Updated: Apr 29, 2022
It's becoming increasingly apparent nowadays how young people value easy and instant products and services that aren't detrimental to the environment. Ferticlay seeks to meet these ideals. Around July of 2020, the year COVID-19 hit, I stumbled upon paper clay and used it to create various objects for fun. I noticed however, that this clay didn't leave me with much satisfaction, and instead it left me with mould, flies and waste. I grew tired of watching them waste away and discarded some of them into these planters I had on my balcony, and then it hit me: why not create a clay material that can be used to form figurines that can break down into my existing plants and feed them instead?
This is where it truly started. I started digging up soil from my uncle's backyard and extracted as much clay as I could to make my first ever batch of Ferticlay. That invigorating experience of working with my hands to produce something of value was enough to make me excited about exploring something new and creative. Being a plant parent myself, I found joy in creating figures and home decor items to place among my plants and even on my shelves. Combined with my love for creation, the act of making something come to life from nothing, and having it serve both a practical and aesthetic function made me feel good.
If you haven't seen the home page yet by some reason, Ferticlay is made from mid-stream unavoidable food waste produced by food manufacturers like eggshells, banana peels, coffee grounds and so on. Combined with clay, it creates a nutritional material that can be used for a variety of reasons. I chose to start with gardenscape figurines, but we have since then continued to explore more use cases, talking to advisors and experts and ideating on the other problems Ferticlay can solve in various fields like agriculture, construction and even the soil microbiology field.
Food waste is a serious issue in Singapore, where over-ordering and bulk grocery-shopping seem to be a common hobby across locals. Even advanced biodigesters have their flaws and are unable to fully break down our food waste. It seems we can only turn to finding as many uses for our food before they finally reach their tragic end, the incinerator, if we want to beat this problem.
The research and development of this Clay material will focus on the environmental and economic benefits of using secondary waste products to create new green materials. Fertiliser is currently made from artificial ingredients that come at a cost both on our wallets and the environment. Through the process of manufacturing this material and witnessing it's environmental and economical benefits, we hope that more companies will re-look at their manufacturing practices to look for materials that can be swapped out with other waste products, thereby resulting in less of our waste ending up in landfills (Pulau Semakau is anticipating full load by 2035, time to make action!).
On a broader scale, I hope for this practice of creating new products from waste materials to be adopted, and this culture of creating to be re-discovered. It is a lost art, creating with your hands and looking around you for solutions instead of instantly jumping online to look for answers to our first-world needs. Let's put down our phones and go play with dirt! And while you're at it, why not play with Ferticlay :)