Justin Wilson, a self-taught mycologist and horticulturalist from Broken Hill, has developed a soil remediation product that he claims could do away with the need for fertilisers, while helping clean up chemical pollution.
Mr Wilson is looking for funding through a tender to get the project off the ground and he’s also of the belief the mines should partly contribute to the development of the product.
Through research – via a book titled Radical Mycology, written by Peter McCoy – Mr Wilson has found that fungi and plants can help clean up oil and chemical spills from mines, using phytoremediation (using plants to clean up contaminated environments), vermiremediation (involving earthworms converting solid organic materials and wastes into vermicompost which acts as a soil conditioner and nutrient-rich manure) and mycoremediaton (utilising fungi mycelium in contaminated soil sites as a remedial treatment) – the latter of which is the basis of his product.
“Because the mines cut down all the trees and went underground for mine stopes, it’s kind of up to BHP to rehabilitate the area, as well as part of a conservation management of the mine and the damage that they’ve caused,” Mr Wilson told the Truth.
“Surely they can afford to pay the volunteers to help start remediating. It’ll be great to see that for the community. It can create jobs, it can bring tourism back, and have an arid land garden pretty much all the way around and make Broken Hill bloody green again.”
A friend of Mr Wilson’s, Matthias Salamone, got his thesis in the use of mycorrhizal fungus in an urban farming environment, studying more than 60 products on the market, with this one coming out on top. It all culminates in a process where Mr Wilson can take soil samples with the product, send it to be analysed and come back with identification of which microbes are growing in the soil, or what pollution is within.
“I’m hoping to get a start-up, go to the Council and look at the tender because there’s no green waste being utilised at the moment. I think they’re just putting it into landfill, which is a massive waste. There’s a massive resource there and this can be a huge Earth repair, we can repair so much pollution,” Mr Wilson says.
“You can train types of fungus to break down plastics and pollutions. You can teach a fungus to create the enzymes to destroy the plastic pollution and then negate that,” he said.
“For instance, if there was a spill at the mine of their solvents that they use, you can use a combination of the three or four [enzymes] just by drilling some holes to get some oxygen down there because they require oxygen, they’re aerobic.
“With this one, the plants, the mushrooms, can remove heavy metals. If you have a heavy metal spill, you can put this remediation in place, pick it all up into a living organism, take it and dispose of it safely.
“All this living stuff, you don’t have to dig up the Earth and go and take it somewhere else, this will bring the soil to life. You can turn an oil spill into a living oasis using this,” he claims.
“It’s absolutely amazing what I’ve come across here.”
The new product doesn’t just have claimed advantages in cleaning up chemical spills, it’s also going to be aimed at the general gardener who wants to do away with chemical fertilisers.
“It’s good for the home gardens as well, it’s not only just to clean pollution,” says the soil inventor.
Mr Wilson explained that the mycelium of the mushroom and roots of the plant link to create arbuscles, with the mushroom going inside the plant to create a bind inside. The plant then gives them sugars from the sun – photosynthesis – and in return, the mushrooms give minerals and nutrients from the soil.
“You cannot compare it to any current fertiliser. Given enough time, it will create its own underground network. It literally sends signals – like your brain. Scientists can put a measurement here and over here, and instantly, just as quick as your brain’s neurons, you can send and receive information from predators and create this defensive network in your garden. They’re quite smart, these mushrooms and plants,” Mr Wilson says.
Mr Wilson is hoping to get his start-up going with support from Council, Landcare and the public, with plans to expand the product’s reach.
“I need the resources to be able to start up a new business, a new start-up, something that’s niche, a brand new way of clean up pollutions, it’s leading edge, but taking it back to nature,” he said.
“And more field research is needed, maybe the opportunity to have a site set up and some funding through one of the mining companies, say if they’ve had a spillage of their solvents. To go in and have the soil testing done and then apply an experiment and measurement over time on ways to reduce their cost in remediating the pollution.”
Mr Wilson can be contacted on 08 8087 0113 to discuss the tender for the product, or the project overall.