Fresh farmed catfish. (Photo: ag.auburn.edu)
New Alabama plant will turn catfish byproducts into fertilizer
Tuesday, November 15, 2011, 01:10 (GMT + 9)
Inedible byproducts of West Alabama’s farm-raised catfish will soon be used as fertilizer for organic crops in the Middle East, China and Latin America.
Denali Organics will take catfish heads, guts, fins, tails and bones and turn them into a highly concentrated and environmentally friendly liquid fertilizer.
“Most fish waste from processing plants goes into pet food,” said Doug Lindsey, plant manager. “But we are defining the marketplace for a new product. We will make an organic fertilizer that is cost-effective for farmers and beneficial for the environment.”
This fertilizer will return nutrients to the soil minus the nitrates that often come in chemical fertilizers and then seep into groundwater and nearby ponds and streams, he said, Tuscaloosa News reports.
Most of Alabama’s 22,000 ac of fish farms, most of which raise catfish, are located in the western portion of the state, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation. Catfish processors offer year-round supplies of offal.
Denali can take the byproducts and custom blend each batch of fertilizer to meet its customers’ nutrient needs.
Scott McCormick, Denali’s COO, said he and his partners chose Demopolis in Alabama for their first plant because it is located near catfish processors and it has access to rail and ports for shipping the fertilizers out to their customers.
Denali Organics plans to start production in early 2012 and its initial markets will be concentrated overseas, including in countries such as China and Libya, Lindsey said.
The new plant will have the capacity to make 7,000 gal of liquid fertilizer daily or about 2 million gal yearly. About 9 lb of catfish offal will yield 1 gal of the fertilizer concentrate.
The fertilizer will then be transported from the plant in 275-gal tanks and sold for commercial agricultural use. Highly concentrated, 1 gal of fertilizer will be diluted with 100 gal of water for field use.
Trucks will carry fresh offal from West Alabama catfish processing plants to the Denali plant and dump it into a large industrial grinder, where water will be added to make a slurry.
The slurry will then be pumped into processor tanks and mixed with proprietary enzymes to help disintegrate the solids. Then, the mixture is moved to digester tanks to sit for several hours to let the enzymes do their work, Lindsey said.
Denali’s long-term growth could lead to a second plant in Mississippi’s catfish farming regions, or to the search for additional offal sources beyond catfish.
By Natalia Real