Freeze-Dried Compost Tea: A Revolution in Organic Farming DERT

Please scroll down and find the DERT tag link for all posts on this topic.

In this post we will be discussing the freeze drying of a compost tea.  This will be a product that I sell called DERT (Deep Earth Root Tonic) and which you can sell too since it is open source, which will be a water soluble organic hydroponic or aeroponic or aquaponic complete nutrient solution.

Why freeze dry a compost tea?  Freeze drying technology is typically reserved for high value pharmaceuticals like vaccines and very expensive heat sensitive proteins.  Less commonly it is used for long term food storage but is more of a novelty since a lb of freeze dried food is commonly over $100.  So why on earth would we freeze dry something as cheap and abundant as compost tea, which is basically a dirt extract and a plant food, not even animal grade let alone human?

Because it opens up an entirely new market.  Typically compost tea is used as a supplement for hydroponic systems or just to add to watering solution of soil grown crops.  But a new and developing use for it is as a nutrient solution replacement for hydroponics or aquaponics.  This has not caught on because the intricate and precise nutrient delivery systems quickly get gunked up with compost tea and has to be flushed and cleaned after each application which makes it for occasional use only - while the traditional salt based hydroponic nutrient solution can sit in lines and be fed constantly.

We are here to change that paradigm.  Compost tea, if properly formulated, is a complete plant nutrient that can fully replace synthetic hydroponic nutrient solution.  So lets overcome all the hurdles that face that use.  In organic soil based farming, plants can only absorb what water can extract from the soil.  So why not pre-extract the nutrients so the plants can focus just on growing and produce outstanding yields but still have a full spectrum of everything that a perfect soil provides?

Hurdle #1: Bacteria biofilms.  This is a tough one because of perceived notion that compost tea is ALL about live and active microbes.  If you are using the tea as a supplement for soil based farming then I can see why you believe this, the microbes produce enzymes which can help release nutrients from your soil.  However that is not our aim here.  We are using the microbes to break down compost during the production of compost tea.  Microbes are not needed after that step at all when used for hydroponics.  There is no soil in our hydroponic system for microbes to break down.  All of that is done before the nutrient solution is delivered to the plants.  Therefore we can kill bacteria and fungus or at least inactivate them with essential oils and/or hydrogen peroxide and/or other natural preservatives before putting them in the nutrient tank.  This eliminates biofilm and gunking up of the nutrient delivery system

Hurdle #2: Low concentration.  Typically a compost tea is not formulated to be a full replacement to a synthetic based hydroponic nutrient solution.  It is made at haphazard and low concentration.  Here we will use lots of starting material (around 7-8 cups of material per 3 gallons of water) and also will measure ppm to be between 1200 and 1600 for feeding plants in full flowering and fruit production stage.  Since primarily this will be a freeze dried soluble powder, a ppm meter can be used when reconstituting so the perfect ppm is reached for optimal growth.

Hurdle #3: Insufficient filtering of the compost tea.  Most compost tea is made either with compost and castings floating freely in the water, or a bag with a very porous mesh.  Floating particles ranging in size up to around 1mm are common.  To combat this and allow the solution to go through microsprayers used in even aeroponics, we will let all debris settle for up to 24 hours after the compost tea is made and a clear solution results.  Food Grade Diatomaceous earth (DE) will be added as a desiccant and preservative to our water soluble powder, but only at 400 mesh which is small enough to go through even the finest microsprayers (50 micron) without clogging.  The DE will also help the roots resist gram negative (ecoli) growth.

Hurdle #4: Shelf stability.  Hydroponic nutrient solutions can be sold as a powder or as a liquid that can sit in a jug for years and still be fine.  Compost tea turns bad (anaerobic) within as little as 24 hours after brewing.  This is complicated by the fact that "teanerds" believe so wholeheartedly that the live microbes are the only important thing in compost tea so they would never want to add (even natural) preservatives.  Well I come from a Molecular Biology background with a focus on Cellular biology so I know how important preserving biological activity is and that certain important enzymes and proteins can be deactivated when a solution is frozen - I witnessed this first hand.  However with certain precautions like adding threonine and serine (organic and natural amino acids) at under 1% can preserve almost all enzyme and protein activity during freeze drying.  Killing or inhibiting bacteria at this stage is fine since the plants use liberated nutrients as fuel for growth, not full bacteria.  The killed or inhibited or inactivated bacteria will release their DNA and RNA which I believe the plants can absorb and those will be preserved in the freeze dried powder to a great extent especially the DNA.  This is a hitherto unknown yet essential nutrient for sustained life on planet earth.  Yes plants (and animals and humans) can grow a couple generations without absorbing DNA from their food, but mutations will slowly overwhelm them over generations and the stock will eventually fail.  In the future it will be known that all life on this planet shares DNA and RNA and this is how "evolution" actually happens, not via mutations like Darwin thought.

Hurdle #5:  Limited Extraction Time.  As we know plant-microbe symbiosis breaks down and releases soil nutrients over years and decades.  However during compost tea production most runs are limited to 24 hours.  How can we expect to efficiently gather all the nutrients out of soil in this short time period?  We can't.  However, batch time is limited by "going anaerobic".  Many designs to introduce atmospheric air into the process has failed to allow extractions to go over a few days while preserving aerobic condition and therefore nitrate concentrations (when the tea goes anaerobic nitrates (nitrogen) is lost from the brew).  Here we will use a few new techniques.  Firstly we will add hydrogen peroxide at a concentration of roughly 0.05% once per day.  This will strongly help our brew stay aerobic.  Also oxygen gas can be added.  Another thing that will help which is brand new technology is Red Light.  Red light activates Cytochrome C Oxidase in aerobic bacteria and helps select for them while demoting anaerobic organisms.  Red grow lights can be easily purchased online and can be shined into our brew.

In conclusion we make a strong potent fully aerobic compost tea, make sure it is crystal clear (yet dark brown-black), add 0.2 grams of Serine per 100mL (23 grams if 3 gallon compost tea) of solution and 0.1 grams of threonine per 100mL of solution (11.5g if 3 gallon compost tea)  freeze dry it, mix in say 10 grams of <39 micron food grade diatomaceous earth as a natural moisture absorber and shelf stabilizer and grind the freeze dried tea into fine powder, store it up to a couple years in a cool dark place, then rehydrate it into a perfect ppm fully organically derived hydroponic nutrient solution.  Just 70 grams of this powder (a small handful) will reconstitute into roughly 10 gallons of full strength hydroponic nutrient solution and should be able to be sold at a profit for under $30.  We have overcome all apparent challenges and the revolution is nigh.

Again for more information scroll down and click the DERT tag for all posts related to this topic like how to make the compost tea.

Should test catalase activity (easy to do) before and after freeze drying to see how much loss of activity happens during freeze drying and optimize additives accordingly.

Catalase activity (model protien) after freeze drying lyophilization (pH 7-8 best, 0.5g/mL of Serine and 0.1g/mL Threonine)

optimum droplet size for aeroponics 50 micron

400 mesh (to screen food grade diatomaceous earth) gives particle size of 39 micron

droplet size roughly equal to opening size, 70 micron drop needs 200 mesh filtration

Diatomaceous earth 10-200 micrometer

400 mesh (39 micrometer) sieve

effect of freeze drying in kiefer microorganism survival (galactose 10%)

effect on freeze dyting on lactobaccilis and yeast (yeast extract 4% bacteria, 2.5% sodium glutamate yeast)

effect of freeze drying bifidobacterium (low pH) (sorbitol 15% best)

silica in hydroponics (like food grade diatomaceous earth)

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