Design students experiment with community food waste collection and eco-farming to promote eco-friendly lifestyle

What would you think of organic fertilizers? Living compost? Animal feces? Stinky and disgusting? Have you ever heard about a clean, good-smelling fertilizer for farming made from the uneaten leftovers on your plates?

A group of social design and communication design students joined hands for an eco-farming project—Soil Trust, that experiments with community food waste collection to be made into Bokashi compost. This is not only aimed towards an eco-friendly lifestyle, but also highlights the importance of local farming for reintegrating organic resources and for providing eco-system services. 


Bokashi is an age-old resource recovery method made popular in Japan since the 80s, that turns food waste into soil amendment by means of fermentation. During the fermentation process, it releases a fruity and malty scent of wine, instead of a rotten smell. 


The Soil Trust team established its base on organic farmland in Tai Kong Po, Yuen Long. There, they process the collected food waste into soil-regenerative eco-enzymes and bokashi compost. The enzymes and compost undergo months of fermentation and care before they can be applied to the fields: 


Yes, it requires more work than conventional farming practices. That’s why bokashi is not widely adopted in Hong Kong,” said Shing, the Soil Trust farm manager. 


Despite the extra work and processing time required, bokashi can not only help to cope with food waste from various sources but also has great potential for bringing crucial microbial life back into the soils of small-scale plantations in a self-sufficient way. 


“We hope to bring farming into urban households so that people can produce their food and learn more about and appreciate the food they consume every day,” said Kit Tsang, one of the student team members.


“Hong Kong is over-reliant on extremely long food supply chains, which depend on imports from mainland China and around the globe,” said Annie Lee, a team member. “If we could build a self-sufficient way of food cultivation, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables, the price and supply of food would be more stable—more independent of external factors. This way the city would have higher resilience to uncontrollable situations like the COVID pandemic and bad weather.”


The farm is yielding a variety of crops, such as corn, sweet potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, broccoli, and more. Before becoming food, the crops are nurtured by food. This cycle of food production sets an example for the regeneration of resources. 


In the coming months, the team is expected to make use of the materials and experience acquired to create a design intervention to tighten the connection between food waste collection, bokashi-based farming, and the promotion of an eco-friendly lifestyle in their Integrated Entrepreneurship Project.