OPN Connect Newsletter 103 · February 21, 2019

Pacific Gro: Seafood for the Soil

Seafood for the Soil----a short message that serves as both the tagline for Washington –based Pacific Gro and an apt description of its product line.

“We sell two products,” said Marketing Director Warren Shoemaker, citing the firm’s OMRI approved Organic Liquid Fertilizer with Biochar and its organic-certified partner Pacific Gro Oceanic Hydrolysate.

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Organic Liquid Fertilizer with Biochar

Founded in 2001, predating the National Organic Program standards, Pacific Gro has used fish as a fertilizer since its inception.  Shoemaker points out that fish have by used to “fertilize” corn crops by the Mayans, Incas and Native Americans centuries ago.  Dead fish was buried alongside the plant to help it grow.

While fish fertilizer is a well-known input for organic production, Shoemaker said it is still misunderstood.  He said many growers use it exclusively as a nitrogen source, but it is much more than that. 

“It is also a good source of calcium, which may be the most important nutrient it contains,” he said.

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Pacific Gro products are essentially made from fish scraps. Initially, the company used salmon scraps exclusively, but the products now also include micronized crab and shrimp shells, in a patented process developed by company in 2013.  The material is sourced from processors of ocean-caught seafood and stabilized with acid.  The resulting “Seafood for the Soil” stimulates soil microbiology, especially beneficial fungi, according to Shoemaker.

The company’s website explains that in order to achieve the highest bio-activity and maintain the integrity of nutrients, Pacific Gro digests the protein, bone and shell in a vigorous vortex at room temperature. All ingredients are compliant with organic certification requirements and listed for organic food production.

Shoemaker said there are a half dozen fish fertilizer firms in the country but Pacific Gro distinguishes itself by including fish oil and fatty acids in the fish fertilizers it produces. He said other manufacturers use heat in their processing of the scraps to achieve higher nitrogen content, which he claims is unnecessary.  “Because Pacific Gro is cold processed hydrolysate, it has more diverse and plentiful microbes and enzymes and stimulates higher biological activity,” says the website.

Shoemaker reiterated that the biggest misperception when using a fish fertilizer is that nitrogen is the most important component.  He said conventional growers transitioning to organics tend to think the nitrogen is all important and concentrate on that.  He believes longtime organic growers understand that it is the biological activity in the soil that you are trying to improve, not just replacing nitrogen. “Seventy-eight percent of air is nitrogen.  Getting nitrogen is not the issue,” he said.