Biomax Green has developed a breakthrough technology that converts organic wastes into 100% premium grade organic fertiliser at high temperature within 24 hours.
In this interview with Founder and CEO Mr Sim Eng Tong, we explore how the company came about and what is the philosophy behind the business of recycling organic waste.
In his responses to Business News Malaysia, Sim says he started the business because he always had an interest in recycling and during hi earlier entrepreneurship, wastages were a common sight and that motivated him to think of a way to transform waste into something useful.
"I approached a friend who’s a scientist for a meeting to discuss working on a methodology which would focus on transforming waste materials into something beneficial in the shortest possible time. This was the first step towards establishing Biomax," he says.
Below is the question and answers from Sim.
What fascinated you about the waste management industry, and what made you switch industries at the age of 56?
I previously worked in the food industry and the amount of food wastage I witnessed astounded me. As landfills and incineration were the common methods of disposing food waste then, it got me thinking that we needed a more sustainable solution and that I could become a pioneer driving this change.
Switching industry at such an age was not an obstacle. It is just a matter of having the courage to take the first step. I was solely focused on pursuing my passion for recycling and building a local brand which would deliver solutions not just locally but also internationally.
What were the business challenges you faced upon starting up Biomax Green, and what made you push forward to pursue it?
I did not come from a scientific background. I had to learn as much as I could about the science of waste management in a short frame of time. Recycling was also not a big topic back then. People were not receptive to such ideas and did not consider waste management to be part of their goals/visions.
It also took us many years before we were able to deliver the perfect solution we wanted: an enzyme catalyst able to break down and transform all forms of organic waste into high-grade fertiliser within 24 hours.
We also needed to find a machine capable of generating high heat to carry out the metamorphosis.
We pushed on because we genuinely believed our technology was a game changer and we sensed that there was a growing shift worldwide towards pursuing more environmentally friendly solutions, which we were eager to be part of.
What are the common misconceptions of waste management in Singapore?
Many assume that it doesn’t matter what you put inside a recycling bin as they all will eventually be sorted out. However, if the wrong items are placed inside, such as those containing liquid and food waste, not only are they unsuitable for recycling, they may also contaminate the rest of the recyclables.
Items which are deemed unrecyclable are no different from general waste. They will be incinerated and disposed of in landfills, which creates system inefficiencies and defeats the purpose of recycling.
There is also a common assumption that everyday waste is sent to be incinerated because most of it is not recyclable or it would be too time consuming to separate out those that can be recycled. Many are surprised when we share that there are technologies that can process the waste efficiently in a short period of time and produce useful compost such as fertilisers.
Describe the waste collection process from start to finish. How long does the entire process take?
Biomax holds an award-winning patented solution to convert all types of organic waste into high-quality organic fertiliser in 24 hours – the fastest process of its kind in the global waste-management industry.
The technology is fronted by the Biomax Rapid Thermophilic Digestor – an automated enclosed system using specially formulated BM1 enzymes. This enzyme is a natural cocktail which contains a variety of naturally occurring micro-organisms.
They work at thermophilic phase and break down complex organic compounds inside the organic wastes into simpler organic matter at an unprecedented speed.
The system is compatible with all types of wastes such as Agricultural Wastes (Sugarcane, Palm oil, Grain husks, Fruit pulp), Livestock Wastes (Animal manure, Slaughtering waste, Egg processing waste, Hatchery waste) and Municipal Wastes (Food waste, Horticulture waste, Wastewater sludge).
The waste is loaded into the digester via the input conveyor belt. We then create the optimum production environment through automated systems. The temperature is set to 80 °C .
1kg of BM1 enzyme is then added for every one ton of waste. The conditions created within the system will allow the enzyme to break down the waste, creating it into simpler forms without any pollutant by-products released during the process.
After 24 hours, odourless, pathogen-free, and high-nutrient organic fertilisers are created and discharged through the output conveyor belt. The fertiliser is cooled by air for 2-3 days before packaging and distribution.
Do you partner with local farmers etcetera to supply the organic fertiliser? What other partnerships have you forged since and how has it contributed to Singapore’s green vision?
In addition to local farmers, we have supplied our pathogen and odour-free organic fertiliser to several plant nurseries in Singapore. In recent times, we are also seeing more local gardening communities and home gardeners purchase our fertiliser.
Currently, we are working with a local school in supplying them with a custom made mini digester machine where students and staff would dispose of their food waste into the machine. We received positive feedback, with students able to gain a better understanding and exposure to alternative waste management processes.
There is no better place than schools to learn about environmental awareness and we are glad to have contributed to the learning and educational journey for the next generation.
How did you approach the funding for the business, and have you managed to break even? (numbers would be great! A range would work as well.)
The funding comes from like-minded people who believe in treating unwanted waste into useful products. We have received support from the government as well.
A decade ago, not many people were interested or believed in recycling but mentalities have changed over the years. It still takes time to break even as the market continues to evolve and we strive to overcome challenges.
When setting up Biomax Green, what were the key factors you wanted to ensure and focus on?
Firstly, we had to make sure the fertiliser output was of top quality, able to enrich soil. Otherwise the entire waste management process would have been made redundant.
Secondly, it was to ensure the entire process took no more than 24 hours. The quicker the process, the less time the digester needs to be in operation, saving time and resources.
Thirdly, we wanted to focus on educating as many people as possible on the benefits of this breakthrough technology. Many were sceptical in the beginning and we had to get them to understand and believe in our product.
Did you face any setbacks or challenges upon starting Biomax Green? How did you mitigate them?
The first 18 months were a hard slog because nobody could convince themselves that a small Singaporean company would be capable of producing such a technology.
However, we persevered and wrote letters to farms and waste companies from all over the world, hoping to generate interest in our technology. Eventually, we received an overseas order and the orders started coming in subsequently.
Since initiation, what are the milestones/successes that the company has experienced? (It would be great to support these with statistics, growth figures etc)
Singapore has a Zero Waste Masterplan focusing on strategies to build a sustainable, resource efficient and climate-resilient nation. We intend to play a key role in this through our technology. Our R&D team is making good progress in improving our technology.
We also note that efforts are being made to introduce food waste digesters in the local heartlands, allowing everyone to play their part to reduce wastage. We aim to be an active participant in such initiatives and have already begun customising the size and portability of our machines whilst also making sure it is as user-friendly as possible.
We also foresee corporate demand to increase. From 2024, large commercial and industrial food waste generators in Singapore will have to segregate their food waste and implement waste management practices. This is a great opportunity for us to work with more enterprises on developing appropriate waste management solutions and something we are excited about.
Why do you think the Singapore market is not as effective in the recycling area as perhaps the UK? What factors can change this?
People in Singapore are used to simply bagging all their rubbish and disposing of it through a centralised refuse chute system. There is no waste sorting culture. The convenience discourages them from actively seeking to recycle and develop good waste management practices.
The waste sorting system could become more diverse and robust. In addition to blue bins, we could introduce more different coloured bins in more areas which tells users what kind of waste they can put into each of them. If people know exactly where to dispose of specific items, they are likely to make more of an effort.
Schools and educational institutions can play a key role. If recycling and good waste management practices are a key focus of the educational curriculum, then the next generation will have the knowledge and motivation to protect the environment.
Businesses should also be more proactive. For example, we have a client who placed a digester in their canteen to advocate the treating of their own food waste. The organic fertiliser output was then utilised for their own on-site landscaping needs.