Himkaar Singh is the founder of The Compost Kitchen, a Johannesburg-based business that delivers compost rich in organic matter. “We collect and recycle food waste into vermicompost, using thousands of earthworms. We give the vermicompost back to our customers each month, which they can use in their vegetable garden to grow food again,” he explains.
Singh worked as a civil engineer before completing his master’s in integrated water management resources at TH Köln in Germany, during which time he learned the importance of organic matter levels in soil. “Food nourishes your body, and that means the quality of the food you prepare is very important, and the quality of the food is dependent on the quality of the soil, and good quality soil needs compost,” he says.
When he was working as a civil engineer, Singh was focused on water, designing stormwater systems, but he felt he wasn’t achieving the impact he believed he could have. His master’s programme took him to Vietnam and Jordan, and exposed him to the value of soil. “Organic matter is what enables the soil to act as a sponge and give food to everything living in it,” Singh says.
Demand for The Compost Kitchen’s vermicompost grew during lockdown, as more people wanted to grow their own vegetables at home. “Our biggest success has been our customers. I’m successful because I managed to get the idea across to them, and they’re willing to support it,” he says.
The Compost Kitchen assists schools and community groups with composting and compost education, and Singh plans to expand their sphere of influence. “We’re developing a vegetable garden design service — we’ll design it, build it and show customers how to run it,” says Singh.
“The quality of your food is dependent on the quality of the soil, and good quality soil needs compost.”