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Bokashi Fermentation Starter from Locally Harnessed Wild Microbes

Eco-enzyme starter culture brewing in the hospitality kitchen can provide the local farmer with essential microbial active ingredients used in the bokashi carrier (bedding).

For the SoilFeeders project, we inoculate our sawdust-based microbial carrier with eco-enzyme that we brew right at the hotel kitchen. This enzymatic concoction from fruit peels was developed by herbalist Dr. Rosukun in Thailand for regenerative farming. Commonly, bokashi practitioners use the industrial Effective Microorganisms® (EM-1) concentrate as a standardized catalyst. While EM-1® is convenient and efficient, its 50+ microbial strains formula is trademarked and patented. Thus, its gene sequences are unpublished, which makes it difficult to account for in scientific trials. Since Hong Kong’s environmental biomes offer a wide array of wild digester microbes throughout the entire year, Soil Trust relies on eco-enzyme, locally cultivated lactobacilli, and yeast.

Eco-enzyme is an acid substance containing carbohydrates, fat, protein, and Acetyl. It is conducive to cation-exchange capacity that creates a complex yet stable enzymatic ecosystem. The molecular structure of eco-enzyme is CH3COOH which is able to convert ammonia into nitrate fertilizer (NO3) and carbon dioxide into carbon trioxide (CO3), which can nourish plants, fish, and ocean life. Already widely used as nature-based household detergent, Soil Trust is pioneering the use of eco-enzyme as a microbial starter in bokashi. Requiring only sugar, water, and peels from citrus fruits or pineapples, eco-enzyme is cheap and easy to generate in large amounts. We use a ratio of Sugar:Peels:Water that is equal to 1:3:10. Similar to wine, eco-enzyme is stored at room temperature, shielded from UV light, and takes at least three months to mature. With 5 liters of eco-enzyme, we can inoculate 20 liters of sawdust, and with the resulting bokashi carrier, we can ferment 50 liters of food scraps.

Separating the peels from citrus fruits or pineapples, adding sugar and water in an air-tight container with an air valve is a cost-effective, self-reliant way of producing eco-enzyme as a bokashi starter culture.

The microbes from the eco-enzyme in the bokashi carrier (bedding) do a good job of raising the acidity (lowering the pH value) of the food scraps. After a minimum of two weeks of this pre-digestion process, the organic material has been consumed by lactobacilli and yeasts. At this point, the cell walls of discarded fruits and veggies have already been broken down. The resulting liquid (leachate) that accumulates on the bottom of the bokashi container can be drained with a built-in spigot. This bokashi tea can be saved in an airtight container and is later used in diluted form as a probiotic lacto-spray on plant leaves or lacto-drench and top soils akin to Korean Natural Farming methods. This leachate contains water from the food source and microbes from the eco-enzyme.

Cooked rice is used as an attractant for collecting a host of indigenous microorganisms from bamboo roots: inoculating the soil with fungal bamboo helps increase soil carbon accumulation by depositing glomalin, which binds organic matter to mineral particles.

We are well aware that we cannot rely on eco-enzyme alone to infuse microbial life into the soil. For this reason, Soil Trust is continuously exploring homegrown lactobacilli substrates and microbial solutions, including herbal teas, leaf mold concoctions, fermented bycatch, and mycelium incubators that are inspired by natural farming wisdom from nearby and afar.

Keywords: Fermentation starter, microbial inoculant, enzymic catalyst, Korean Natural Farming.

Related Links:

What is eco-enzyme? (环保酵素的起源) Enzymesos Penang Malaysia:

How to Cultivate Indigenous Microorganisms? College of Tropical Agriculture, University of Hawai'i:


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