dsc_0358Ms. Pham Nhu Trang & community 

The Innovation:

Trang and her community in Hanoi, Vietnam, have developed a remarkable method for eliminating runoff and odor from hog farm bedding. Burying canisters of rice in different micro-climates around her farm, she returns 10 days later to collect the top layer of mold that has grown. She then mixes it with warm water, molasses, and Lactobacillus (a culture from milk). She sprays this mixture on the hog bedding (made of locally-purchased absorbent materials such as bamboo). The bedding becomes alive and breaks down the manure and pig urine, therefore eliminating all odor and runoff. Trang’s living beds challenge the approach of waste management from one based on disinfection to one that promotes co-infection. This farmer innovation has spread around several counties.

In collaboration with Vietnamese organizations i-Nature and Center for Creativity and Sustainability, A Growing Culture helped Trang document his innovation. Read more about the documentation project here

The Impact:

Trang and her community have realized countless impacts from these living beds, and we’ve outlined a few here.

First, there is immediate improvement in the hogs’ health. These beds encourage hogs to exhibit their natural rooting behavior because the healthy microorganisms in the bed are beneficial to them. Additionally, since the beds are living they produce heat, which the hogs use for warmth during colder seasons. Both of these improve overall hog health, thereby significantly reducing the need for antibiotics.

There are also secondary social and economic benefits. The ability of these beds to break down hog waste eliminates runoff, effectively protecting her community from the toxic waste associated with industrial hog farms. Moreover the local economy is stimulated through the purchase of the absorbent materials needed for the hog beds. When Trang realized that much of her living bed technique was transferable, meaning easily adapted for other types of farming, she began working with local farmers to develop appropriate, ecological, and affordable technologies for improving their systems. Trang has also found a secondary market selling some of the living bedding as a compost for crop farmers.

Finally, there are numerous environmental benefits. The hog farm itself produces no noxious byproducts. Additionally, by purchasing scrap products from other industries, Trang has created a system that uses our natural resources more efficiently.