MARIA STEIN — Representatives from a Wisconsin-based firm say a 25,000 square foot production facility to be built in Mercer County could play a vital role in helping to heal Grand Lake St. Marys and its watershed.
During a manure workshop in Marie Stein, officials from Ag Conversions unveiled plans to build a manure processing facility near the intersection of Ohio 119 and 127 that would take manure from local livestock farmers and convert it into organic fertilizer. Paul Chadwick, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Amiran Technologies — the parent company of Ag Conversions — said the facility became a reality in less than a year.
“We’ve really thought of everything — we’ve got a lot of really good input from some local experts here,” Chadwick said. “Biosecurity is a big deal and we are taking it very, very seriously.”
The campus will include a production facility, storage areas for poultry litter and manure, as well as a clarifier lagoon. There also will be a visitor/research center that will serve as an outreach center for the company.
“We’re now working with a construction company and laying out the inside,” Chadwick said, noting he expects to break ground in April — pending the finalization of financing. “We feel pretty good about where we are with this.”
After briefly explaining the layout of the campus, Chadwick revealed the reasons for adding a research facility to the campus.
“This technology has never been showcased before — it’s never been done before,” Chadwick said. “We want this area, Mercer County, where we are calling the Ag Conversions Grand Lake Watershed Facility, is going to be the first in the world to have this technology. The reason for the center is we are getting incredible interest from all over the country and all over the world to see this.”
Chadwick said the company will be able to take manure and through a proprietary process, turn it into a highly efficient, organic fertilizer in either dry or pellet form. The process also removes all impurities from the output, including E. coli, and would provide farmers an outlet to dispose of their manure.
“One of the things we are going to do is decriminalize manure,” Chadwick said. “Right now, it’s a bad word.”
More than 20 years of research has gone into developing the technology. Chadwick said while the process looks simple, a lot of work has gone into making it a reality.
“We can take the manure, put it in the facility, process it and we get a beneficial reuse product output — high-efficient organic fertilizer,” Chadwick said, noting the formula can be tailored to fit a variety of recipes.
“We believe that we can break the price barrier with synthetic. We believe we can produce a high-efficient, organic fertilizer at a price that’s going to be very competitive with synthetic.”
Chadwick also announced the creation to two ancillary companies.
AgTrans will serve as a pick-up and delivery service for liquid manure and Innovative Ag Nutrients will serve as a dry fertilizer retail business that will sell the output product.
The target is to have production up and running by summer so the product could be sold to farmers in the fall.
“We’ve got to get going on this pretty quickly,” Chadwick said.
“If we don’t, we’re missing a year and we really want to get going on this. In a perfect world, we wanted to break ground in the fall.”
The capacity of the plant as currently configured is 590,000 tons of dry fertilizer per year. The project will create 60 direct jobs and approximately 180 secondary jobs.
“We think it’s a pretty big deal,” Chadwick told The Evening Leader of the plans.
“First of all, we think it’s going to be a big step in getting the manure out of the watershed and that means a decrease in phosphorus going into the lake, which we call part of the upstream solution.”
The firm’s long-term goal is to make the facility a showcase of Ag Conversion’s technology to help distressed watersheds across the globe. Chadwick said the research facility will be a major component of that strategy.
“We plan to have chemists here who will continue to do research,” Chadwick said.
“The visitor center piece of it will be multi-faceted — we’re imagining it’s going to be a place for schools to use for field trips. We also will see that people around the country and world will want to see this. We’ll also be working closely with Wright State University and some of their initiatives for water clarity. We expect that this will be a big part of what we will do.”
Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing welcomed the news.
“For the region as a whole, it’s economic development,” Ebbing told The Evening Leader.
“It’s an aspect that doesn’t get a lot of play — the ag economy in our region is huge and anything that threatens that is a bad thing. So from this perspective, this can be a win-win. If these guys can come in and create 60 jobs, that’s almost forgotten in a sense, but if they come in to help our ag industry so they don’t have undue hardships, then that’s a great thing.”
Ebbing encouraged farmers in the region to talk with Ag Conversions regarding any possible benefits the firm can bring to their operations.
“Hopefully they can see this as a positive,” Ebbing said.
“Even though you may have the land to get rid of all the manure, not all soil needs that excess nutrients. So why waste it if you can have it processed and converted into a valued-added product or commodity.”
The campus is expected to bring a total investment of $10 to $11 million to the region. Ebbing said the potting soil component — which includes the processing of dredged material from Grand Lake St. Marys and converting it into potting soil — is next on the agenda.
“We wanted to focus on the manure and the watershed first because that’s the most pressing issue,” Ebbing said.
“We wanted to get this moving and get a relationship going ... We’re working with Brian Miller at the state park to maybe set up some remote sites.
They have a lot of dredged spoil sites around the lake and maybe we can get into those and start processing that to show the state that we can in a sense clean out those dredged spoil sites, convert it into a value added potting soil and get that rolling and then start focusing on the lake itself.”