Ascension Soil Company was created by Dr. Andrew Harley in 2002, borne out my academic and personal research into methods, techniques and philosophies that helped bring life back to infertile and poorly producing soils, regardless of their land use.
In 1996 I was deeply influenced by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s alternative remedies for restoring soils “Secrets of the Soil”. With an undergraduate degree in earth sciences, including soils, I was immediately intrigued by one chapter in particular – Chapter 15 Dust for Life – which went to to describe the process of remineralization: adding ground rock to soils to improve soil quality and nutrition (more can be found at Remineralize the Earth). As a result, I completed a PhD at the University of Western Australia combining mineralogy and geochemistry and producing a thesis on The Evaluation and Improvement of Silicate Mineral Fertilisers.
In addition to remineralization, I have studied a diverse area of soil restoration, including:
- Dr Daniel Hillel’s work on soil and water science;
- Dr Rattan Lal’s work on soil carbon, especially in mine reclamation;
- Water management and the work of P.A. Yeomans (Keyline) and Vicktor Schauberger (Natural Water Management);
- Organic matter management and the work of Alan Savory (Holistic Resource Management);
- Permaculture sytems and the work of Bill Mollison;
- Biodynamics and the work of Rudolf Steiner;
- Nutritional minerals and the work of William Albrecht, Andre Voisin and Joel Wallach; and
- Biochar and the work of Johannes Lehmann et al.
Since graduating in 2002, I have spent a lot of my time consulting for resource companies around the globe, with the objective of more effectively removing our resources from the ground while improving ecosystem services at the end of operations. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that while this is technically feasible, the corporate model will not place the importance of ecosystem services mediated through the soil on equal parity with resource services – extraction will always trump ecosystem.
Through this time, I also came to the conclusion that agriculture is organized the same way as resource extraction and has actually created a greater impact to our landscape than resource extraction. Additionally, while the Green Revolution saved millions of people from starvation, an unforeseen consequence is the increase in micronutrient malnutrition. While much work has been done to develop the marriage of nutrition and agriculture, these two disciplines view hunger differently – nutritionists look it as a nutrition problem while the agriculture community look at is a yield problem. Our work aims to improve the link between quantity (yield) and quality (nutrition value, especially minerals and their role in both plant and animal health).
This blog is intended as a clearing house for a range of resources that I have accumulated over the years and to provide support to land managers, whatever their responsibilities, to improve ecosystem services for the betterment of society.