Firm pro­duces com­post from chicken lit­ter

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - By DENAE SPIERING dspier­ing@ches­pub.com

— The sound of or­ganic com­post be­ing made from chicken lit­ter is mu­sic to many ears on the East- ern Shore of Mary­land and across the Del­marva Penin­sula.

Due to high phos­pho­rus lev­els, the use of chicken lit­ter (ma­nure) on fields has long been a prob­lem for lo­cal farm­ers, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and politi­cians. On Thurs­day, Feb. 2, in a large red barn on the Twin Maple Farm in Ridgely, one dedi-

cated group of in­di­vid­u­als set out to change that.

The newly es­tab­lished MidAt­lantic Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany, is us­ing chicken lit­ter to cre­ate a 100 per­cent or­ganic, non-leach­able com­post.

Dave Trib­bett Jr., Joe Beacher, Robert Winn, Joey Bax­ter, and Tim Humphries make up the dy­namic team of farm­ers, busi­ness men and in­no­va­tors who are set­ting out to ad­dress not only the is­sue of chicken lit­ter but also any com­postable waste in the area.

“As a farmer, I wanted to make a bet­ter fer­til­izer that was en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and eco­nom­i­cally bet­ter for our fields,” Trib­bett said. “Why would I go out there and spread 3 tons of chicken ma­nure if I’m los­ing 40 per­cent of it?”

Trib­bett said he typ­i­cally spreads three tons of chicken lit­ter per acre of farm­land; he will now be able to use just one and half tons of this com­post in­stead. He will be sav­ing time and money and the phos­pho­rus prob­lems and leach­ing prob­lems of the past will no longer be an is­sue.

“Phos­pho­rus lev­els were ei­ther too high or I was los­ing so much prod­uct due to leach­ing,” Trib­bett said. “This com­post is a non-leach­able prod­uct, it’s go­ing to stay — no runoff.” Leach­ing refers to the loss of nu­tri­ents or fer­til­izer due to rain and runoff.

In the be­gin­ning stages, all chicken lit­ter will come di­rectly from Trib­bett’s Twin Maple Farm in Ridgely, which pro­duces 1,200 tons of poul­try lit­ter a year.

Sev­eral things will be added to the chicken lit­ter to cre­ate the fi­nal prod­uct. Saw­dust from the horse paddocks at the race track in Har­ring­ton, Del., will serve as the car­bon source. Hatch­ery waste from Amik Farms in Hur­lock, Seawatch Chicken Hatch­ery, in Mil­ford, Del., and Allen Harim’s hatch­ery in Seaford, Del. These items typ­i­cally would go to a land­fill. In ad­di­tion to the pad­dock and hatch­ery waste, the team will be able to use straw or corn fod­der as well.

“I have a good re­la­tion­ship with other poul­try in­te­gra­tors,” Trib­bett said. “Talk­ing with them, they tell you they have a prob­lem with hatch­ery waste. It’s a big prob­lem for them right now.”

“We will be sav­ing about 300 tons of waste from the hatch­eries alone from go­ing in to land­fills a week,” Trib­bett said.

The waste from the hatch­eries will in­clude egg shells, egg yolks, and any dead chick­ens.

“Even­tu­ally we want to take ev­ery­thing from the poul­try com­pa­nies so that noth­ing goes to the land­fills,” Trib­bett said.

Trib­bett says the hatch­eries will be sav­ing money since they will be pay­ing MidAt­lantic Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany less money than they are cur­rently pay­ing to dump the waste at land­fills.

“We will be able to gen­er­ate a profit but the folks we are go­ing to do busi­ness with they are ac­tu­ally go­ing to save money,” Beacher said. “These com­pa­nies such as the hatch­eries can go to the USDA and say lis­ten we are a green busi­ness now, and this is why.”

In ad­di­tion to sav­ing money, MidAt­lantic Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany will also be able to cus­tom­ize the fi­nal prod­uct to meet spe­cific needs of the farmer.

“Farm­ers are go­ing to get a good nu­tri­ent source out of what we are making,” Trib­bett said. “Ul­ti­mately we have to have a re­sale value of this prod­uct and that’s a qual­ity farm-friendly 100 per­cent or­ganic com­post.”

“We are able to blend in other fer­til­izer with it so if the farmer has a spe­cific goal — what he needs for his crops — we can blend other things into (the com­post) as well,” Trib­bett said.

MidAt­lantic Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany will then send these type blends to Penn State University, where the sam­ples will be an­a­lyzed so the farmer will know ex­actly what is in the fi­nal prod­uct. The firm will be able to show the in­di­vid­ual farm­ers the sci­ence be­hind what they are buy­ing. This process will help the group to pro­duce and main­tain a con­sis­tent batch.

“When it’s all said and done it’s stamped or­ganic,” Beacher said. “I think that the re­ally neat part about all this. It gives us a dif­fer­ent mar­ketabil­ity with this prod­uct. Once the or­ganic farm­ers around started hear­ing about what we are do­ing they got in­ter­ested too.”

In the near fu­ture, the part­ners hope to start pick­ing up Ridgely El­e­men­tary School’s cafe­te­ria waste daily, for no charge to the school. They plan to pick up any­thing com­postable from the cafe­te­ria trash, such as school food waste, nap­kins, and plates. This part of the project is still in the ex­per­i­men­tal stage.

“This en­deavor will have a big im­pact on our food waste, which will limit the amount of trash go­ing to land­fills,” Ridgely El­e­men­tary School Prin­ci­pal Roger Banko. “Cafe­te­ria waste is any­where from 8 to 10 large garbage bags a day, and to be able to use that in an­other ca­pac­ity is fan­tas­tic.”

“Chil­dren tend to be picky eaters and some days they leave more food than they like, so un­for­tu­nately there tends to be a lot of waste,” Banko said.

Re­duc­ing the amount of waste is the driv­ing force in get­ting the schools in­volved. Both Beacher and Trib­bett stress the ef­fect this could have on land­fills and chil­dren’s in­ter­est in recycling.

“Even­tu­ally we want to bring the kids in to see what recycling can do — ef­fects it will have on the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay,” Trib­bett said. “Recycling is go­ing big, it’s get­ting big­ger and big­ger all the time.”

“We want the kids to see what the ef­fects of recycling can do — what can be made out of trash,” Trib­bett said.

“This will be a win-win for Caro­line County,” Banko said.

The long process to get where they are to­day be­gan in De­cem­ber 2013 when Mary­land En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vice (MES) con­tacted Trib­bett and asked if they could run a test pi­lot on his farm. MES set up a small drum in the ma­nure shed and be­gan con­duct­ing tests.

About a year later, Beacher said they were con­tacted by Robert Winn from Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany in Texas. Robert Winn and Joey Bax­ter make up Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany.

“They are do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar in Texas. They

are us­ing biosolids from sewage plants to cre­ate an or­ganic com­post,” Beacher said.

To­gether with their new part­ners from Texas, Trib­bett and Beacher be­gan con­duct­ing more tests, and last year they ap­plied for a grant through the State of Mary­land, but were un­suc­cess­ful.

“We started think­ing about ways we could start our own busi­ness up,” Beacher said.

“We part­nered with Winn and Bax­ter from Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany in Texas, — they man­u­fac­ture the equip­ment, and we part­nered with Tim Humphries and Queen­stown Bank.”

Both Trib­bett and Beacher say it worked out bet­ter this way.

“I think it’s a unique op­er­a­tion, ev­ery­body has been look­ing for it over the years — a way to get to do some­thing re­source­ful with the chicken ma­nure,” Tommy Rhodes, pres­i­dent and CEO of Queen­stown Bank, said.

“Farm­ers have been blamed for a lot of things in the Bay, and they (farm­ers) are al­ways work­ing to bet­ter them­selves,” Rhodes said. “I think it is just great. They have seen the op­er­a­tion be­fore which proves it has worked, so we are go­ing to prove it again.”

Once they had a plan, the part­ners needed to ap­ply for the nec­es­sary per­mits.

“Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany helped with the per­mits and the pro­posal for the state,” Beacher said. “They helped us with set­ting this all up and they man­u­fac­ture the equip­ment.”

“Be­cause we are uti­liz­ing the poul­try lit­ter on this farm, we were able to get the per­mits,” Trib­bett said. “We are tak­ing a prob­lem here on the Shore and putting it into some­thing to make al­ter­nate en­er­gies out of it.”

“The state was be­hind us 100 per­cent so our per­mits came through rather quick,” Beacher said.

Trib­bett demon­strated how the ma­nure gets dumped onto the con­veyor belt into one of the two large bar­rels. The bar­rels are 10 feet wide and 50 feet long, and each one holds be­tween 40 to 50 tons. They have a smaller bar­rel set up to be used for the cafe­te­ria waste, it is 8 feet wide and 32 feet long.

Once the waste reaches the bar­rels, Trib­bett pow­ered them up and ex­plained they will ro­tate slowly for one hour and sit to “cook” for four hours. That process re­peats over and over dur­ing the next 72 hours. The tun­nels are po­si­tioned at a slight an­gle so the waste will slowly make its way down to the far end of the bar­rel, where an­other con­veyor belt will aid in load­ing the fi­nal prod­uct onto trucks.

As the bar­rel ro­tates, there is a small valve on the far end that opens up once it reaches the top to re­lease any gases that may have built up.

Dur­ing the com­post process, meth­ane gas is pro­duced and they plan to even­tu­ally har­vest that byprod­uct to heat the chicken houses and to gen­er­ate power.

“That’s a big goal a lit­tle far­ther down the road,” Beacher said. “It will be awhile be­fore we could af­ford to do that be­cause it’s a very ex­pen­sive ven­ture.”

“Be­cause the com­post is made in­doors in these large bar­rels, it will never be ex­posed to storm wa­ter or runoff,” Trib­bett said. “Once the waste comes into us it will never touch dirt, dust, noth­ing, it will go straight into our bar­rels and af­ter 72 hours it be­comes 100 per­cent or­ganic.”

“An­other thing is be­cause this is all con­tained un­like reg­u­lar out­side com­post­ing there is no smell,” Beacher said. “There is also no loss ei­ther. We put one yard of waste in we get one yard of com­post out.”

PHOTO BY DENAE SPIERING

On Thurs­day, Feb. 2 Joe Beacher, left, and Dave Trib­bett Jr. stand in front of the two large bar­rels they will be us­ing to pro­duce or­ganic com­post, as part of their new com­pany MidAt­lantic Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany in Ridgely.

Pic­tured from left are Joe Beacher, Joe West, Dave Trib­bett Jr. and Randy Don­away. West and Don­away will be the only two em­ploy­ees re­quired to op­er­ate the fa­cil­ity on a daily ba­sis.

PHO­TOS BY DENAE SPIERING

On Thurs­day, Feb. 2, in a large red barn on Dave Trib­bett Jr.’s, Twin Maple Farm in Ridgely, MidAt­lantic Or­ganic Re­source Com­pany be­gan pro­cess­ing chicken lit­ter into or­ganic com­post. In the be­gin­ning stages, all chicken lit­ter will come di­rectly from this farm which pro­duces 1,200 tons of poul­try lit­ter a year.

PHO­TOS BY DENAE SPIERING

On Thurs­day, Feb. 2 the Trib­bett fam­ily stands in front of the two large bar­rels that will be used to pro­duce or­ganic com­post. Pic­tured from left is Cam­dyn Trib­bett, Spring Trib­bett, Calleigh Trib­bett, Tay­lor Trib­bett and Dave Trib­bett Jr.

Thurs­day, Feb. 2 on the Twin Maple Farm in Ridgely, Tay­lor Trib­bett and Cam­dyn Trib­bett, daugh­ters of Dave Trib­bett Jr. pour a bucket of chicken lit­ter onto the con­veyer belt. The chicken lit­ter will then ride the con­veyer belt into a large bar­rel, where af­ter 72 hours of pro­cess­ing the lit­ter will be­come com­post.

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