Joint Compost Center, Hoki Town, Tottori Prefecture: “This compost center continues to operate in the black. What is the secret to their success?”￼
Operating in the black since it was established, and becoming a facility essential to the town
We are thankful because there are many compost centers that cannot even sell the compost they make, but our center can barely keep up with demand.
I think the most important factor in our success is the quality of our compost.
People who use our compost promote it by word of mouth, and at our sales store customers from outside Tottori often say “Your compost is so good I came back to buy it again.”
Some of them bought a light truck just for the purpose of buying our compost, and one even drove a 4 ton truck from 2 hours away or further just to buy our compost.
Locals provide our center with materials, including auxiliary materials, free of charge.
Thanks to them, we can sell our compost cheaply to all, and I think this is one of the factors they are so happy with our compost.
I also feel there’s a strong effect from cost reduction, sales promotion, and cleaning of the center, all initiatives our union members are working on.
I believe the role of the town government is to improve facilities for the purpose of improving efficiency and increasing production volume.
History from establishment of the compost center through machine introduction
– The motivation to make a compost center
Hoki Town is an area with many dairy and livestock farmers.
Enactment of a law on livestock excrement was the motivation to do joint processing of waste in the town.
Around that time, an equestrian training center was established in the town, and someone proposed the idea of using horse manure as moisture control material, because it has a low moisture content.
And we came to the conclusion that if we were going to make it, we might as well sell it.
I feel like everything came together with just the right timing.
– History of introduction of machinery and equipment
From the beginning, we had decided to operate this center with a small number of staff, so we came to realize fairly quickly that we needed to introduce machinery to save labor and improve efficiency.
I heard that there is a good company in Shimane Prefecture that sells composting machines, so I contacted Miraie.
The tour I took directly affected my decision to go with Miraie. I found that a livestock farmer I visited had excellent operations, and they seemed to be comfortable using the machine as well.
We have introduced several machines from Miraie, including a C-Mode system in 2004, EasyJet fermentation equipment in 2009, and an automatic compost bagging machine in 2015.
We decided to mechanize bagging because we had growing sales of bagged compost.
I think the role of the town government is to consider labor saving and improving efficiency.
Thoughts on the benefits of mechanization and compost making
– Benefits of Mechanization
The first machine we introduced was the C-Mode system. It thoroughly mixes and evenly ferments horse manure and cow manure, which have different moisture content, and best of all the machine is very sturdy.
After that, we introduced EasyJet, aiming toward mass production. EasyJet is equipment for promoting fermentation, that makes it possible to do less turning over.
As we expected, we did less turning over and saved labor after introducing EasyJet.
This really helped us do mass production of compost.
I think it would be difficult for us to do one man operation without mechanization.
Moisture control is an important part of composting, but considering that the loader on its own cannot thoroughly mix compost, it cannot make high quality compost.
I really felt that mechanization is effective for both saving labor and improving quality.
Miraie comes to do inspections on a regular basis, so we can use the equipment with peace of mind.
– Compost making
I work as a farmer. When I put compost from our center into my rice paddies, the soil became stronger, and I didn’t need to use as much fertilizer. I heard from people who ate my rice that even people who have a rice allergy can eat it, which really drove home the strength of organic farming.
I have no expertise in compost making.
However, since I was a child, I have seen up close the cycle in which farmers raise cows and use cow manure for compost. For that reason, I was very happy to hear it when people who bought our compost told me that they raised good vegetables.
Recently, a nearby grain elevator has provided us with rice husks, which we use as auxiliary materials. Rice husks do not decompose quickly, and when they are mixed into soil they create gaps, which helps improve drainage.
I think we must thank customer feedback and community ties, as the reasons why we can continue making high quality compost while improving the quality.
Getting people more familiar with our center
– Initiatives by the town government
The town government has undertaken initiatives to get residents of the town more familiar with the compost center.
We drove a truck covered in pictures drawn by nursery school students, and named our product “Bagyun” because the materials include bafun (horse dung) and gyufun (cow dung). We did this with the hope of having customers refer to our product with a sense of familiarity, saying “Bagyun is great!” or “I came to buy Bagyun.”
– On-site initiatives
When I was first put in charge, I had an image of compost centers as stinky and dirty, so I decided to start by cleaning.
Although I am limited in what I can do, I manage the facility while thinking about how to get compost buyers to come again and become repeat customers.
Future of the composting business
The town government has high expectations for our compost center.
This area has a thriving livestock industry, so I would like to manufacture even more compost, and expand sales channels to home improvement stores and the like.
In fact, we suffered a serious shortage of products a few years ago, but we are careful not to do so again.
Some of us are saying we should add another building for the EasyJet fermentation device, in response to demand.
I would be happy if we could further develop businesses that please everyone, such that farmers are happy to be able to process livestock manure free of charge, the town is happy with the profits made, and users are happy to buy affordable compost.
The Hoki Town Joint Compost Center is in Hoki Town, Saihaku District, Tottori Prefecture, at the foot of Mt. Daisen. The town government is in charge of overall operation, while the Compost Production Union is responsible for manufacturing work.
It is a type of compost center that is rare in Japan, producing high quality compost, and operating in the black for many years.