Why We Use MAF
As part of our relentless pursuit of doing things better, we decided several years ago to move to forced aeration composting rather than traditional windrows and turners. Composting is an aerobic (requiring oxygen) process, and the key to managing and optimising the process is oxygen. We took a critical look at our existing processes and discovered that there were limitations. In traditional windrow systems oxygen is introduced by turning the pile to expose it to the atmosphere. This can be done in all sorts of ways, such as by using an excavator, a loader, or a specially designed compost turner that straddles the windrow, turning it over and reshaping it afterwards. We had a state of the art windrow turner that was doing the best job that could be done. However, when we tested oxygen over time we found that oxygen levels were dropping to near zero in as little as one hour. The maximum that we could turn our windrows was once a day, so there were up to 23 hours out of 24 where the composting process was not at an effective level.
This doesn’t mean we were making poor compost, but the trade-off for limited oxygen is greater time. If we could get oxygen into the system almost constantly, then potentially we could make a quality product in much less time. This means less energy used, less space taken up on our hardstand, and more compost we can make with the same resources. It would also allow us to manipulate conditions to make particular types of products if we choose. If it wasn’t practical to turn our compost windrows more often, then the most sensible option would be to blow fresh air through the compost piles. This would mean that we could be supplied with oxygen without having to physically move tonnes of compost every day. We could also run fans on electricity rather than burning diesel in a large machine. The combination of the two would mean significant energy savings.
The reasons for changing to forced aeration were compelling, so we began a worldwide search for the right system to meet our needs. We found a lot of big, complex and expensive concrete bunker based systems, and a few more portable but not really practical systems. We were struggling to find a viable option and were just on the cusp of deciding to develop a system ourselves when we met Martin Hauke of MAF composting systems in Germany. This system met our criteria of being simple, robust, flexible and cost effective. To top it off, Martin understood and shared our philosophy of composting to reclaim wastes and build soil health and was as excited to work with us as we were with him. We adopted the MAF system for our own operations, and have been so pleased with the results that we have since become the Australian distributor, so that we can help others recycle organic wastes.