Talalla Retreat

Talalla, Sri Lanka

July - November 2017

Andrew and Peter have spent over 6 weeks in Sri Lanka at the widely renowned Talalla Retreat, on the southern coast, in the tropical Sampaya House area in Talalla.

We've been working closely with the locals and staff at Talalla to create a fully functioning and sustainable organic waste processing plant, to manage the resort's food and bio waste. The setup includes a large format Garden Ship with Subpod™ Tropic composting units, a Worm Farm Hotel and Biochar kiln and bays.

This is an ongoing collaborative project, which has allowed us to educate and directly empower locals with a new set of skills, allowing the resort and local area to become more ecologically aware and sustainable.

STAGE ONE - November 2017 - Video (3:37), featuring the prototype Subpod™ Tropic in the Worm Farm Hotel. Andrew wishes to acknowledge Danish Film Maker, Rune Hvalkof for his extremely generous contribution of time and expertise to film this video during his holiday at Talalla - see his website here. An amazing support!

STAGE TWO will be completed by Talalla Retreat staff later in 2018.

The Team

The Compound at Talalla Retreat was designed and project managed by Andrew Hayim De Vries.

The design of The Compound was in collaboration with Peter Howard, in particular with biochar development and implementation, and the local Retreat staff all worked together to produce the facility. See Andrew, Peter and the Talalla Retreat staff, and local tradespeople and students below.

Photo 1 (left to right) - Malith, Jayantha, Ranga, Rajith, Pradeep, Amila, Kamal, Shantha, Andrew

Photo 2 (left to right) - Kamal, Peter, Udesh, TBC, and Andrew


We'd love to show you through the site at Talalla Retreat in Sri Lanka. Udesh, a staff member from the Uni of Rahuna (Department of Agricultural, Soil Facility) is working in collaboration with Talalla Retreat and is our contact person on site. Feel free to contact him at any time to arrange a walk-though.

Udesh Dharmasiri Belpagoda Gamage

Phone: +94 710 653 388
Email: udeshdharmasiri@yahoo.com


The Compound

Step 1 - Clearing the Grounds

Clearing the compound area of organic waste, mulch and overgrown plant-life, before we got busy building


Project 1 - Garden Ship

Project 2 - Worm Farm Hotel and Subpod Tropic Systems

*Images show Stage 1 of this project. Stage 2 will be completed by the local staff.

This system converts two waste streams to a single high value soil amendment: the compost worms take the kitchen waste input and loads the biochar generated from green waste with bio available minerals and diverse microbial flora.

When added to soil, sustainability is assured due to the 100 year plus persistence of the biochar which shelters the microbes and releases the minerals as needed.  New plant biomass minerals are re-bound to the biochar with each cycle of annual plant growth and decay. 

In fewer words:  the worms turn kitchen waste into high grade fertiliser and the biochar is a durable substrate to hold the fertiliser minerals and house the microbes for hundreds of cycles during its lifespan in the soil. 

Project 3 - Biochar Kiln and Bays


i. Agriculture Research Station, Thelijjawila

Photo 1 - Udesh, Andrew, Peter, Siranthi (Deputy Director of Research), Morien (Additional Director of Development), Anoja (Program Assistant)

ii. University of Rahuna, Faculty of Agriculture

iii. Narandheniya National School, Kamburupitiya, Sri Lanka

iv. Open Day at Talalla Retreat, Sri Lanka

To mark the conclusion of the first stage of our development at Talalla Retreat in Sri Lanka, we held an open day for guests and dignitaries, which included staff from University of Ruhuna Agricultural Faculty, staff from the Agriculture Research Station in Thelijjawila, as well as local guests and staff from Talalla Retreat. We showed visitors around the newly developed Compound site, and explained how each component works, including the Worm Farm Hotel, Garden Ship, and the biochar kiln. Everything was built from scratch and purpose built and designed for this project - read more about the project. We had a great flow of wonderful people throughout what proved to be a very productive and educational day - Peter and Andrew were in their element! 


For Resorts and Other Communities


  • Food waste reduction move the food waste to a worm farm compost facility on location

  • Carbon waste from the resort safely and environmentally upscaled to a valuable nutrient with our onsite biochar facility

  • Creating integrated food gardens matched to the needs of the retreat/ resort/ hotel to supply abundant organic food, with an emphasis on traditional and medicinally based local plant/ food production

  • Offset carbon footprint –potential for retreat to be net carbon neutral or even carbon negative


  • Media team communicates the nature of the project, insures perception as a benefit rather than a cost (big time)

  • Social media exposure (national and international) word of mouth, instagram, promotion of eco-tourism

  • Eliminate the cost of fertilisers and compost for growing

  • green growth

  • new technology, new product

  • spin off income from food & vermiculture process (compost, worms, biochar)


  • Guests, staff and local villagers and learning institutions are exposed to this unique process of transforming waste using the Subpod Tropic system integrated into a fully working and educational, show and tell facility

  • Job creation

  • Social community strengthened with this shared goal of transforming waste and growing healthy food

  • Generates a buzz on social media, being a new process, at the cutting edge for resorts/ retreats and hotels to extend the eco-tourist commitment to masterfully transform site generated waste


  • Everyone learns: guests, staff, local villagers, research institutes

  • Inspires further creative input solicited from the ideas of people experiencing the system, leading to further optimise the functioning of the system on site

Overview How It Works Design Features Prototypes FAQs