In the bustling heart of Phnom Penh, a man has found a way to transform waste into wealth.

Bun Chantony, a compost mogul from Kbal Koh commune, is turning the city’s discarded fruit and vegetables into high-quality compost for crops.

“In essence, when we love something, it stays with us forever,” says Chantony.

Before opening his own enterprise, he honed his skills with a Japanese firm in Cambodia.

“After they stopped operations, I used my expertise to start a small family business,” he said.

To make his compost, Chantony gathers spoilt produce from Neak Meas and Doeum Kor markets. These discarded items are then ground, filtered, and stored for half a year.

“Many see rotten produce as useless waste,” he noted. “But we see its potential. Turned into compost, it nourishes crops beautifully”.

According to Chantony, the compost from fruit and vegetable waste is rich in nitrogen, ideal for leafy greens.

Yet, composts that also contain fruit and bones can speed up fruiting in plants. This natural alternative not only bolsters the health of plants but also benefits those consuming the produce.

“It’s hard to say how much waste I collect monthly,” Chantony explained. “Sometimes, when orders increase, I might gather up to four or five tonnes with the help of waste collectors”.

His operation includes five large plastic barrels and numerous containers for compost production. His clientele stretches across the nation, with many purchasing his compost for their farms.

Beyond his business, Chantony also educates others in Kandal province and beyond on composting techniques. Organisations like ASPIRE-AT engage him to enlighten farmers about compost’s benefits and its proper use.

“During an experiment on a 100-hectare rice field, farmers spent over four million riel ($1,000) on chemical fertilisers. With natural compost, it cost just over two million riel. They saved half, and the rice tasted better,” Chantony pointed out.

The virtues of compost go beyond cost and taste. Chantony emphasises its ability to foster earthworms, oxygenate, and rejuvenate the soil, creating a more sustainable farming future for Cambodia.

Tucked away in Prek Thom village, Kbal Koh commune’s Chbar Ampov district of Phnom Penh, is Chi Thamacheat Tony S.M (Tony S.M Natural Fertiliser), Bun Chantony’s brainchild.

Today, Chantony’s primary goal is not just selling his nutrient dense compost but empowering farmers with the knowledge to produce their own. He’s even opened his doors to teach eager customers.

Chantony’s efforts are not going unnoticed. Chan Rithy, director of the Phnom Penh municipal Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, shared his insights with The Post.

“There are two key natural fertiliser types — organic fertilisers and compost from decaying leaves or vegetables. They’re crucial for their minimal impact on consumer health,” Rithy explained.

He underscored: “Moreover, these are cost-effective as farmers can easily gather raw materials from their surroundings”.

Regarding chemical fertilisers, Rithy clarified some misconceptions.

“People hear ‘chemical’ and get nervous. But factories have stringent standards. Our agricultural experts have also guided on their proper use in fields. If used as per guidelines, there’s no harm to our crops,” he reassured.