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Unlimited amount of fish scraps, how best to use  RSS feed

 
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I reached out to a local fish processor, and today dropped off my first garbage can.  They throw away their scraps, and are more than happy to give them to me.  My plan, such as it is, is to layer with woodchips and let compost.  My understanding is roughly a 3-1 ratio of woodchips to fish will be about right, I figure I will modulate it based on the smell.  I am buying a small woodchipper to process the fish bones and heads and assorted parts through first.

Can anyone make any other suggestions as to what I should be doing to make this amazing compost? 
 
pollinator
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Wow. I'm thinking about what i would do if that quantity landed on my doorsteps.

A small portion would go to chickens. Pressure cook some to see if the bones get soft enough to have a dog or catfood. The bulk i would dig a long trench. As i acquired it i would dump it in and bury it a small section at a time.

 
pollinator
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I'm a big fan of Black Soldier Fly larvae to turn nasty dead things into handy fish or chicken food.

 
Michael Jameson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm a big fan of Black Soldier Fly larvae to turn nasty dead things into handy fish or chicken food.



I have chickens, this could be good.  Ill need to investigate what sort of container allows for easy harvesting.  I assume chickens go nuts for the larvae?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Michael Jameson wrote: I assume chickens go nuts for the larvae?



Insane! 

There are various designs for self-harvesting Soldier Fly bins.  The mature larvae naturally migrate up a slight slope, so making ramps for them to move up, and then fall into buckets, allows them to be easily gathered as they mature.

https://www.blacksoldierflyfarming.com/
 
pollinator
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There are several commercially sold Black Soldier Fly bins available for purchase.  There are all sorts of Youtube videos about who to make a home-made BSF bin.  Either will work.  The key is getting the ramp at the correct angle so that little larva can crawl out and make their way to "freedom" (a hole in the ramp where a bucket awaits their capture.

https://www.ebay.com/i/281993868854?chn=ps

https://www.etsy.com/listing/552214016/black-soldier-fly-compost-bin?gpla=1&gao=1&&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=shopping_us_a-craft_supplies_and_tools-tools_and_equipment-tools-gardening&utm_custom1=14ba7a6c-695f-4cad-8fc7-ae53491d7e73&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzO3Areim3AIVUYF-Ch2D_AqSEAQYASABEgKm1PD_BwE

https://www.ebay.com/i/281993868854?chn=ps

BSF make it easy to convert that waste into chicken feed.  The BSF larva are 30% protein and 30% fat, so they are ideal for fish food or chicken food.  However, you could also just boil the big chunks like the fish heads and feed them directly to the birds.  But that involves a bunch of steps (separating out the viable stuff to boil, cooking it (which would tend to smell the place up), feeding it to the birds, and then having to clean up those bones and such that are left over.  BSF bins are kind of a quick and (relatively) clean way of disposal of guts and such.

What is amazing about BSF is that they consume just about everything.  You'll still have a bit of bone left in the bottom of the bin, but they'll eat the skin, the innards, the eyeballs . . . anything that is remotely fleshy will be food for them.  And then you can take those calcium rich bones and compost left in the bottom of the BSF bin and use them in your garden.

If the guts are really slimy and stinky, you'll need to add some browns to the bottom of your BSF bin --- like of like you need to do with an anerobic compost pile.  A think layer of straw at the bottom of the bin will capture a lot of a goo that tends to ooze out of fish guts.  BSF feed needs to be kept moist or they don't eat it.  In this case, fish guts are plenty moist, but could be a problem if they get too stinky.  If you are talking about processing BSF feed at such a significant rate, you'll want to do this in conjunction with a compost pile or some sort of composting operation.  When your BSF bin gets really stinky and disgusting, it's nice to be able to wash it out and dump the contents onto a compost pile. 

Best of luck -- it sounds like you've found a gold-mine!
 
Michael Jameson
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I am all about reducing labor and making things as absolutely streamlined as possibly.  My chickens live in a mobile unit.  I'm thinking I could build a BSF system attached to the side of it.  It can drop the larvae right into a feed bowl for them, perhaps. 

Lots of food for thought and good ideas - totally different direction than I was thinking, but feeding the chickens by replacing the industrial grains with a local super high quality waste stream is fantastic.
 
pollinator
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Every time you feed something to an animal, that animal uses some of the nutrient value to maintain itself.  This goes for BSF too.  Their best use is for things that the chickens won't eat themselves.  So the ideal in my mind would be to feed the fresh fish scrap to any critters that might eat it....poultry, pets, other fish, etc. Any that is too spoiled to do this with (and chickens, especially, will eat some pretty vile stuff!) would then go to the BSF for conversion....along with some, at least of the manure from the poultry, pets, and people!  The BSF do serve to spread out the feed yield since they can store dormant for quite a while, but you might be able to sun-dry the fresh scrap and store that with the same idea in mind.  Recycle at the highest level is the operative principle here.  Composting or soil application is the final, last use of an organic resource, after any other yields have been taken. 
 
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Be careful of making it a direct staple for anything you intend to eat -even for milk or eggs.  That much fish will definitely impact the taste of the end product.  Edit: actually if I could rely on a supply I'd create a few catfish and prawn ponds and use that as their food.  No problem worrying about a "fishy" taste there.
 
Michael Jameson
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Michael Dierne wrote:Be careful of making it a direct staple for anything you intend to eat -even for milk or eggs.  That much fish will definitely impact the taste of the end product.  Edit: actually if I could rely on a supply I'd create a few catfish and prawn ponds and use that as their food.  No problem worrying about a "fishy" taste there.



Prawn pond is kind of interesting....
 
Tyler Ludens
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Alder Burns wrote: So the ideal in my mind would be to feed the fresh fish scrap to any critters that might eat it....poultry



No fishy flavor imparted to eggs?

 
Alder Burns
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Never thought about the issue of flavor!  Being a lover of seafood myself I would probably love it.  Fish meal is in fact one of the protein supplements that I use when I can't get free sources.  But yes, anything fed in quantity might affect the flavor.  I wonder if this applies if the stuff is fed to BSF first and then these are given to the hens?
 
Michael Jameson
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Alder Burns wrote:Never thought about the issue of flavor!  Being a lover of seafood myself I would probably love it.  Fish meal is in fact one of the protein supplements that I use when I can't get free sources.  But yes, anything fed in quantity might affect the flavor.  I wonder if this applies if the stuff is fed to BSF first and then these are given to the hens?



Yeah, that was my main thinking for not feeding to the chickens too much directly.  Its a much easier option otherwise - BSF as an intermediate step adds plenty of complications.  Im assuming that with the extra intermediate processing step, the fishyness would get "scrubbed" out.  Although I do wonder somewhat about mercury, I wanted to look up whether mercury is passed on to eggs or not. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Michael Jameson wrote: I wanted to look up whether mercury is passed on to eggs or not. 




Mercury is passed through the food chain.

https://academic.oup.com/ps/article-abstract/53/6/2175/1578322?redirectedFrom=fulltext
 
Marco Banks
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Alder Burns wrote:I wonder if this applies if the stuff is fed to BSF first and then these are given to the hens?



It doesn't.

BSF's consume anything --- and I mean ANYTHING -- but that doesn't translate to the taste of the eggs.  I feed my BSF colony dead squirrels and possums, roadkill, dog crap, and fast food garbage but none of that translates to the taste of the eggs.  By the time those nutrients pass through two different digestive systems, all that remains are the wonderful fresh eggs and happy chickens.

My hunch is that if the fish scraps are from ocean-living fish, you'd get a whole different nutrient mix than you would if you were feeding the BSF colony freshwater fish scraps (like catfish).  Seafood has a different nutritional profile than stuff grown on land.  In the long run, that nutrition would make it's way through the "system", from BSF to chicken to egg to human.  Further, those nutrients from the sea would end up in the chicken manure, which ultimately would feed into the soil biology of your garden and orchard.  It sounds like a wonderful way to add to the dynamic mix of nutrients in your soil and food system.

The difficulty I find is maintaining a BSF colony when you don't have a steady source of feed for the little critters.  I always thought that a perfect place for a BSF bin would be behind a school cafeteria.  Kids would like that creepy crawly thing, and there is so much waste that gets thrown out.  For my colony, I tend to forget about it from time to time, and then I look in there and they are starving.  I hate to give them something that the chickens can process straight-up (which would be most human food leftovers), so the BSF tend to be at the bottom of the food-chain.  That's why I only keep a small BSF biopod.

https://www.ebay.com/p/Biopod-Plus-Advanced-Residential-Grub-Composting-System/1440506205?iid=153077977746&chn=ps

But if you've got an unlimited and regular supply of fish waste, that wouldn't be your problem. 
 
pollinator
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Michael,

I was unintentionally raising larvae, but the spousal unit didn't like the smell, since it is super hot right now.

I tried feeding them directly to the chux, and they picked at them a little, and then we had turkey vultures in the poultry netting. They can spot food very very well. I did not attempt to cook them.

What I am doing now is composting them in wood chips a la Joel Salatin with his carcasses. So far no issues other than one possum that got lucky and found it, but I have them in about a yard of chips and the smell is nonexistent. For the amount you are talking about I would just upgrade the amount of chips if you can. It really rapidly decomposes during the summer, and gives me compost for fall planting. I am trialling stropharia in the same compost because I think that will just explode. I am saving that pile to inoculate a wider area this fall.

I would try to get pictures but we are getting some epic rain right now. If I could get large quantities like that I would make yards and yards of compost.
 
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I was looking after an organic farm one winter and experimented with feeding the chickens seaweed in quantity.  Everyone that I gave the eggs to noticed and commented!  They tasted STRONGLY in a fish/ seaweed way.  The eggs, however, had really tough shells, and the yolks were bright orange!  Nobody had any doubt that the eggs were super nutritious (which was my intention); but most did not approve, at all, of the taste.  It was only a Norwegian guy who liked to eat his eggs with pickled herring that loved the flavor.  Certain fish eating ducks taste very strongly of fish.  I would say that this could be a strong determining factor on what to feed your bulk fish to. 

That said, I think that Alder Burns' statement about the principle of recycling at the highest level bears some thought in all aspects of what we are doing. 

Further to saying that, however, with an unlimited supply, there is no reason why not to experiment with composting at least some of it straight away, or simply burying it underneath a transplanted seedling, like a potato, a squash, or a mounded garden of maize for instance.  When I lived on Haida Gwaii, I buried a large beached starfish when I planted out each of my potatoes in the sandy rain pelted soil.  This was not only a nutrient rich and moisture saturated base for the plant to root into as it rotted and the roots reached down, but it created a sponge that was able to catch the nutrients from my seaweed mulch that would otherwise be potentially leached by the heavy rains. 
 
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I used to fish in Northern Ontario. There were 4 different camps on a fly-In lake. It's my opinion that the bears had a route between the camps that they visited regularly. I've seen them taking shortcuts swimming across the bays instead of taking the long way around. If you have bears where you live you might consider giving this up. Or if you suddenly hear bear stories in the neighborhood.

 
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Michael Jameson wrote:
I have chickens, this could be good.  Ill need to investigate what sort of container allows for easy harvesting.  I assume chickens go nuts for the larvae?



You can buy specially designed composting systems for black soldier fly. They are insulated, include surfaces that let the mature larvae crawl out to self harvest etc... You can probably build a perfectly servicable diy one, but the BioPods have had a lot of good design work go into them.

Also, you need to check out whether your climate supports BSF. Here in the UK our climate is a bit too cold, though you do see them periodically in the heat of summer.

http://vermitek.com/biopod.html
 
Tj Jefferson
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John,

If you have bears where you live you might consider giving this up.



This is true not only of bears but also other carrion eaters. I have never seen raccoons here except when I had a bucket of fish trimmings. The smell is very localizable and they are quite good at it. Coyotes and wolves will also respond to the scent. After the experience with the turkey vultures (which will kill lambs and maybe calves) I was done with the direct feeding. I may try it again in the future, because it would only be a part of their diet and I like the taste of fish or I wouldn't have all these fish trimmings around!

Roberto, I like the way you think about high-percentage protein conversion. This is a good approach. I am concerned in my system the chicken and sheep protein may be converted into predator protein, which would be undesirable. If I could eliminate that, your system would be preferred. If I get a pond my desire is to have catfish or some other fish that can strip carcasses and convert that (very efficiently) to meat. I did that in Georgia with a friend who was raising catfish, and they got fed roadkill and stripped carcasses. The bones eventually degrade as well, and enrich the sediment massively with phosphate, which is very very low in native soils in most of the south so a desirable amendment. We had a slight issue when the catfish protein was getting converted to alligator protein, which also made it less desirable to go into the ponds and muck out sediment!

I think if you have a place to directly use the fish parts, use them. The trees I planted with fish heads did very poorly. Not sure why, they were bareroot and might not have had the root system to deal with the nitrogen, or it may have have created an anoxic root zone. My wife has forbidden me from using her blender to make my own fish emulsion, because she doesn't want that flavor in her margaritas. Super narrow minded! The other possibility is to get a junk blender at a garage sale (typically super cheap) and use it to make emulsion for direct application on plants as top dressing or as an additive to a wood chip based compost tea. I suspect root zone placement of nitrogen sources is more legend than reality, the best place might be somewhere that feeder roots can reach, which is really why I like the top dressing approach.

 
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I'm going to suggest a different application for the sake of your neighbors (I can smell this operation from here!)

My father does a lot of fishing, and he has a 55 gallon plastic barrel he got for free, which has a screw top lid and a rubber seal.
Whenever he cleans fish, he throws the residue into the barrel. I think he also has some water in there but maybe not...

Anyway, when the barrel is 3/4 full, he rolls it away, and starts a new one. Over time, the fish remains break down and periodically performs a smell test to see when the decomposition is complete. He then uses this fish emulsion as a fertilizer. It's crazy good stuff too.
 
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Michael Jameson wrote:I reached out to a local fish processor, and today dropped off my first garbage can.  They throw away their scraps, and are more than happy to give them to me.  My plan, such as it is, is to layer with woodchips and let compost.  My understanding is roughly a 3-1 ratio of woodchips to fish will be about right, I figure I will modulate it based on the smell.  I am buying a small woodchipper to process the fish bones and heads and assorted parts through first.

Can anyone make any other suggestions as to what I should be doing to make this amazing compost? 




In addition to what has already been suggested, you could separate the meat and bones:

- meat placed into a bucket, covered with water and allowed to stand for a week or more to make a liquid fertiliser. (very smelly)
- bones dried and powdered to make a micro-nutrient powder like blood and bone
 
Michael Jameson
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A large part of my own requirement is for this to not be time intensive.  I work more than full time and have 2 small children, and 2 acres and a lot going on. 

For rodents and other scavengers that would like to steal my fish, I have thought about this.  My first pile I built last night was in a ring of fencing, 4 ft high 4 ft diameter.  I layered the 20 gallons of salmon heads and spines and scraps in with wood chips.  Once it was all layered up the yellow jackers went home.  Will put my nose to it again tonight, and keep a close eye for signs of burglars. The entire process from getting home to complete was less than 15 minutes.

My plan, although I dont have it yet, is to use a small electric wood chipper to quickly preprocess a garbage can full of fish into chum.  Fisherman use those, and its ingenious for composting.  Like a giant high capacity blender that blows through into a bucket.  I think this will aid in not having largish pieces rotting and creating odors, and aid in things breaking down as it wil make better contact with the carbon.

I will most certainly experiment with making a bunch of fish hydrolysate.  I think I can make more than I can use tho.

 
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we have alot of junk fish species in our waters here. i catch 100 of them . put in a sealable barrel w some molasses and let them ferment for 3 months. leave the lid a little lose for gas to escape. even the bones disappear. makes the best fish emulsion!
 
Michael Jameson
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steve bossie wrote:we have alot of junk fish species in our waters here. i catch 100 of them . put in a sealable barrel w some molasses and let them ferment for 3 months. leave the lid a little lose for gas to escape. even the bones disappear. makes the best fish emulsion!



do you chop them up / chum them, or just throw them in whole?  How big are they?  just trying to get a sense of how much processing is involved.
 
steve bossie
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Michael Jameson wrote:

steve bossie wrote:we have alot of junk fish species in our waters here. i catch 100 of them . put in a sealable barrel w some molasses and let them ferment for 3 months. leave the lid a little lose for gas to escape. even the bones disappear. makes the best fish emulsion!



do you chop them up / chum them, or just throw them in whole?  How big are they?  just trying to get a sense of how much processing is involved.

they are mostly 4 to 15''. i put them in wholewith some water. sometimes i throw some comfrey leaves in there. stinks for awhile but the end product, the smell is tolerable. i dilute 2oz. to. a gallon water.
 
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Are the fish wild caught?

I was also thinking to collect fish carcass from a local fish shop. There were salmon and other fish but It's been pointed out to me that farmed salmon has a lot of nasties that you wouldn't want in your soil. I knew this but ignored somehow.

Recently, I went there and picked up wild caught flathead carcass about 8-9 Kg and they are anaerobically fermenting as we speak with strained kefir and rice. In about 4 months all the bones and meat will dissolve creating the most valuable liquid fertilizer ever. I didn't use any sugar.



 
steve bossie
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Gurkan Yeniceri wrote:Are the fish wild caught?

I was also thinking to collect fish carcass from a local fish shop. There were salmon and other fish but It's been pointed out to me that farmed salmon has a lot of nasties that you wouldn't want in your soil. I knew this but ignored somehow.

Recently, I went there and picked up wild caught flathead carcass about 8-9 Kg and they are anaerobically fermenting as we speak with strained kefir and rice. In about 4 months all the bones and meat will dissolve creating the most valuable liquid fertilizer ever. I didn't use any sugar.



yes they were but any fish scraps would work.
 
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Active thread... exciting notion to have soap much fish waste... me personally I'd just compost it with the chickens working the compost over for the fresh stuff and maggots etc and either sell the compost or value add and sell plant starts... Not neglecting to make use of some of the fertility myself of course but that's how that would fit into my system
 
wayne fajkus
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I really like the fermenting idea. The fact that the bones break down...... good stuff
 
wayne fajkus
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Instead of feeding the crabs by tossing the fish carcasses back into the ocean, i brought them back home to bucket seal them. I'm excited.  Thanks for the info.

If theres any specifics, please elaborate. My plan is

Put carcasses in bucket. Add sugar and water. Place lid on it with heavy weight to keep animals out, but let some air escape.  Keep far from my wifes nose. Set a 3 month timer.
 
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I have posted in the past about my childhood experiences as impressed labor when my mother would compost salmon offal during the king salmon runs along the Yukon River in July:


We also toted the heads and guts from king salmon down to the garden in five gallon buckets and twenty gallon wash tubs, with instructions to dig holes in the garden rows and bury all the offal. That was disgusting; we never managed to bury them deep enough and they would float back to the surface in a state of terrible decay. Then we'd be yelled at and told to carry buckets of sawdust to go and cover the mess. Come spring the whole garden would be rototilled and shaped back into new rows, with fish vertebrae flying in all directions behind the rototiller. But by then the smell would be gone and the new crop of potatoes always thrived.



We also fed a lot to the chickens, a few times; but we didn't like how it flavored the eggs.
 
Devon Olsen
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Pigs???...
 
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Great ideas here.   Bone broth is a staple in my diet (amazing superfood)  so I make broth with the fresh(frozen)  fish heads and bones I bring home from my local ocean fishmonger.   By the time the broth is slow cooked for a day,  I wonder if the bones have any nutrients left in them.   I'll continue to put them in the compost pile but I'd like to supplement my free range chicken feed for minerals, to get away from commercial feed - just don't want to bother with drying and grinding if there's no benefit.   This question also applies to chicken and beef bones after making broth.   Does anybody here know?   
 
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Michael Jameson wrote:   My understanding is roughly a 3-1 ratio of woodchips to fish will be about right, I figure I will modulate it based on the smell.   



Compost needs to have a specific ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen, called the C-N ratio. It should be between 20-1 and 30-1. The bacteria break down the carbon for energy, and they use the nitrogen for their own growth. Too little nitrogen, and bacteria cannot synthesize the proteins they need to grow and composting happens very slowly. Too much nitrogen, and you've got a smelly mess, the wrong types of bacteria, etc. The fish is mostly nitrogen and the wood chips are mostly carbon, so they should be in about a 20-1 to 30-1 ratio. a 3-1 ratio of wood chips to fish is far too much fish in your compost and I expect it's going to create a terrible smell.
 
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