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The Road to Organics, with John McKay

September is Organic Awareness Month – ECTOL’s Director, John McKay, shares the story behind ECTOL’s expansion into organics, creating a successful range of certified organic foliar and applied crop nutrients.

I am a graduate of Massey University (NZ) in Agricultural Science and Agri-business and spent all my early career on the 'other side of the farm gate.' These were the years when globalisation was the desired future for humanity. I was part of this process and undeniably, the scale in the early years attracted investment in animal and plant sciences.

However, it is interesting to me that organic farming is returning to the past and re-evaluating traditional practices but with advanced scientific knowledge. Farming focussed on big machinery and chemistry can lead to declining revenues, land degradation and poor food quality.

Farm scientists have shown how this complex association of plants, animals, soils and the environment have been intimately in sync for thousands of years, building not busting, and if managed respectfully, could support humanity indefinitely.

Organic farmers understand these associations and networks and are by necessity eliminating or reducing chemicals, reducing tillage and rotating crops, as well as increasing the use of natural amendments, such as seaweeds, fish and guano to support natural plant efficiencies and boost production.

This is the story of how ECTOL was created by farmers, for farmers, to support those returning to more natural farming practices.

In 2001, I made the move back behind the farm gate, driven by my long-standing interest in soil biology. About this time, there was a growing interest in compost and other soil amendments, and while home gardeners were constantly composting, and I was from a family of generations of composters, large scale composting was unheard of.

In 2003 I formed a company to supply sustainable plant and crop nutrients to farmers. We developed a range of crop and soil fertilisers and amendments that would work in harmony with nature. These products were designed to support existing soil biology, natural plant growth and protection mechanisms, based on the most up-to-date scientific knowledge – especially with respect to plant-soil interactions and ultimately, to human nutrition.

The concept has proved successful as we partner with farmers throughout the eastern States of Australia and New Zealand, with some 85% customer retention, and importantly, yields being maintained, soils improved and input costs reducing.

Our first entry into Organic Products was in 2013. However, there was very little interest from farmers or consumers. Our work was really limited to the inner circle of informed people and small-scale producers. However, as expected, the market has grown and whilst supermarkets were reluctant to believe it, consumers are willing to pay a premium for healthy, sustainable, organic food that is grown locally.

In 2020 we brought to market ECTOL Organics, a new range of foliar and applied crop nutrients, which has had immediate support from organic dairy farmers. In addition to organic dairy, we have introduced the range to croppers, pastoralists and fruit and vegetable growers.

The ECTOL Organics range can supply crops and pasture with all the major and micronutrients required, are readily plant available and at reasonable prices.

I think people are waking up to the need for natural, healthy, unprocessed, chemical free, local foods and the certification and traceability of organic inputs and processes behind these foods can only give confidence to the consumer.

As many farmers are still making their transition to sustainable farming practices, ECTOL can help to bridge the gap, by providing more natural plant and crop nutrition, as well as certified organic inputs.

Intersted in speaking with John more? Contact us here

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