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The Garden Adventure

This blog started as an adventure in the Garden, a cashew farm in South India. Due to Life's circumstances the Garden Adventure has led us to the Netherlands, where the Adventure continues... India, Spirituality, EM, Positivity, Self development and values are the keywords in this Adventure. The peace and silence resort: "Mothers Peace Resort", which initiated the Adventure will still be on our minds. How did this Adventure start? Click here.

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How to make Bokashi - EM - Experiences, Experiments, Extraordinary

making BokashiBokashi, traditionally used as compost-inoculant and soil amendment in Japan where the word means “fermented organic matter’’. Bokashi is made by inoculating ricebran with micro-organisms (present in fertile mountain and forest soils or in our case EM - Motherculture) and keeping it in an oxygen-free environment to start fermentation.

In the Garden we are using Bokashi as compost-inoculant, soil amendment and animal food supplement.

Last week we have made a Bokashi for the dogs and cows here in the Garden. I took some pictures so we can easily start making a Bokashi!
The first thing to do is collecting the materials. As indicator through the process we have stated the list of materials we have used last week.
(summary of last weeks materials used – Bokashi for animals)
Hardware materials
-   2 fermentation vessels (220 litre plastic barrels)
-   1 mixing vessel (220 litre plastic barrel)
-   15 litre buckets (we are using the so-called “kundans”, the aluminium     vessels you can see in the pictures below)
-   1 plastic sheet  (5mtr*8mtr)
Ingredients (which are stated in volume, easy to measure while we be making Bokashi)
-   1 litre EM-Motherculture
-   3 litre SAEM (Super Activated EM)
-   2 litre molasses (we had the luck to we could use 2 litre molasses, molasses is the best)
-   palm jaggery (2 kg palm jaggery)
-   300 litre wheatbran (about 200kg in weight)
-   60 litre molasses waste
-   30 litre groundnutcake (15 kg groundnut mixed with 15-20  litre water)
-   30 litre fish pieces (10 kg in weight, fishmeal is much better unfortunately we couldn’t get it milled at the time)
-   15 litre ricewash water
-   150 litre water
-   I have used my team of “angels” and my wonderful assistant Janarthanan. If we are producing 8 hours daily, we can produce 16 barrels (sometimes we get 20) daily with 8 ladies. If using molasses, it would easily be 20 barrels daily.

Hardware materials

We will need a fermentation vessel wherein the Bokashi will be matured. First look at the quantity needed. Depending on the quantity needed choose the size of your vessel. In the Garden we are using second-hand 220 litre plastic barrels which have been used in the latex industry. As we need 30 ton Bokashi per application we have 190 of these barrels (220 litre will give around 175 kg Bokashi) at our production site. The Bokashi I use at home I make in a 22.5 litre plastic vessel regularly used as drinking water storage. The most important thing is that the fermentation vessel will be airtight and it will not deform while in static state, because any movement or air let into the vessel will spoil the fermentation process. It is possible to use plastic bags, but keep in mind that animals can make holes in the bags and that the plastic bags have to be kept static.
It is not advised using metal vessels, vessels which have been used for diesel/petrol and vessels which have been used for any industrial chemical. 
If you have obtained a vessel. Clean it thoroughly. Use some EM- activated to clean the barrel. Dilute the EM –activated like you would dilute any soap solution.
example of materials
(above; an example of materials used for a simple but effective Bokashi. This Bokashi is intented for animal use and to ferment my kitchenwastes into a good compost. Not on the picture: I also used a 15 litre plastic bucket as mixing vessel)
Next thing we need is a mixing vessel. This vessel will be used to make the liquid EM mix, which will be mixed with the organic materials. In the Garden we use a 220 litre plastic barrel (same as described above) for this purpose. But any vessel will do fine. As long as it can contain enough mixture in one time, this will work more efficiently. In our case at least 200 litres.
A few 15 litre buckets (plastic or metal). Or any other vessel which can hold 15 or 10 litres of substance. Here we are using aluminium vessel called “kundans”, which you can see being used on the pictures. These will be used to mix groundnut-cake and jaggery or any other substance used in the Bokashi before putting it in the liquid mixture. They are also used to sprinkle the liquid EM mix on the organic materials.
Then we need a big plastic sheet (this will prevent the liquid EM-mix to go to waste when mixing). Depending on the quantity Bokashi produced in one single time you can decide on the size. We are using a 5mtr*8mtr sheet for our normal production of 4 barrels Bokashi in one single time. You can use any sheet here as long as it doesn’t leak and is not used for any chemical processes.


If we have collected all hardware materials we will have to select and collect all ingredients. Depending on the purpose of our Bokashi we select our ingredients.
First collect your EM-inoculant (EM-Motherculture or SAEM aka Super Activated EM). The EM-Motherculture will be available under different brands and names. Just use the Em- Motherculture which is available for you, although if possible try to obtain SCD EM Plus. This Motherculture contains an higher population of the so-called phototrophic bacteria the other Mothercultures. These bacteria are the driving force behind the other bacteria and a higher population of these bacteria will enhance the effects of EM significantly.
In the Garden we are using SCD EM Plus and Super Activated EM, an activated EM which has been fermented together with several enhancing ingredients (i.e. EM ceramics, Papaya, Fishmeal, Bran) to make a “super” population of micro-organisms. If you don’t have SAEM just use EM-Motherculture. I normally substitute the EM-Motherculture with SAEM in a 1:3 ratio (1 litre EM-Motherculture will become 3 litre SAEM).
If we have collected our micro-organisms we have to find a sugar-source for them to feed on. The best thing by far to use is blackstrap molasses, the thick black syrupy by-product obtained after the third boiling of sugar production. Besides sugar, it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals which will benefit the EM. Unfortunately we are not able to obtain molasses legally. Therefore we are using palm jaggery in the Garden, an unrefined sugar obtained from the fruit sap of the “Palmyrah tree”. The sap is boiled and then put in Palmyrah leaves until it becomes jaggery. This jaggery contains some vitamines and minerals, but less then the molasses. If you are using jaggery try to find a dark jaggery. Dark jaggery (like palm jaggery) will contain more vitamines and minerals.
The next ingredient we need is bran, which is full of nutrients for our micro-organisms to feed on. A good Bokashi contains at least 50% bran. Depending on the purpose of your Bokashi you can select a bran. For Bokashi used for animals we are using animal feed grade wheat-bran, while we are using rice bran - lower quality - for our agricultural Bokashi. The ricebran we have obtained from a ricemill, the wheatbran we have obtained from a local cattle shop.
With these three ingredients you could already make a standard Bokashi. But we want to enrich the micro-culture and nutrients in the Bokashi, therefore we will put additional ingredients.
One ingredient we always use is groundnut cake (aka peanut cake), a widely used cattle feed and fertilizer. Oilcake is the solid residue obtained after pressing out the oil form the seeds (in this case groundnut), which is full of minerals and protein. Other oil cakes can also be used in Bokashi. We always use about 5% solid groundnut cake in each batch. The oilcake is purchased as flakes, which have to be soaked in water before mixing it with the other ingredients.
One of our favourite ingredients in Bokashi is fishmeal. Because unprocessed dry fish has a high population of phototrophic and wild beneficial bacteria it will give your Bokashi a real boost. Besides this it also contains a lot of minerals and nutrients. We normally use about 5-10% fishmeal per batch. Other meals like bonemeal and bloodmeal could also be used for a Bokashi batch.
As you can see in the ingredient list we have also used molasses-waste, an waste material obtained at our local sugarmill. This is the solid residue which is left after the production of molasses. This contains a lot of nutrients as well, but less sugars. Therefore the combination of jaggery with molasses waste is a very good alternative for molasses. As it is a Bokashi made for the animals,  we doubted if this was an animal feed grade material. For testing we gave it to our dogs, both were chewing on it and liked the smell. We got our OK from the dogs.
We have also used rice-wash water. This is the water in which rice has been boiled. Again an ingredient full of nutrients for our micro-organisms to feed on.
We always like to put a lot of different materials in our Bokashi. Variety in the materials used will give a larger variety of micro-organisms and a larger variety of minerals, vitamines nutrients in the Bokashi, which will be very beneficial for our plants, our animals and even for us.
A few other products we can use in our agricultural Bokashi are:
-   Pressmud (another by-product when making sugar), which can be obtained from your local sugarmill as well.
-   Ash, we are using bagasse ash, also obtained from our local sugar mill. But rice ash is also fine, although it will have less minerals and nutrients.
-   Bagasse, the leaves obtained from sugarcane
-   Coir pith, this is the fibrous coconut husk. A very good moisture retainer.
-   Manure (cattle/goat/chicken), we are not really big fans of using this in our Bokashi -it can spoil the Bokashi- , but if we use it we would only use a small quantity (5-10%). But we use it in large quantities in the matter we inoculate with Bokashi.
-   Husk (in our case rice husk), but any husk will do
-   Rice straw (paddy straw)
-   Seaweed (preferably dried)
-   Vulcanic/Health/Paramagnetic clay and rock dusts, available at most health stores. Is full of trace-elements and wild microbes.
-   Sea or "health" salt
If we have all materials and labour, we can start preparing the materials.
mixing groundnutcake
mixing the groundnutcake
preparing the materials
preparing the materials: 4 "kundans" molasses-waste and two buckets with groundnutcake
First we need the groundnutcake (which we buy in big lumps here) to become more of a liquid form (i.e. porridge like). Therefore we will divide the 15 kgs groundnutcake over two buckets (15 litre each) and add water until the buckets are filled to the brim. Normally we do this the day before, so we can immediately use it the next day. We have to stir frequently and wait until we will get a mixture without any lumps (average of 30 minutes to 1 hour to get this - depending on the quality of the cake -).
If you had the luck of obtaining blackstrap molasses you can skip the next step. For the ones whom only obtained jaggery (darker = better) we will start preparing the jaggery. The palm jaggery, as most jaggery here, we obtain here comes in big lumps. So we have to crush it until we have a powdery substance. The crushing can be done with any handy tool. We are using big sticks and hammers. If we have crushed the jaggery we can mix it with water (normally we mix per 1 kg jaggery with 3 litre water) until it will become molasses like mixture.
Next we prepare the liquid EM-mix, which will be mixed with the materials. First fill the barrel with 160 litre water. Then mix the 15 litre ricewash water in the mixture . After this we put both the 2 kg jaggery mix and the 2 litre molasses into the mixture and stir. And now comes the time to wake up our little friends! Pour the 1 litre of EM-Motherculture and the 3 litre of SAEM (If you don’t have any SAEM you can substitute these 3 litres with 1 litre of EM-Motherculture) into the mixture and stir well. In the end we will put the groundnutcake mixture and mix well. The liquid EM-mix is ready for use.
pouring the EM Motherculture and molasses in the liquid EM-mix
mixing jaggery. the color will become the same as that of molasses
mixing the jaggery; the color is that of molasses
Next step is mixing all materials. Lay down the plastic sheet. Spread all the wheatbran, molasses-waste and fishmeal on the sheet. Spread the materials well. Then start sprinkling the liquid EM-mixture over the dry materials. If a nice moist layer has fully formed on the dry materials start mixing it. Working from one side to the other. Sliding your hand under the materials and bring it up. Mix well. You will notice that most material is still dry. If the first mixing is over you can start sprinkling again. And repeat the mixing and sprinkling until you got the right moisture content.
spreading the materials
Spreading the materials
sprinkling the liquid EM-mixture
Sprinkling the EM-liquid mixture on the materials
spreading the molasses waste on top of the ricebran
Spreading the molasses-waste
mixing the materials
Mixing the materials by hand
mixing the fish pieces
Spreading the fish pieces
small scale Bokashi mixing
Small scale Bokashi making. In the middle of the ricebran we had put the water and started mixing
You can check the moisture content by by squeezing a handful of Bokashi; if it remains a ball and falls apart only after a slight touch you have find the right moisture content (30-40%). Although I believe that a higher moisture content (50-60%) will not have any bad effects on your Bokashi. I even believe it will increase the quality of the Bokashi. A lower moisture content will not be beneficial for your Bokashi, so when you find your moisture content low add some water.
last mixing
The last mix
moisture content test
Checking the moisture content
If all your ingredients are mixed and you have reached the correct moisture content we start putting the Bokashi in the fermentation vessels. The vessel has to be preferably dry and cleaned. When putting the Bokashi in its’ vessel it is important to squeeze all the air out. We are doing this by “jumping” on the Bokashi to get the air out.
filling the vessels
Filling the vessel
"juming"on the Bokashi to let the air out
"Jumping" on the Bokashi to let the air out
After filling the vessels we cover the barrels with one plastic sheet and then cover this with a plastic gunny bag. We are tying the covers with an old cycle tube. This will provide sufficient air-tightness in most cases. Depending on the materials at hand you can improvise (maybe you have found a container with a proper lid). If the container is not filled to the brim, an “inside lid” can be used (a lid that can be put inside the container on top of the Bokashi and underneath this lid we put a good piece of plastic, so no oxygen can circulate). On top of this “inside lid” we put a heavy object to keep the lid tight. Sometimes we experience that some air has slipped through, but it will only spoil the first layer (10 cm)of Bokashi, the rest will be fine.
fermenting Bokashi barrels
Keeping the barrels in a shady place.
Keep the vessels in a shady place
Our production unit. All vessels kept in the shade by the banana and coconut trees
Keep the Bokashi containing vessel in a shady place with a stable temperature. Do not interrupt the process by mixing shaking or stirring the container, for this can result in a “bad” Bokashi, due to the oxygen that will be mixed in. It takes from 3 weeks up to 6 weeks for a “normal” Bokashi to be finished, depending on the way it’s made and the temperature. With higher temperatures it will go more rapidly then with lower temperatures. However with temperature rising above 50 °C  it is found that a lot of nutrients will be lost during the fermentation process.
When it’s finished there will be a sweet and sour “fermented” smell. Some say it is a kind of cider-like smell. A white mold will appear on top, which is the yeast working. This white mold will not always appear even if the Bokashi is good. If the smell isn’t the sweet and sour ‘fermented’ smell, but a more rotten and sour smell it’s not usable and it has to be disposed of. If there is no smell whatsoever use the ingredients again and inoculate again with EM. A finished Bokashi has to have a pH level around 5.
a white mold will appear on top if ready
The Bokashi is ready if a white mold will appear on top.
A handful of ready-to-use Bokashi
A handful dried ready-to-use Bokashi
Ash tests the Bokashi
If your dog likes the Bokashi it has been a succes! Ash loves Bokashi
After the Bokashi is ready we can keep it for several months if stored in the same container and in the same condition (anaerobic) as it was during fermentation. The Bokashi will even improve with time (more antioxidants and regenerative properties). High quality Bokashi in moist condition can be kept for several months and sometimes up to one or two years , this due to the higher production of antioxidants produced by the micro-organisms. In the Garden we don’t dry the Bokashi, because we feel that the application of wet Bokashi is much more effective then applying dry Bokashi. In the Garden we keep it in the vessel for at least two months before use, some batches we have even used after 5 months.
Another option for storing your Bokashi is to dry it. Any shady smooth surface will do just fine, preferably on a big plastic sheet. After drying we can keep the Bokashi for 2 months at higher temperatures and some say even 2 years at low temperatures (5 °C ).
Good luck and enjoy!
Suggestions, own experiences or any comments are most welcome.

Detailed descriptions of Bokashi application will be separately posted.


Bokashi Girl op 09-10-2009 02:48
Thank for this explainaition, I really want a try! For the moment I buy my bokashi, but after reading your page, I will probably try to make it myself!
Steve Simpson op 15-08-2010 19:52
Hi, I've been fascinated with your website and the prospect of using EM. I've been doing ALOT of reading on EM in the last few days, and would like to ask you this question: Since EM-1 is not supplied for 'human consumption', were you ever concerned about possible contaminants in manufacturing? This is a weird subject, because, in all the web pages that I've looked at, there are only a couple of people who have 'admitted' that they are actually drinking the stuff. Everyone is so afraid. Government regulations? Thanks, Steve
Dennis op 31-08-2010 23:28
Dear Steve,
Thanks for your comment.
To be honest I haven never been concerned about possible contaminants in manufacturing.
Since the day I came in contact with EM I started drinking it, I never had any doubt in any negative effects.
I read Vinny Pinto's e-book about brewing enhanced activated EM, which helped me in understanding EM and EM intake some more.
Before brewing I always take a sip of the EM-1 to taste if it's OK. Sometimes the EM-1 smelled a little of, but after tasting it I was convinced it was OK. Even with brewing my own EM it sometimes smelled really awful and sour and the taste was not very pleasant, so to say, but I drank it anyway and my health and energylevel we're great.
Just to give you an understanding of the way I look at EM: The effective micro-organisms which make EM are all regenerative and because of the cooperation between the several strings of these regenerative micro-organisms they even enhance each others properties. Every other micor-organism that comes into contact with EM will be either taken in for the greater good or they become neutral (pathogens and other . .). Moreover the micro-organisms seem to break down and/or neutralise all harmful compounds/substances in your system. And they convert a lot of elements found in your food (carbohydrates etc.) into useful compounds (minerals, trace-elements, anti-oxidants) that can be assimilated by your body/system. With this in mind I've had good faith in EM from the start, but because it's still a living product I just take care by smelling, tasting and some intuition before I consume.
Enjoy and if you still have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
peter solar power op 17-12-2010 16:58
thanks for the information. I'll try to make bokashi.
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