White Earth Land Recovery Project Fish Fertilizer Project
Currently, in Minnesota there are 208 certified organic farms and an estimated 600 more that are not certified. With the massive environmental impacts and decline facing everyone at this time, there is need and demand to restore our soils and build a strong foundation for our food. We’ve begun using fish parts to strengthen our soils in a traditional Anishinaabe way – which we wish to restore to our practices. This method of managing soil fertility has been used on our land for thousands of years, and we’re proud to utilize it today. This last growing season, we applied the fish fertilizer to a variety of our crops, focusing on three specific fields in which we grew out our Native seed varieties of corn, squash, and beans. We applied fish fertilizer to two of our fields – the third one being a control – to conduct a feasibility study on the value and merit of fish emulsion fertilizer use in agricultural practices.
Studies undertaken to establish the feasibility of a fish fertilizer producing facility:
- Fishguts added to the soil over 2-year period
- Fishguts mixed with sawdust, then composted and added to the soil over 2-year period
- Fishguts blended in a large blender and sprayed on as fish emulsion
We applied fish fertilizer to two of our fields – one being a control – on the following dates: June 12th, June 25th, July 15th, August 1st, and August 14th, 2013. We observed an increase in the levels of growth and production for our Native varieties and we monitored these increases while accounting for the effects of other variables, such as sunlight levels, differences in watering schedules, and biotic interactions. This outcome fits with our initial goal from our feasibility study to “show the exact impacts on soil quality that the various types of fertilizer have.” We faced challenges in accounting for the variations in soil quality and plant care that went into our three growing locations. While these factors may have influenced our results, we worked to remedy the difference in care given to the various gardens through the development of a more thorough training/instruction process for our growers. Because we’re focusing on closing a waste loop, we used the Akina Red Lake Fishery fish guts left over from our field applications to create a rich compost pile. This, in turn, will further enhance the quality of our heritage crops next season and provides yet another justification for the benefits of fish gut application.
Not only have we worked directly with fish fertilizer products in our gardens, but we also cultivated our business and marketing plan. Winona toured a liquid fish emulsion fertilizer plant in Wisconsin— Liquid Fish Inc.—and talked with the plant manager and staff about their best practices for production. We engaged in productive meetings with representatives from Akina Red Lake Fisheries—an important collaborator in our overall proposed system—after which we incorporated our ideas into our plan. Also, we utilized the support of our AmeriCorps VISTAs to conduct a comprehensive research study on fish fertilizer products available on the market, with a comparative analysis of the various Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Postash levels (NPK ratio) – the core ingredients necessary for success of crop vitality and soil nutrition. Through this research we established prices of liquid and dry fish fertilizers, fish gut fertilizer factory locations in our region, determinants of high-quality fertilizer, organic fertilizer along with establishing the various farming outlets in the region, and seed companies that may have an interest in purchasing our product. In addition, we conducted research on Alaskan fish fertilizer plants in order to better understand the market for omega-3 fish oil supplements. Winona LaDuke and Daryl Frazier, then used this research and analysis to compile a business plan together.
Finally, working with the Akina Red Lake Fishery, we have developed a business plan, however, due to the completion of the previous growing season, we are awaiting next growing season, to conduct further scientific analysis to accurately establish the precise ratio of NPK that will enhance soils to the optimum. Akina Red Lake Fishery is currently establishing costs for installing the appropriate equipment in their facility to allow manufacture of this fertilizer.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Our Anticipated Expected Outcomes:
- The analysis of our feasibility study and application to our business plan
Results: We completed our feasibility study with positive results and were then able to initiate developing our business plan. Arising from our feasibility study, we came to understand that we require further analysis to establish which ratio of NPK would allow optimum affect on our soils and crops. Due to the finish of the last growing season we have been unable to proceed with this analysis, however, we are partnered with University of Minnesota for this analysis to be completed in the near future. This shall be added to our business plan as our finished product.
- A completed business plan
Results: As aforementioned, due to limitations from growing season, this business plan is anticipated to be fully completed by end of 2015 growing season. Also, due to the positive results from our feasibility study, Akina Red Lake fishery is in the process of establishing costs to create a fish emulsion processing addition to their current fishery premises. As was established from our research, two thirds fish waste is created during fish preparation. Akina Red Lake fishery recognized how through the creation of the fish emulsion facility, environmental impacts from waste, shall be virtually eliminated with the added bonus of creating employment and economic growth within the community.
- A completed marketing plan
Results: Currently, in Minnesota there are 208 certified organic farms and an estimated 600 more that are not certified. With the massive environmental impacts and decline facing everyone at this time, there is need and demand to restore our soils and build a strong foundation for our food. Organic farming is experiencing the largest growth of any segment of the farming business as consumers are able to know the origin of their food. There is only a limited amount of organic fertilizer available and the ripple impact of such a business would allow for a larger market of organic fertilizer – serving more organic farmers and a high end community.
Three particular allies in this work are Native Harvest, a non-profit on the White Earth reservation working extensively in re-localized and traditional agriculture; the MOSES, Midwest Organic Society; and the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society. We anticipate announcing this product at their meetings this year. Our comprehensive marketing plan has been completed and is included in the business plan. Akina Red Lake fishery shall be the first fish emulsion producer in the state of Minnesota and all fish by-product is locally sourced from Red Lake itself. This product is eligible for OMRI organic certification and shall be marketed through Akina’s own website – as they already have a large consumer base to access immediately- along with marketing through our other allies who also have a far-reaching consumer base.
- Implementation of business and marketing plan (launch of business and release of product to market)
Results: As discussed earlier, implementation of business and marketing plans has been delayed due to limitations of growing season. However, in partnership with Akina Red Lake fishery, we are with University of Minnesota to establish the optimal NPK ratio fish emulsion, while Akina Red Lake fishery is determining the costs involved in developing this facility. It is estimated that full implementation and release of product will happen by start of growing season 2015.
- Development of a consumer base that will sustain our work
We have three particular allies in this work, Native Harvest, a non-profit on the White Earth reservation working extensively in re-localized and traditional agriculture; the MOSES, Midwest Organic Society; and the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society. Working with these allies, we have access to an extensive consumer base along with Akina Red Lake fishery’s own long established consumer base. Also, we have conducted extensive research across the United States, as to suppliers of fish fertilizer and through our excellent marketing, we will create a network of suppliers who are willing to stock our product.
607 Main Avenue
Callaway, MN 56521
Office Phone: 2183752600