste extensively. I can try to get you more information if you want.

    The advantage of the o2 Compost Systems is that because of the high level of aeration, you can get away with composting with a much higher N ratio. And by the way, you will make compost in less than half the time with no turning.

    Odor can be an issue. I have grately reduced this problem using a biofilter, which is a fancy way of saying that I put some finished compost over the top of the pile. If you do this, you'll be able to capture much of the N that would have otherwise volatilized into the atmosphere.

    You may find this of interest;

    Keep composting and let me know if I can help!
  6. ParadiseLS

    ParadiseLS LawnSite Member
    Messages: 76

    my idea is more to bury a compost bin. have 2 sides wood, the other two would be open with some sort of plastic or metal ductwork that i could build. the ducts would have induction fans at the top that would collect air from teh wind coming off the lake and draw it into the compost pile. maybe i would use 6" plastic piping or something and just run two lines directly from fans into the middle of the pile, drill holes in the piping where it is embedded in the pile. i didn't give TOO MUCH consideration to that because i worry about holes getting plugged pretty easily. hence i will put my faith in straw for now.

    i might have mentioned before, but maybe not, that i would add in a lot of straw, and also make use of the seaweed that is washed up (where there is free fish waste, there is usually free seaweed!). the straw and seaweed should provide good carbon to the pile. plus the straw also helps to keep air in the pile because the air can flow through the individual reeds, and it can loosen the texture of the pile a bit. i know that with manure from my grandparents' farm, you see straw all the time. it never seems to really decompose, but i figure straw is about the easiest input to screen out of the finished compost, so i won't worry about some of it being left over.

    i wouldn't really mind turning the pile. i would probably just cover the pile in a healthy dose of straw, and some finished compost to block as much smell as i could, plus the compost would inoculate the pile. then throw plastic mesh fencing over it and lock it down to keep out predators.

    that was just the idea that came to me as i pondered it. work-in-progress.

    p.s. with regards to your air system, i have been considering a few different designs. the problem is that i had trouble looking around the net for decent pumps i could get. i don't want a fishtank pump obviously and i don't need any massive industrial pump. hard to find something appropriately sized.
  7. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    wow pete has been busy, o2 compost piles and all the other regalia.

    DUDE get a small regenerative blower or a kiddy bounce hose fan, like the one i started off with and pete gleaned. ebay 20$

    and search PATIS

    oh and an i spy, any one guess where.................

    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  8. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    WOW! dudette whats the good word
  9. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,232

    When I saw your first posts, treegal. I was wondering if you were onshore or offshore. I guess the photo is the answer although I'm stumped. Spain?
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011

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