The Soil Foodweb Tick of Approval indicates that a product or service offered by a supplier meets the exacting standards established by SFI.  Buyers and clients can be assured that companies holding the SFI TOA provide products or services in accordance with the latest in soil science, and at levels superior to standard regulations relating to agricultural inputs and their management.

You can find products with the Soil Foodweb Tick of Approval in our online shop

If you are interested in having your product or service approved, or you would like to find out more about the Tick of Approval in the menu item underneath this page on the left , click here for full details of the SFI Tick of Approval/certification program in hard copy to print or download or please call us on 08 87334457 or email us at info@soilfoodweb.com.au.

The Soil Foodweb Tick of Approval Program

Soil Foodweb Institute (SFI) is a globally renowned and respected organisation with over 20 years of research in the areas of soil biology, compost and compost teas and their application in sustainable agricultural practices.

This program defines a level of quality based upon leading scientific research into soil function that is superior to standing conventional regulations governing agricultural inputs and their management. The program enables agronomists, consultants and manufacturers to gain an understanding and achieve a level of competence in proven SFI practices designed to build and maintain a healthy soil food web. Subject to meeting the ongoing requirements of this program, participants will achieve SFI accreditation. This accreditation will allow the business entity to carry the ‘Soil Foodweb Tick of Approval’ on their products and marketing materials. Appropriately qualified participants will also be listed on the SFI website, becoming eligible for nomination as an “SFI Accredited Advisor” or “SFI Senior Agronomist” by Soil Foodweb Institute as projects arises. 

Benefits of Certification

1.3 Who the Tick of Approval Program Applies to? 

Scope

The SFI Tick of Approval covers:

How to use the SFI Tick of Approval 

The SFI Tick of Approval will allow a business entity to diversify its product or service offerings they can offer to their existing and potential clients coupled with the reassurance that these services are delivered by an accredited company who adheres to the SFI code of practice.  

How to enroll in the program:

  1. Contact SFI in Lismore, NSW 2480.
  2. Initial interview about composting site and needs.
  3. Contract reviewed and signed.

SFI’s Tick of Approval Standards & Obligations for Products

The purpose of Soil Foodweb Institute’s (SFI’s) Tick of Approval Program for products is to direct purchasers to reliable and consistently good quality sources of compost, compost teas, compost extracts, compost tea brewers and extractors and other suitably sustainable agricultural products. Products that pass SFI’s rigorous standards are displayed on our website along with contact details of the suppliers. Approved products are also recommended to clients via email and telephone enquiries to the Soil Foodweb Institute Laboratory.

COMPOST 

To gain the SFI Tick of Approval, compost suppliers must meet SFI’s criteria for Compost Organism standards, Compost Production Standards and Client Obligations as listed below. All microbial measurements are performed on fresh, un-dried compost, and expressed on a per dry weight basis.  Therefore, gravimetric dry weight of compost samples must be determined.

Compost Organism Standards

The minimum desired levels of organisms, and the balance of organisms, as determined by direct microscopy, in compost (vermicompost, thermal, or static) to gain SFI’s Tick of Approval are:

Compost Sold in Sealed Containers 

Compost for Different Plant Groups

Therefore the ratio of fungi to bacteria in compost used for this group could be allowed to have greater fungal biomass than bacterial.  

Equally balanced compost can be modified for bacterial or fungal dominance by adding bacterial or fungal foods, respectively.  Bacterial foods are simple sugars, structurally non-complex proteins and carbohydrates. Fungal foods are higher molecular weight materials such as humic acid, lignin, cellulose and complex proteins. 

Compost Production Standards

Compost must be produced under the following conditions and possess the characteristics listed (where applicable) to gain SFI’s Tick of approval.  Compost production using thermal approaches versus worm activity require different standards, as outlined below: 

Thermal compost

Vermi-compost (worm compost):

                Note:    Worm compost can be done batch or flow-through.  

Client Obligations 

Compost that does not heat following a mixing event is the desired material for assessing whether the compost is finished.  Once this is determined, sampling and testing should be performed:

  1. Many small samples should be taken from each compost pile within a batch, where all starting materials were the same. Compost should be finished, as defined by microbial activity below 10%, and temperature at ambient even after turning.  Each 3 meters long the pile, a 200 ml (half cup) of compost from an arm’s length into the pile (2 ft), should be taken, and once all are collected from that pile, mixed with all other samples from that batch.  A sample of 250 ml of that mix should be sent to the lab for Total Foodweb assessment.  
  2. Daily measurements of the temperature, moisture and turning through the composting process will be submitted with the compost samples.
  3. The starting materials used in the pile, pile size and how the pile was put together will be reported.
  4. If the piles have been stored, storage conditions, and any other variables that may affect the quality of the compost as received by the purchaser, must be included.
  5. Each sample will be assessed for the Total Foodweb (Active and Total Bacteria, Active and Total Fungi, Protozoa and Nematodes) as well as numbers of coli.
  6. A total of three samples will be sent for testing. Preferably, three consecutive batches, or three different initial mixes of starting material will be sent. 
  7. The client will receive a written description detailing what was present in the compost and whether the compost met the standards of quality.
  8. Each sample must meet minimum recommendations for quality compost. If standards are not met, we can work with you to help correct any process problems.
  9. When the three samples meet minimum recommendations, your business information will be listed in SFI’s ‘Tick of Approval’ program on the SFI website. Your listing will include your business name and contact information, your designated name(s) of the compost(s) that have passed the quality compost testing and results of the testing.    
  10. Compost made at the compost facility that passed the quality testing can advertise that it passed SFI’s ‘Tick of Approval’ for quality compost. SFI can assist in writing how your compost meets the requirements for quality compost.  
  11. To maintain the listing on SFI’s website –
    1. Every batch of compost made needs qualitative assessment. The client can learn to perform qualitative testing or samples can be sent to the lab.  If the client performs the qualitative assessment, the data must be sent to the lab within hours of being taken.
    2. Once every three months, a Total Foodweb assessment from a selected compost batch will be performed.
    3. Written descriptions will be sent to the client of all data.
  12. If standards continue to be met, your compost data will remain on the list and test data will be updated with each subsequent sample. Again, if standards are not met, we will work with you to correct any problems.
  13. Delinquency –
    1. SFI will send reminders that samples of each batch and that three month samples must be taken.
    2. If samples are not submitted in a timely fashion, your details will be removed from the SFI website and you will remove our seal and “Tick of Approval” from all your marketing materials. Non-compliance may result in legal action being undertaken.

Compost Tea and Compost Extract

To gain SFI’s Tick of Approval compost tea and compost extract suppliers must meet SFI’s criteria of Compost Tea/Extract Organism Standards, Compost Tea/Extract Production Standards and Client Obligations as listed below.

All microbial measurements for compost tea/extract are performed on fresh liquid samples. Results are expressed per ml of compost tea or extract.  

Compost Tea Standards

The minimum desired levels of organisms, and the balance of organisms, as determined by direct microscopy, in compost tea to gain SFI’s Tick of Approval are:

Compost Extract Standards

The minimum desired levels of organisms, and the balance of organisms, as determined by direct microscopy, in compost extract to gain SFI’s Tick of Approval are:

Compost Tea Production Standards

Compost tea must be produced under the following conditions and possess the characteristics listed (where applicable) at completion to gain SFI’s Tick of approval:

Compost amounts used in the brewing process must be kept to a minimum; addition of bacterial or fungal growth substrates must be kept to a minimum in order to maintain oxygen concentrations at aerobic levels. 

Finished compost tea is defined by net zero growth in the organisms in the tea brew.  Activity should be <10%, increases in bacterial and fungal biomass should be balanced by protozoa and nematodes consumption.  

Client Obligations 

  1. Initial tea brews should be monitored for increases in bacterial and fungal biomass. Increases should occur in the first 15 to 35 hours, depending on temperatures, but should then level off.  
  2. Compost tea should be sampled by removing 1 to 5 ml (2 to 3 teaspoons) from the tea as the tank is emptied. The tea should be actively aerated through the whole emptying process.  The samples should be combined from the whole tea, and sent into the lab in containers that are no more than 1/3 full.  
  3. A picture of the inside of the tank should be taken and transmitted to SFI immediately after the tank is cleaned preferably with date stamp for authentication or signed statement to that effect.
  4. Measurements of the temperature through the brew cycle should be submitted with the compost tea samples.
  5. The starting materials used in the tea should be reported.
  6. Each sample will be assessed for the Total Foodweb (Active and Total Bacteria, Active and Total Fungi, Protozoa and Nematodes) as well as numbers of coli.
  7. A total of three samples will be sent for testing. Preferably, three consecutive batches, or three different initial mixes of starting material will be sent. 
  8. The client will receive a written description detailing what was present in the compost tea and whether the compost tea met the standards of quality.
  9. Each sample must meet minimum recommendations for quality compost tea. If standards are not met, we can work with you to help correct any process problems.  Additional information may be required if teas are not meeting standards, such as source and type of water, brewer type, source and type of compost, brew cycle and cleaning methods, etc.  
  10. When the three samples meet minimum recommendations, your business information will be listed in SFI’s ‘Tick of Approval’ program on the SFI website. Your listing will include your business name and contact information, your designated name(s) of the compost(s) teas that have passed the quality compost tea testing and results of the testing.    
  11. Compost tea made at the compost tea facility that passed the quality testing can advertise that it passed SFI’s ‘Tick of Approval’ for quality compost tea. SFI can assist in writing how your compost tea meets the requirements for quality compost tea.  
  12. To maintain the listing on SFI’s website,
    1. Every batch of compost tea made needs qualitative assessment. The client can learn to perform qualitative testing or samples can be sent to the lab.  If the client performs the qualitative assessment, the data must be sent to the lab within hours of being taken.
    2. Once every three months, a Total Foodweb assessment from a selected compost tea batch will be performed.
    3. Written descriptions will be sent to the client of all data.
  13. If standards continue to be met, your compost tea data will remain on the list and test data will be updated with each subsequent sample. Again, if standards are not met, we will work with you to correct any problems.

Delinquency 

SFI will send reminders that samples of each batch and that three month samples must be taken.  

If samples are not submitted in a timely fashion, your details will be removed from the SFI website and you will remove our seal and “Tick of Approval” from all your marketing materials. Noncompliance may result in legal action being undertaken.

Compost Extract Production Standards

Compost extract must be produced under the following conditions and possess the characteristics listed (where applicable) at completion to gain SFI’s Tick of approval:

 Compost amounts used in the extracting process are typically 10 times what is used in a compost tea brewing process.  Addition of bacterial or fungal growth substrates is not allowed during extract production.  No growth of organisms is expected during the extract production process.  Whatever activity was present in the compost will still be present in the extract.  If mature compost is used, there will be little to no activity in the extract.  If compost used is activated before extraction, then activity can be quite high.   

Extracts the greater concern is keeping organisms in low activity conditions to minimize growth and thus concern for aeration.  

Client Obligations 

  1. Compost extract should be sampled by removing 1 to 5 ml (2 to 3 teaspoons) from the extract as the extract is produced. The samples should be combined from the whole extract and sent into the lab in containers that are no more than 1/3 full.
  2. A picture of the inside of the extractor should be taken and transmitted to SFI immediately after the unit is cleaned preferably with date stamp for authentication or signed statement to that effect.
  3. Each sample will be assessed for the Total Foodweb (Active and Total Bacteria, Active and Total Fungi, Protozoa and Nematodes) as well as numbers of coli.
  4. A total of three samples will be sent for testing. Preferably, three consecutive batches, or three different initial mixes of starting material will be sent. 
  5. The client will receive a written description detailing what was present in the compost tea and whether the compost tea met the standards of quality.
  6. Each sample must meet minimum recommendations for quality compost extract. If standards are not met, we can work with you to help correct any process problems.  Additional information may be required if teas are not meeting standards, such as source and type of water, brewer type, source and type of compost, brew cycle and cleaning methods, etc.  
  7. When the three samples meet minimum recommendations, your business information will be listed in SFI’s ‘Tick of Approval’ program on the SFI website. Your listing will include your business name and contact information, your designated name(s) of the compost(s) extracts that have passed the quality compost tea testing and results of the testing.    
  8. Compost extract made at the compost extract facility that passed the quality testing can advertise that it passed SFI’s ‘Tick of Approval’ for quality compost extract. SFI can assist in writing how your compost extract meets the requirements for quality compost extract. 
  9. To maintain the listing on SFI’s website,
    1. Every batch of compost extract made needs qualitative assessment. The client can learn to perform qualitative testing or samples can be sent to the lab.  If the client performs the qualitative assessment, the data must be sent to the lab within hours of being taken
    2. Once every three months, a Total Foodweb assessment from a selected compost tea batch will be performed.
    3. Written descriptions will be sent to the client of all data.
  10. If standards continue to be met, your compost tea data will remain on the list and test data will be updated with each subsequent sample. Again, if standards are not met, we will work with you to correct any problems.

Delinquency 

SFI will send reminders that samples of each batch and that three month samples must be taken.  

If samples are not submitted in a timely fashion, your details will be removed from the SFI website and you will remove our seal and “Tick of Approval” from all your marketing materials. Noncompliance may result in legal action being undertaken.

Other Products

Products & equipment including additives for compost, soil, compost tea or compost extracts, or equipment for making compost, tea or extracts, can gain SFI’s Tick of Approval. A product must first be tested to determine the effect the product has on soil life. Following a single application, and if desired, the effect over time.  

Products need to be tested for impacts on all of the soil food web organisms, but can be advertised as being specifically for improving one or more specific groups, while having little or no effect on other groups.  

Products can be tested to determine impacts in soil, compost, tea, extract or other materials.  Each situation would require separate testing, under standard conditions.  

Standards

All testing requires a comparison material to test against, in order to determine if bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes or other organism group is impacted positively or negatively by the product.   

A standard soil, compost, tea or extract (see standards in the sections above for each type of material) needs to contain a minimum of the soil food web organisms.  The soil, compost, tea or extract is mixed well and divided into 2 equal parts; one of the parts are the “control”, whereas three other portions will be designated as the “plus product” treatment.  

The only difference between the control and product units will be the product that will be tested.  If the product is added in water, then an equal amount of water will be added to the control units.  If the product is a dry material, then a comparable dry material (e.g., sterile sand or the same carrier as the dry material)) will be selected and added to the control.

Total Foodweb assessment will be carried out after a time designated by the particular material tested, e.g., o hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, based on when the product manufacturer suggests he product will have an effect.  

A significant increase in an organism group must be demonstrated for a Tick of Approval for that organism group to be allowed by SFI.  If more than one group is improved, a product could have multiple approvals. 

No effect, or a degree of negative effect, will also be noted.  There are many cases where improving one organism group, while having no effect on, or even decreasing another organism group, is desired.  

As with other materials, the results of these tests can be posted on the SFI website, and can be used in promotional literature.  SFI can help write up the results of the testing so accurate representation of the scientific information is carried through.  

SFI Senior Agronomists and Advisors

SFI Certified Advisors and Senior Agronomists have the opportunity to bring to their clients the expertise of world leading researchers in soil microbiology through SFI’s testing methods and detailed Grower Programs.  Through the use of the latest knowledge in the management of environmental microbiology, significant enhancement of soil, water and nutrient retention can result in building more resilient growing systems to help reduce costs and minimise the impact on the environment. 

The accredited SFI Advisor and Senior Agronomist will acquire appropriate knowledge plus develop a set of skills that will significantly improve the credentials of their business to new and existing clients. This will provide the confidence to include microbiological management in any growing system in a very methodical and predictive way thereby adding immense value to that relationship. SFI will support accredited advisors and agronomists by providing qualified leads as appropriate and promoting their accreditation with an entry on the SFI Website and in the monthly SFI Newsletter  

SFI Senior Agronomists and Advisors — The role of the SFI Agronomists and Advisors is to support growers prepared to take a microbiological approach to their growing system. Typically, the consulting service of the Advisor or Agronomist are independent to SFI, but advisors and agronomists have access to leading testing methodologies plus the world-wide resources of this global organization. This ensures that clients receive the best information and field support through a technically rigorous process underpinned by the most recent research findings. 

Both SFI Advisors and Agronomists should use the framework provided by SFI Grower Programs.  This agreement with a client involves the Advisor as the intermediary with SFI.  Typically Advisors work on one field, or a small part of the client’s operation, while Agronomists oversee complete departments or whole sections of the farm operation, if not the entire farming operation.    

Minimum Standards to qualify

Obligations of the advisor/agronomist

In order to annually recertify, the candidate must present certificates of training (copies are OK), copies of the Soil Foodweb test reports and Grower Programs, plus $70 administrative fee.  Once this information and fee are submitted, the Advisor will be issued with an annual ‘Certificate of Accreditation’.