Instead of young graduates looking for administrative jobs, they should go into waste-to-wealth management, where they can be self-sufficient.

Gregory Ohiaeri, COO/CEO of EarthCare Nigeria Limited, believes his company is in a position to help young graduates achieve this dream.

In this talk with Damiete Braide, Ohiaeri spoke about the benefits of eating compost plus grown food, collaborations with companies that want to venture into waste management, how to get waste, and advice for government and youth, among others.

Extracts:

About EarthCare Nigeria Limited

Earthcare is a waste-to-wealth company based in Ikorudu. We work in partnership with the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to take waste from Lagos State and compost it plus plant fertilizers and protein feed for animals.

We also have a project called Black Soldier Fly (BSF), where we use fly larvae (worms) to bioconvert some of our organic waste. These larvae are ferocious eaters. They break down waste faster than any other microbial process. It also allows us to harvest the worms because, at that stage, when the worms grow, they are 40 to 43 percent pure protein. Protein is what we need for animal feed. It is better than the usual ones that are used, which are soy vegetable proteins, etc. With worms, we can bioconvert waste into protein for animal feed and also produce residual excrement. It is also rich in nutrients for farmers to grow their crops while rejuvenating the soil at the same time. It is a very diverse company.

When we talk about waste-to-wealth, some people don’t know that there is wealth in the waste that we see regardless of the type of waste. Even from the beverages that people drink, the bottles can be recycled to produce other sustainable products. Our job is to take this waste, turn it around to generate wealth from it in terms of empowerment, employment, etc.

Benefits of eating compost plus grown food

Compost plus is an organic form of fertilizer. It’s natural. It does not contain chemical or artificial substances. It is better to use compost to grow whole foods in terms of our agricultural use. The use of compost has advantages over the use of chemical fertilizers. If you notice, using compost plus, since it’s natural, some of the naturally harvested products tend to last longer. The shelf life is longer and much better than the shelf life of other crops that are grown with chemical fertilizers.

Also, by using compost fertilizer, you not only provide the nutrients the crop will need, but you also provide the microbes that will help rejuvenate the soil. If you use chemical fertilizer, the chemical will kill some of the microbes on the farm, that’s why you see some farmers, after one or two years, they leave the land fallow and go to other farmland to grow their crops, to give the soil some chance to rejuvenate; but if he is using compost he won’t have that problem, he will continue to use the farmland every year to grow his crops.

How your company copes with poor infrastructure such as electricity,

We are aware of the challenges with electricity, which is why most of our equipment is powered by diesel engines, which means that we are not as dependent on electricity. Since it is field work, the equipment can work anywhere. We are not affected by electricity, except in the office. To mitigate that, we use generators to overcome the electricity challenge that everyone in the country faces. Lately in this area we now have a constant power supply and when it goes out it comes back on shortly after.

Purchase and maintenance of equipment.

The machines we have in operation now are the machines we bought when the World Bank project started a few years ago. We maintain them through normal equipment service. Rotation with drivers is a challenge these days. Some of the drivers, when you give them diesel, when they leave, siphon the diesel, sell the product and say again that there is no diesel. Getting some honest drivers to do their job efficiently is a big challenge.

what are your company’s other activities

Earthcare originally started with processing bulk waste into organic fertilizer, but over time the company branched out into biogas and animal feed production, and we hope to diversify into other areas to be disclosed in due course.

Innovations the company has made under his leadership since 2016

Some of the innovations that I’ve introduced since taking over are improving the current products that we make, which is compost, bioconvulsing, using BSF larvae to produceproduce protein and the biogas project to produce methane gas using the same products. What we have to do now is scale it up because we have done pilot projects and they are viable innovations. All the products we produce here also help mitigate carbon dioxide emissions and climate change issues.

How do you get your waste?

LAWMA is our main partner. We have the right of disposal through LAWMA. We are also a Private Sector Partner (PSP), but most of the waste we use for our products comes from the Mile 12 Market and Oyingbo Market. We also receive industrial waste from Nigerian Breweries, Nestlé Foods and other companies, where we source their organic waste for our products.

Since EarthCare is expanding, how can other companies participate in this?

Earthcare is a private company, but we welcome collaborations with other companies or partners who may be interested in working with us. Since our main job is to process organic waste, we sometimes receive offers from companies, whether they are producers who want to do zero-waste projects or who don’t want to get rid of organic waste. They can partner with us. Either we go to their office or they bring us their waste and we process it. Some of these large companies use different grains to produce their final products. Some of them may want to make their products zero waste and we process it and their farmers take it and use it on their farms.

We can also work with companies that have the technology to turn waste into other sustainable projects. We can also work with them so that we can both achieve the same goal. We can give them a space in our facilities where they can set up their installation and manage it.

EarthCare’s contributions to job creation and economic growth

That is an area where we have challenges. If there is awareness, Earthcare can provide more than 500 jobs for young graduates in different fields such as zoology, microbiology and animal science. We still have a long way to go in terms of job creation. Once we are able to scale up our processes, we will be able to employ recent college graduates.

How do you finance your operations?

The funds that we have now are basically from the sale of materials that we have. We are looking for funds to improve some of the facilities here. Sometimes we receive funds from international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Recently, we were in talks with some international companies that are interested in carbon credits and are willing to finance some of our projects because all of our projects meet climate change criteria.