Welcome To Tomorrow
By Prathapan Pillai, Managing Director, BARformula
Since its introduction into the region in the early 1900s’ the Palm Oil industry has proved to be one of the most resilient sectors of growth for the Indonesian and Malaysian economies. Today roughly three quarters of the world is dependent on this food oil as its main ingredient. Owing to its high oil yield and relatively low cost this is not seen to change in the near future. There have been however significant changes in social consciousness that greatly impacts this food crop, mainly its image and reputation for being the primary driver of deforestation and environmental degradation.
In the 1980s' when I first began research into the evolving field of Bioremediation, two things were then as they almost are now. The first was the concern for the increasing amount of organic waste byproduct being discharged into the environment by Palm Oil Mills. The second was a growing belief that Nature held the answer to our environmental concerns. 25 years later I am still amazed by the breakthroughs being continuously achieved by our scientists in emerging scientific fields such as Biomimicry in proving this. Nature may have actually predicted the mess that Man would find himself in and laid the groundwork to its solutions as early as millions of years ago.
In the early 90s’ I was visiting the United States and Europe in my capacity as a consultant to an American Forestry company. I noticed that biological solutions were readily available in the market for some of the situations we faced. However, management was more comfortable and perhaps fascinated by the mechanical equivalents which more often than not cost multiple times more to implement. Perhaps it is the childlike wonder in all of us that continues to be amazed by gigantic steel and robotic structures performing a task. Billions of tiny unseen ‘germs’ having a go at it was perceived as not proven or boring. Today however the situation is very much different. Higher fuel costs, a louder voice for environmental consciousness and scientific proof that Nature’s biological ‘robots’ are outperforming mechanical remedies are changing perceptions. Thus it is perhaps natural that I turned my attention to an industry of my early career that I was particularly fond of.
The Oil Palm industry continues to transport thousands of tonnes of steel into the deepest most remote jungles of Asia to build mills, polishing plants, pipelines, ponds and much more. A few Malaysian, Danish, Indian and American scientist friends were pioneering research into microbiologically aided municipal waste treatment systems. It seemed common sense to ask if similar applications would work with the organic waste from the Oil Palm mills. The first concern was the sheer volume of liquid waste production per day. The ecological challenge and the prospect of success was too intriguing to ignore. The accepted industry solution at the time was waste water treatment facilities and filtration systems costing upwards of USD 2 million or more and more ponds.
Fast forward to 2013 and we now have the Bar Formula Process. We have fully implemented our technology in mills of some of the world’s largest Oil Palm producers in Malaysia and Indonesia. More are being designed. Up to June 2013 we have converted over 2,500,000mt of organic biomass and effluent into co-compost worth some USD 20 Million to our clients.
There are hundreds of Oil Palm Mills in Malaysia and Indonesia. Each has the potential to apply biotechnology to their waste management processes and save millions a year. We have a long way to go before we see each one of them realising the nutrient potential of their waste.
Owners are learning more about how Nature's own workforce can offer them a solution that makes sense economically, commercially, environmentally and socially. Agronomists will play a key role in explaining the intricacies of the Soil Food Web and factoring the knowledge into future fertilizer recommendations.
We continue to finesse our technology to improve the speed of implementation. We share as much information as we can on our website to help educate anyone who may be interested. Some of the information pertains to BARformula’s own methodologies and applications of science. Others are generic information on matters such as the science of bioremediation, the Soil Food Web scientific discussions and technical research.
Our hope, no matter which bioremediation consultant or technique you choose, is that every oil palm mill should be adopting some form of bioremediative technology in its waste management process.
As an organisation we strive to be a productive partner to our clients. Should you wish to enjoy the same commitment to your business you may reach me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org