September 20, 2020

Salmon fertilizer eyed as next gardening wave

PORTLAND — First came Penobscot Blend, a gourmet compost made of blueberries, salmon and mussels. Now, a Portland company has a stinky new gardening feast: fermented salmon.

“It’s the latest installment in the menu,” said Carlos Quijano, the former investment banker who now serves as president of Coast of Maine Inc.

The waste from farmed salmon in Passamaquoddy Bay is fermented in vats and turned into fertilizer across the border in New Brunswick.

“It’s kind of stinky, but it doesn’t smell as badly as a lot of chemical products and it works wonders with house plants,” Quijano said.

The Atlantic salmon recipe is four times more concentrated than other fish fertilizers, he said, making it ideal for outdoor annuals, perennials, vegetables, roses shrubs and trees.

While it helps the plants grow, it also acts as a fungicide, pesticide and herbicide. And the stench keeps animals away.

“But because of the odor, you have to be a committed organic gardener to use it,” Quijano said.

The product, simply called Fermented Salmon Fertilizer, is the latest plant food from Coast of Maine, which created Penobscot Blend and Cobscook Blend — a light potting soil with the same ingredients as the compost, but with a splash of pink granite and kelp.

Quijano came up with the idea for the high-end compost and fertilizer company while working as a consultant trying to solve a Tenants Harbor mussel farm’s costly waste problem. The mussel growers couldn’t dump their leftover shells at sea and they were trying to compost them, which was becoming an expensive process.

Quijano realized that it was not only the mussel company, but also Maine’s salmon and blueberry industries that were having trouble with their waste.

That was about 18 months ago. Now, about half of the salmon waste in the Passamaquoddy Bay area goes either into the compost or the fertilizer, and half of the blueberry waste in Washington County goes into the mix. All of the mussel waste from Great Eastern Mussel Farms is earmarked for Coast of Maine, Quijano said.

The production of the compost and fertilizer is helping the economy in eastern Maine, providing a few jobs and helping companies save money. “We’re helping to solve a fairly serious problem for the industry,” Quijano said.

Next on the horticultural menu: A bulb planting mix made of pulverized mussel shells, crab meal and kelp.

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