Howard's technique of mass inoculation with large amounts of biologically active material from older compost heaps speeds and directs decomposition. It supplies large numbers of the most useful types of microorganisms so they dominate the heap's ecology before other less desirable types can establish significant populations. I can't imagine how selling mass inoculants could be turned into a business.
But just imagine that seeding a new heap with tiny amounts of superior microorganisms could speed initial decomposition and result in a much better product. That _could _be a business. Such an approach is not without precedent. Brewers, vintners, and bread makers all do that. And ever since composting became interesting to twentieth-century farmers and gardeners, entrepreneurs have been concocting compost starters that are intended to be added by the ounce(s) to the cubic yard.
Unlike the mass inoculation used at Indore, these inoculants are a tiny population compared to the microorganisms already present in any heap. In that respect, inoculating compost is very different than beer, wine, or bread. With these food products there are few or no microorganisms at the start. The inoculant, small as it might be, still introduces millions of times more desirable organisms than those wild types that might already be present.
But the materials being assembled into a new compost heap are already loaded with microorganism. As when making sauerkraut, what is needed is present at the start. A small packet of inoculant is not likely to introduce what is not present anyway. And the complex ecology of decomposition will go through its inevitable changes as the microorganisms respond to variations in temperature, aeration, pH, etc.
This is one area of controversy where I am comfortable seeking the advice of an expert. In this case, the authority is Clarence Golueke, who personally researched and developed U.C. fast composting in the early 1950s, and who has been developing municipal composting systems ever since. The bibliography of this book lists two useful works by Golueke.
Golueke has run comparison tests of compost starters of all sorts because, in his business, entrepreneurs are constantly attempting to sell inoculants to municipal composting operations. Of these vendors, Golueke says with thinly disguised contempt:
"Most starter entrepreneurs include enzymes when listing the ingredients of their products. The background for this inclusion parallels the introduction of purportedly advanced versions of starters-i.e., "advanced" in terms of increased capacity, utility and versatility. Thus in the early 1950's (when [I made my] appearance on the compost scene), starters were primarily microbial and references to identities of constituent microbes were very vague. References to enzymes were extremely few and far between. As early ("pioneer") researchers began to issue formal and informal reports on microbial groups (e.g., actinomycetes) observed by them, they also began to conjecture on the roles of those microbial groups in the compost process. The conjectures frequently were accompanied by surmises about the part played by enzymes.
Coincidentally, vendors of starters in vogue at the time began to claim that their products included the newly reported microbial groups as well as an array of enzymes. For some reason, hormones were attracting attention at the time, and so most starters were supposedly laced with hormones. In time, hormones began to disappear from the picture, whereas enzymes were given a billing parallel to that accorded to the microbial component."
Golueke has worked out methods of testing starters that eliminates any random effects and conclusively demonstrates their result. Inevitably, and repeatedly, he found that there was no difference between using a starter and not using one. And he says, "Although anecdotal accounts of success due to the use of particular inoculum are not unusual in the popular media, we have yet to come across unqualified accounts of successes in the refereed scientific and technical literature." I use a variation of mass inoculation when making compost. While building a new heap, I periodically scrape up and toss in a few shovels of compost and soil from where the previous pile was made. Frankly, if I did not do this I don't think the result would be any worse.