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Composting with Cacao

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

It takes roughly 250 cacao beans (2-5 cacao pods!) to craft one bar of Mason & Co chocolate. The beans are fermented, dried & shipped from the farm to our artisan factory – where we sort, grade, roast & crack the bean before turning the cacao nibs into chocolate.

While separating the cacao nib from the bean, we observed large amounts of cacao shells being discarded with every batch made. Cacao shells makeup almost 1/3rd of the cacao bean and once separated from the nib, they are a waste product at Mason & Co.

While some excess shells were used to make the Organic Cacao Herbal Tea many of you are familiar with, the others were shipped to local farmers (like Homegrown Produce, a local farm + food processing unit!) who use it for agricultural purposes, like composting & mulching. By recognizing the immense potential & benefits in our discards, local farmers help us manage waste & derive value from products that are no longer in use at the factory!

Every now & then, Rachna, the young & passionate farmer behind Homegrown Produce, drives down to the Mason & Co factory where our staff loads her car with cacao shells. (Pictured here are Saraswati & Andal with cacao shells from Rachna’s last pick-up)

Composting is a great way to recycle waste & return nutrients to the soil – our organic cacao shells provide the soil with nutrients like phosphate, nitrogen & potash, making it great topsoil to use as-is (or when combined with other materials like your everyday food scraps!)

The shells are taken to Homegrown Produce’s compost room, where Rachna stores food scraps, hay, panchagavya & a massive mound of carbon & protein layers that form the compost pile. The ‘protein layer’ is made of daily food scraps & panchagavya while the ‘carbon layer’ comprises of hay, dry leaves, cacao shells. Apart from providing nutrients, the shells also help balance the PH levels in the compost pile & soil!

“Alternating layers of carbon & protein help speed up the decomposition process,” says Rachna who’s spent her recent years in the field of farming & aims to build Homegrown Produce into a self-sustainable land.

Once the layers are piled, the rotting compost pile is often turned around to ensure even decomposition. When ready, the cacao shells lose their bright colour and the final product is a black-coloured soil. Home to many organisms who help turn the compost into rich, ready-to-use, topsoil, Rachna (among many composters) likes to refer to the soil as Black Gold!

We’re thankful to those who recognize the value in our cacao shells & utilize it to its fullest potential. Cacao is more than just chocolate – while at the farm, waste pods provide a home for its pollinators, at the factory we’re seeking more uses for our excess shells. Think they could be useful to you? Write to us!

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