All Cosmos uses bio-technology to improve fertiliser quality
THE recycled biomass industry is one that is growing at an ever-steady pace throughout the world. In Malaysia, awareness of using recycled biomass products to be more eco-friendly is on the rise.
All Cosmos Industries Sdn Bhd, a pioneer in bio-organic fertilisers, is a 100% subsidiary of All Cosmos Bio-Tech. All Cosmos is a Malaysian manufacturer and marketer of high-grade bio-organic and bio-chemical fertilisers. They strive to be the innovative driving force in the bio-technology industry whilst helping to improve the country's ecological status.
“This industry will continue to grow as environmental awareness increases,” says All Cosmos Industries senior regional and marketing manager Alex Tan. The need for recycled biomass in the oil palm industry is also great, her adds, due to the Ganoderma Basil Stem Rot disease which affects mature palms and causes the internal tissues surrounding the base of the oil palm trees to rot. By using fertilisers produced with recycled biomass with the addition of good bacteria, the disease can be prevented.
The company believes that using a mixture of organic material, inorganic material and effective microorganisms can increase the quality of fertiliser. The organic materials used are the biomass waste from cocoa, coffee, oil palm and paddy plantations. The inorganic materials used are chemicals such as urea, ammonia sulphate, rock phosphate, muriate of potassium amongst others. Examples of effective microorganisms that are used are Rhizobium trifolii, Azotobacter vinelandii, Herdersonia, and Trichoderma.
Palm protection: The use of fertilisers made with recycled biomass with the addition of good bacteria can prevent Ganoderma Basil Stem Rot disease which attacks oil palm, says Tan.
Most chemicals are water-soluble. When inorganic fertilisers are used on oil palm plantations, especially during monsoon seasons, the trees will be less likely to absorb the nutrients as the rain will wash them away. This causes a major problem for the ecosystem, as the chemicals leak into the water supply through the soil.
Tan says the effective micro-organisms assist by helping the soil progress and softens it. It also prevents diseases and contributes to the environment by making the chemical portion of the fertiliser and the soil's heavy metal content harmless. Also, by including microorganisms in the fertiliser, it will reduce the amount of chemicals needed.
The ideology of the company actually started when group chairman and chief executive officer Datuk Tony Peng Shih Hao came to Malaysia from Taiwan. He was impressed with Malaysian cuisine and also with fruits such as jambu air. The fruit in Taiwan was a lot larger than the ones he found here.
He found that Malaysian plantations were more geared towards using genetically modified seedlings and he felt that they failed to look at the bigger picture. Peng foresaw the potential in the agricultural industry in Malaysia due to the shortage of technology and investors to sustain the industry.
The idea of adding effective micro-organisms to fertiliser came from Taiwan. Combining this factor with the agriculture opportunities in this country, Peng believed that plantations here could see a much better growth and quality of their produce.
To produce the fertiliser, first, the plant-based organic raw materials are put through a fermentation process with the addition of effective microorganisms. The fermentation process usually takes one to two years. However, with the use of effective micro-organisms, the process is complete in only a month.
Next, the fermented product and chemical raw materials (urea ammonia sulphate, rock phosphate, potassium, magnesium, boron and other trace elements) are put through a machine. The first level of the machine is an infrared ray separation machine that separates nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and other chemicals based on the ratio required with a computer prescription.
Then, it is put through another progress that grinds the product and dries it. Then, it is pelletised and put through a few temperature-controlled procedures. First, the pellets are exposed to temperatures up to 100°C to eliminate all unwanted bacteria. Good bacteria are then sprayed onto the pellets.
Then, the pellets are immediately frozen to keep the bacteria in a dormant state. After that, the pellets are packaged with a manufacturing by-date of 24 months. Finally, the pellets are put through strict quality control measures before being released for distribution.
The challenge that recycled biomass companies face is that more and more plantations are recycling their own organic waste to produce their own fertilisers. However, Tan says that the fertilisers that these plantations produce are incomplete as they do not contain the effective micro-organisms.
He says that without help from the effective micro-organisms, the oil palm trees are still susceptible to the Ganoderma disease.
All Cosmos procures the biomass waste from several suppliers such as Yayasan Pelajaran Johor for palm oil waste, Delfi Cocoa (M) Sdn Bhd for cocoa waste and Super Coffeemix Manufacturing Ltd for coffee waste. It acquires paddy waste from Kelantan, Kedah and also Thailand. It has contracts with each of its suppliers to supply the biomass waste in bulk at a fixed price.
Over the past 10 years, prices of biomass waste have increased at least two-fold due to demand. Even so, All Cosmos stays competitive by buying its supply in contracts.
Bags of fertiliser stored at the All Cosmos warehouse.
This means that it procures the biomass waste in bulk at a fixed price and for a fixed number of years. Its suppliers are chosen based on their capabilities to provide the supplies that are high in quality, and are able to provide the necessary quantity in good time. It does not risk procuring products that are inconsistent and inadequate.
The fertilisers it produces cater for oil palm, vegetables, fruits, flowers and rice plantations.
Besides catering for the Malaysian market, All Cosmos distributes their fertilisers to countries across the greater Asia-Pacific region such as Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Myanmar, and the Philippines. It is currently in the midst of entering the Cambodia market.
Plantations it is currently working with include IOI Corp Bhd's plantation division Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd, Rimbunan Hijau Group, Sabah Softwoods Bhd, Felda, and Felcra on oil palm. All Cosmos also works with rubber plantations such as Lembaga Getah Malaysia and Risda.
The application of fertiliser is dependent on the type of crop, plant age, soil nutrient status, weather conditions and management practice.
The company is striving to create awareness of bio-organic fertilisers by promoting their products at events hosted by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, International Society of Planters, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute and other plantation organisations. They also send consultants to plantations to educate planters on the effectiveness of the fertiliser and also how their produce can be improved.
Its long-term objectives are to create a bigger impact economically by increasing the productivity of the work force, improving the efficiency in the use of farmland, and transforming the industrial structure into a knowledge-based economy.
At the packaging department of All Cosmos’ factory in Pasir Gudang, Johor
It hopes to reach ecological growth and to also be internationally competitive.
All Cosmos has high faith in narrowing the gap in living standards between urban and countryside folk.
The company was the first to combine chemical, and organic material and microbes into fertiliser. It was incorporated in 1999 and currently produces 20 different types of fertilisers that are distributed locally as well as for the larger Asia Pacific region.
A modern plant was built in Pasir Gudang, Johor, and completed in 2001 to meet increasing demands for its products. Construction for a second plant in Sabah has just started and completion is expected to be in September this year.
All Cosmos currently largely focuses on the oil palm sector as the volume and potential are higher. Between 2000 and 2011, the areas planted with oil palm trees in Malaysia increased from 3.38 million hectares to 5 million hectares.
The end product: fertiliser pellets
Meanwhile, research on paddy, rubber and vegetables is currently in progress.
The company is currently working with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia to cultivate effective micro-organisms, as research has shown that home-grown microbes are more effective and efficient.
It is also currently working on producing a 4-in-1 formula that includes more added values in the fertiliser, depending on current and future needs.
Source: The Star