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Fish Emulsion...if you've made some please share your experience.

 
Joe Camarena
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Subject says it all. I fish a lot and have access to a lot of fish waste and thought it might be worth trying to make some for home use. How to, what not to do, etc...

Has anyone here made it in bulk? For example, as a business?

Thanks for the replies,

Joe
 
jimmy gallop
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I make it for myself I have a 55 gallon plastic barrel with full lid
I put in fish and a little molasses every now and then just keep adding and taking away.Be prepared when you open it to do ether you will smell like it.

It makes great plant food and microbial starter for your compost or what ever you put it on.
I dilute it more or less dependent on what I'm using it for.
 
Dan Boone
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My mother's habit was to fill a 55-gallon drum with salmon heads and guts, and then top it up with water. She'd leave it in the sun for a couple of weeks and then make her children scoop it out in buckets and carry it into garden, while she sat upwind in a cloud of cigarette smoke "supervising". Needless to say I was not a fan of the stuff.

But we grew about 600 pounds of potatoes every year in a 90-day growing season along the Yukon river. So I can't say it didn't work.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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My process is different from those already mentioned, I take my fish scraps and partially dehydrate them prior to making my emulsion. Once they are semi dry I run them through a meat grinder with a large hole plate (this is all this meat grinder ever gets to grind, it is old and rusty) once everything is ground I then use an old blender to further pulverize, first put in 1/2 cup of water then fill with ground fish parts, put lid on and put on puree, drizzle water in until all is blending well. Once there are no lumps or chunks left I put the emulsion into glass jars so it will keep better. This makes a nice, thick emulsion which can be diluted just like the store bought stuff, but it only costs me a little electricity. I fillet most fish we catch, except for trout so it is pretty easy to use a solar dryer to get enough of the moisture out for the rest of the processing.

Once I tried to make it with out using the drying process, but it turned out to much like chum for my nose.
 
David Pottier
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Having grown up on the shores of the North Atlantic where soil conditions were not great, we have traditionally used both seaweed and fish as fertilizers since we arrived in North America in the early 1600's. Both seaweeds and what were considered trash fish, like lobsters and red fish, were simply tilled into the soil in the fall. This was not new for us, we had been doing it on the European shores of the North Atlantic for centuries before.

This might make sense if you live next to the ocean, as I used to and have an unlimited supply of fish waste. I have some questions on DIY fish emulsion.

Top of my list -does anyone know the percent increase in crop yield? Two fields or garden plots - one grown 'aux natural' and the other using either a commercial or a home made fish emulsion.

For the work and risks involved does the increase in crop yield make economic sense? If I could grind up or brew some fish heads and get a 15% increase from my garden then the economics are there.

Band wagons are easy to jump on but what are the rewards and the risks involved. The rewards being increased yields and healthier plants. The risks could be in attracting unwanted vermin like rats, raccoon, flies and in places like the Yukon, I would be very worried about the smell of fish attracting bears.

Another question - are you using the fish emulsion as a foliage or soil feed? And what yields are obtained from both methods?

So far I lean towards Bryant's method of drying the fish. It is easy to store and add to water for application when needed. It would also keep for years.
 
Su Ba
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I make my own fish emulsion in those super large chest coolers, the kind that have a drain plug. The drain plug comes in very handy for "harvesting" fish emulsion without having to open the lid. I got my two coolers for free because the had been tossed out of a truck and got cracked. I bonded the cracks so that the coolers are watertight. Not pretty, but quite functional.

I started the emulsion by layering fish waste with brown sugar. Then I just add more fish scrap and a bit of sugar as I am given fresh fish waste. Whenever I drain off some of the fish emulsion, I will add an equal volume of water to the cooler. Drain off a gallon, add a gallon.

To prevent the drain plug from being clogged, I put a wadded ball of hardware cloth inside the cooler at the drain site. It acts as a sieve to keep bones and chunks from clogging the drain.

I suppose I could use a 55 gallon drum or barrel for making fish emulsion, but I happen to have been given these coolers. It's fairly easy to install a spigot into a metal or plastic drum/barrel. And most come with lids so to keep out flies and escaping odors.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau, David, I see more plant health and the heavy feeders give off about an 18% increased yield.
My Ancestors used fish to fertilize Maize plantings.
Dig a hole, place fish in hole, replace dirt then plant Maize seed, move down about a foot and repeat process.

I do not spray plants (foliar feeding), I pour the diluted fish emulsion into the soil as a watering, I use a five gal. bucket per plant, once a month.
I have never had a problem with our raccoons or any other animal digging or looking for fish, it does not really smell like a decomposing fish the way I make it.

Our Pole beans are still putting off beans (non emulsion bean plants are done and just filling out (no new flowers or pods for two weeks now).
I also use it on our fruit trees as a monthly 5 gal. watering, the trees are now less likely to wilt during the heat of the day.

I also have a recipe for making our own bone meal which will be started up once we are processing hogs.
 
Danny Pavek
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Hey just made an account to comment here..

At our lake house we process about 300 hand sized fish per weekend. We recently got a commercial grade garbage disposal to process these so that they can be sent into our septic system. I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts on collecting this and using it on plants. The issues that I have run into with using it are that since it comes out as a watery smoothy, it is hard to condense it down, and then there is the smell that comes with this type of process.

Any thoughts would be appreciated!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Danny Pavek wrote:Hey just made an account to comment here..

At our lake house we process about 300 hand sized fish per weekend. We recently got a commercial grade garbage disposal to process these so that they can be sent into our septic system. I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts on collecting this and using it on plants. The issues that I have run into with using it are that since it comes out as a watery smoothy, it is hard to condense it down, and then there is the smell that comes with this type of process.

Any thoughts would be appreciated!


Try my dehydration method, it is easy to build a solar dehydrator with just some plywood, 2x2's clear flat plastic or glass and black paint. There are good drawings and directions on Mother Earth News. You don't want the stuff really dried out, a little moisture in it is good. The garbage disposal should do a good job of grinding for you then and the odor will be lessened if you wait to add water right before use. Do use something that seals well to store it in though. Fish is naturally smelly as it gets old and nothing will get rid of that feature, but it is one of the best natural fertilizers you can use.
 
Dan Grubbs
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At page 8 here of this publication, you can see a bit of measurement of different natural inputs on pasture compared to no input to the pasture: http://issuu.com/stewardculture/docs/stewardculture_no1

Now, the university tests weren't using fish emulsion, but they were using cod liver oil. I couldn't speak to the difference in Brix values and soil porosity between CLO and fish emulsion, but do note that raw milk seems to be a better soil input that CLO. I guess "better" as measured by Brix tests and soil penetrometers.

I don't know about you, but finding and applying raw milk seems to be a much less "icky" process than finding, processing and applying fish emulsion. I'm not claiming the results published in this publication (mine, for disclosure) is apples to apples regarding fish emulsion, but I think I'd start with raw milk before I'd start with fish emulsion. I know that doesn't answer the OP's questions, but I thought I'd add to the mix here in the interest of sharing tested information.

Cheers
 
Rick English
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Both seaweeds and what were considered trash fish, like lobsters and red fish, were simply tilled into the soil in the fall.


Dig a hole, place fish in hole, replace dirt then plant Maize seed, move down about a foot and repeat process.


My observation is that making fish emulsion takes a lot of unnecessary effort. Cover your fish leavings with soil where you need fertilizer, and you gain the benefit without the extra work, or am i missing something?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau, Lazlo the only real problem with simply putting fish leftovers in the ground is skunks, which will come and dig them up for a snack.
My ancestors used whole fish, this was buried about one and a half feet under the seeds.
At that depth, there is usually no animal that will dig that far down, so the new plants are safe.

The reason people make fish emulsion is convenience and for house plants it is a must if you want to use fish fertilizer on them.
When I make compost that is where just about every thing that will decompose ends up. My heaps get very hot from the extra nitrogen that ends up in them so all pathogens are rendered harmless (dead)
My last heap reached 197 f. for four weeks (when a heap is heating, I do not turn it till it starts to cool).
 
Joe Sangemino
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Dan Grubbs wrote:At page 8 here of this publication, you can see a bit of measurement of different natural inputs on pasture compared to no input to the pasture: http://issuu.com/stewardculture/docs/stewardculture_no1

Now, the university tests weren't using fish emulsion, but they were using cod liver oil. I couldn't speak to the difference in Brix values and soil porosity between CLO and fish emulsion, but do note that raw milk seems to be a better soil input that CLO. I guess "better" as measured by Brix tests and soil penetrometers.

I don't know about you, but finding and applying raw milk seems to be a much less "icky" process than finding, processing and applying fish emulsion. I'm not claiming the results published in this publication (mine, for disclosure) is apples to apples regarding fish emulsion, but I think I'd start with raw milk before I'd start with fish emulsion. I know that doesn't answer the OP's questions, but I thought I'd add to the mix here in the interest of sharing tested information.

Cheers

Dan, I read the same article 2 years ago and started spraying our gardens with a mixture of raw goat milk ( or whey left over from cheese making) mixed with blackstrap molases and water (or compost tea if you have it) I use about a gallon of milk/whey in my 4 gallon backpack sprayer with half a cup of molasses and then top of with either water or compost tea and a shot of dawn dishwashing soap to help it coat better. I've found this to be an effective spray for controlling insects and building fertility. I spray the plants/leaves to kill bugs and feed the plants. For the last two years we've been hit with both Japanese and Colorado beetles, but our crops survived thanks to the spray ( in my opinion). Our garden is super healthy and I am glad to not be using any kind of poisons or chemical fertilizer on it.

Regards,
Joe at http://stonycreekpermaculture.com/
 
Dan Grubbs
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That's good to hear, Joe. It's always good to hear about practical application of others' theories. Though I know of several farmers who are using raw milk on a broadacre application, I think most in this forum would rather hear of the kinds of application and results that you are finding. I might suggest you invest in a small refractometer and see if your Brix values of your plants are high. I bought mine for $35.
 
Joe Sangemino
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Great idea, I've been meaning to get a spectrometer. If possible I'd like to get one that could be used for measuring Brix in the garden plants and for testing alcohol in beer making. I am pretty sure that that the milk is helping, perhaps testing before, and a day or two after spraying would tell me something. Fertility is not a big problem in our garden, to be honest, as we raise rabbits, so have an abundant source of fertilizer. The big payoff in spraying with the milk/molasses/water mixture is it seems to control the insect problem, as bugs can't process the sugar in the mixture.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I thought the device used to measure brix was a refractometer.

A spectrometer is an apparatus to measure a spectrum. Generally, a spectrum is a graph that shows intensity as a function of wavelength, of frequency, of energy, of momentum, or of mass.

A laboratory or field device for the measurement of an index of refraction (refractometry).
The index of refraction is calculated from Snell's law and can be calculated from the composition of the material using the Gladstone–Dale relation.

Degrees Brix (symbol °Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution.
One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by mass.
If the solution contains dissolved solids other than pure sucrose, then the °Bx only approximates the dissolved solid content.
The °Bx is traditionally used in the wine, sugar, carbonated beverage, fruit juice, and honey industries.
Brix is not a true indicator of nutritional value of a food source, only of the sugars present in liquid form, it forgoes the minerals and vitamins, proteins. The best method of determining full nutritional value would be through Liquid Gas Chromatography.

Of course I could be wrong. I have been before and assuredly will be again.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Yep, Joe, I meant to write refractometer. I'm a bit brain dead these last two days. My day job has me pretty thin.

You are correct that the small refractometer is a measurement of particulates suspended in the aqueous solution. It is one tool, among many. And, a very affordable tool to help growers of many different plants. In my opinion, it is one that helps people make determination of plant health. Whether it's a "true" indicator is debatable. Refractometers are being used in many farming and ranching situations where growers are wanting to know when there is high sugar content in their pastures for grazing or harvesting purposes. I believe this because high sugar content is an indicator of other desired processes in the plant.

Writing for PRI, Bonnie Freibergs explained, "A high rating is good news for your crops — they should be healthy, disease and pest resistant, high in nutritional value and you’re likely to have a good harvest. A low rating means that your crop will not grow to its potential due to some external limiting factor, such as: a dilution of its nutrients due to high nitrate content, a mineral imbalance in the soil allowing weeds to flourish and take from your harvest, a low calcium content in the soil or a low/steady boron reading indicating an issue with the translocation of sugars within the plant.

Additionally, this is an excellent read on using Brix as a measurement of quality of fruit and veg and the background behind it: http://www.nutritionsecurity.org/PDF/Brix.pdf

Here's John from Growing Your Greens talking about the value of using a refractometer to determine Brix and a bit of information toward the end about ways to improve Brix value: https://youtu.be/k6YDSGSyia4

I certainly agree a refractometer is not the be-all-to-end-all tools. It's one of many, including our own eyes, to help manage our growies better. But, it's quantifiable and there are specific remediations that are established for various growies that can be decided based on Brix values. Can we all afford Liquid Gas Chromatography? Likely not. Can we afford a $35 refractomer as one of the feedback channels for our growies? I think many of us can. Is it totally necessary? Nope, not at all.

Good dialog!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Excellent points Dan. Actually I would think that those who can spend the 35-60 dollars for a refractometer would probably see it as money well spent in the long run.

The whole story is that using a refractometer will give you good clues to what other tests might be needed. As you point out, a low brix in crop plants does indicate something might be wrong.
when I see a low brix in plants I know should be higher in sugars, it is time for a soil test to find out what minerals are missing, check the soil for mycorhizzal fungi presence and a few other items that you might want to know like humus content and PKN levels.

There are semi affordable pieces of equipment along the GC line and if you got a little group together, it is possible to locate a used unit occasionally.
Purchase by a group helps with costs per person then all you need is the how to use it knowledge, which can be had pretty easily if there is a college near by.

I have found that even with out one of your own, there are labs that will run a test for you for not a huge amount of money.
to get a full analysis of soil content would be pretty expensive, the up side is you would know, exactly what minerals were in your soil and how much of each one.
The costs is why most never go to the extreme, besides it not really being necessary unless you are working on a PHD paper.
And since I brought that up, it is always a good idea (if there is a college near by) to ask the chemistry and or biology professors if they had need of a "living farm test bed" for their students to do lab work from.
That could get you some nice perks and full testing of your soils, for free.
 
Joe Sangemino
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Dan, I like all you said there, and thanks for the links. Please note, the previous message correcting you re: the spectrometer was not mine. I knew you were talking about a refractometer and I even used the term 'spectrometer' when I replied. Gues we're both fried, right? I didn't check out the links yet, but I do recall, now that you jogged my memory, that folks growing grapes for wine use a refractometer to measure brix to know when it's time to harvest. It sure sounds like a handy tool. This video on Youtube describes how it is used by brewers: https://youtu.be/Qd9uJ9JitJw

Take care,
Joe
 
Mike Long
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau, Lazlo the only real problem with simply putting fish leftovers in the ground is skunks, which will come and dig them up for a snack.
My ancestors used whole fish, this was buried about one and a half feet under the seeds.
At that depth, there is usually no animal that will dig that far down, so the new plants are safe.

The reason people make fish emulsion is convenience and for house plants it is a must if you want to use fish fertilizer on them.
When I make compost that is where just about every thing that will decompose ends up. My heaps get very hot from the extra nitrogen that ends up in them so all pathogens are rendered harmless (dead)
My last heap reached 197 f. for four weeks (when a heap is heating, I do not turn it till it starts to cool).


Hi Bryant, You might find this link interesting from Cornell University. http://compost.css.cornell.edu/physics.html 65C = 149F

Quote:
" Regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency specify that to achieve a significant reduction of pathogens during composting, the compost should be maintained at minimum operating conditions of 40°C for five days, with temperatures exceeding 55°C for at least four hours of this period. Most species of microorganisms cannot survive at temperatures above 60-65°C, so compost managers turn or aerate their systems to bring the temperature down if they begin to get this hot."

55 gallon drums of fish certainly do attract bears. Been there done that. Not worth it or the awful smell. Alfalfa/kelp tea is much easier to deal/work with.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 1987
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Normally I like to get a compost heap to around 140 f. The one that overheated was neglected for two months after it was piled up.
It was a dead heap. Interestingly, there was some charred material in the core.
I still don't know why it didn't combust and burn, the internal temp had to certainly be hot enough for that to happen.

The worst incident I've ever seen was from two bags of freshly cut grass clippings set next to a Porsche in a garage.
The bags sat there for two days before they heated so much that they caused the car's gas tank to explode, blowing the garage door out into the street.
The Porsche was destroyed as was around half of the home before the fire department arrived.

When I was a nurseryman one of my jobs was making compost from the yard maintenance crews brought in materials.
I liked to use recording thermometers in heaps, that way I could look at the developing heaps and know what was going on inside.
 
Davis Bonk
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I love making fish emulsion. It takes effort to apply but is usually worth it.

I use it as an all around fertilizer and do a lot of foliar feeding. I re-used some dripline that was under tomatoes that got a bad fungus on my jalapeños and when heavy wet weather came I would foliar feed and all the diseased leaves would dry off and healthy new flowers and leaves would come on. The plants grew steadily until frost.

I feel it helps with deer grazing etc. But you gotta be on it after a rain.

My method was to use entrails of fish, a huge dose of sugar (preferably molasses) and lots and lots of dried grass or dried leaves. If the weather is cool and frosty in the spring I will throw a fish tank heater in there to keep it around 70 deg ferenheit. I always keep a fish tank bubbler going. ALWAYS. If I can't (the plot is far from an outlet)then I stir at least once a day.

The bubbler keeps things very fresh. Tons of oxygen and circulation. It smells surprisingly OK. Like Bragg liquid aminos mixed with fish sauce but no salt. I put my face up to it all the time. I have problems with my chickens consuming it. I almost always dillute it when I apply it to plants. I once made an emulsion out of garr (super super greasy) and it killed cabbage worms but didn't harm my cauliflower. The cabbage loopers made it fine and I had to spray spinosad anyway. It seems to boost a plants immune system. The last thing to get an application is usually the most pestered.
 
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