ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Worm fertilizer maker set to export to Europe
A local firm producer of organic fertilizer from worms plans to export its products to Europe next year as well as investing around Turkey
Ekosol, a local company that produces organic fertilizer by using various worms, is set to begin exports to European countries next year, as its production has been making remarkable leaps forward since its foundation in 2009.
Ekosol was founded in 2009 as its organic vermicompost fertilizer production doubled between 2010 and 2011 and tripled the following year, General Manager Burçin Karababa said in a recent interview with the Hürriyet Daily News.
Karababa said her first encounter with the Californian red worms, which are used for producing organic fertilizer, was in 2002 because of her daughter’s allergy. “My daughter, born in 2000, had an allergy and I had to feed her with organic foods. A Moldavian colleague told me that they grow their vegetables and fruits with worm fertilizer in their country. Then I started researches on this. I found someone that has these worms in the southern province of Antalya and I bought 50 worms for producing fertilizer in my kitchen,” she said. As the worms reproduce fast, Karababa decided to expand her research by visiting 14 facilities in seven countries.
Between 2002 and 2009, Karababa increased the number of the worms without any sale operations. “I rented an area in Istanbul for reproducing the worms and founded the company in 2005. Ekosol entered into the market after obtaining the production license from the ministry in 2010. We moved to our current production facility on 1,500 square meters area in Istanbul for a more ‘industrial’ production. We posted double production rise in 2011 as our turnout increased by three-fold in 2012 when compared to the previous year,” she said.Burcin Karababa’s firm, Ekosol, has a 2 percent share in the local organic fertilizer market and 0.6 percent in the market that includes import products. Ekosol will start exports to European countries by March 2014, Karababa said, stressing that this would be a success to export organic fertilizer from Turkey to the countries that had their own production. She also added that they had already begun talks with the Turkic republics and they would make exports to them simultaneously with Europe.
450 million worms
The number of the worms increased from 50 in 2002 to 450 million today, Karababa said, noting that they produced around 1,200 tons of organic fertilizer last year.
Karababa said 90 percent of their customers were big agriculture enterprises, 4 percent were markets and 6 percent were e-commerce customers. “We reach the customers that grow organic fruits or vegetables in their gardens or balconies via online sale in 2010. We started to sell our Ekosolfarm products in 1 kg and 1.5 kg packages in the big markets,” she said.
Moreover, Karababa underlined that their job has also a social responsibility dimension. The firm introduced a new product ‘Kompost Box’ that includes worms and soil and enables to gain fertilizer by feeding the worms only domestic waste. It contributes to recycling domestic waste while producing organic fertilizer at the same time, she said, adding that they had sold 3,000 Kompost Boxes to households so far.
Karababa said they established a facility in the Aegean province of Manisa at the beginning of this year with $750,000 of investment for the construction and a $400,000 investment for the new equipment. They aim to make investment in the eastern region in 2016. Also, they plan to grow and sell their organic products in the 2015-2016 period. After accomplishing this process, the company may consider the other investors’ offers, Karababa said, stressing that they shouldn’t evaluate partnership projects without completion of the export phase.
Zehra Aydoğan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organic fertilizer with a twist
In 2005, Burçin Karababa founded Ekosol, now Turkey’s largest vermiculture company generating a certified 100% organic product. As the organic market continues to develop in Turkey and surrounding regions, so too do efforts to complement its rapid growth. Karababa’s company is attempting to fertilize the sector, literally speaking, stepping up from its current 8 acres in Polonezkoy, a suburb in northeast Istanbul, and setting up shop in a new region.
A Health Scare Turns Into a Business Opportunity
When Karababa’s newborn daughter developed an allergic reaction in 2000, doctors advised her to switch to organic produce. Following the recommendation of a colleague, Karababa began to experiment with worms in order to grow organic fruits and vegetables in the most effective and space-efficient way. Vermicomposting is the process of composting using a variety of worms that together help to decompose food waste, bedding materials and vermicast (worm excrement).
After producing her own vermicompost from 2001 to 2005, Karababa saw the promise in taking her fertilizer to the market. Due to the worms’ incredible reproductive ability, her stock grew from a humble 50 worms to 450 million worms by 2013.
The byproduct of vermicomposting is water-soluble, enriched with nutrients, and is considered to have a reduced impact on the environment than the production of other fertilizers. The worms eat waste material and are thus great recycling material.
Ekosol is also producer of Turkey’s first household organic waste recycling unit. The “Kompost Box” provides worms and soil, allowing for the recycling of domestic waste and the production of organic fertilizer at the same time. So far, 3,000 of these boxes have been sold.
Today, Karababa has her eyes on expanding and exporting. The company plans to transfer to a 22,000-square-meter space in Manisa, a town in the Aegean region where the climate is fitting to grow Ekosol’s various products. The company also plans to export to Azerbaijan, Iran, Cyprus and the UAE in 2014, after which it will focus on European markets. With investments in construction and equipment exceeding $1 million, Ekosol is bound to grow, fertilizing both domestic and international markets.
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