Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
By Nancy Allen
$11M idea for area's manure
Plant will create 60 jobs, help Grand Lake farmers with waste removal
  MARIA STEIN - A Wisconsin company on Monday announced plans to build an $11 million plant west of Cassella that turns manure into organic fertilizer.
The 25,000-square-foot facility will be located on U.S. 127 north of state Route 119 on 10 acres of land owned by Brookside Hauling. It would create 60 direct and 180 indirect jobs. Hiring likely will start next month.
Company and local officials touted the plant as a way to rid the area of excess animal waste and help restore Grand Lake. Neighbors of the site expressed some concerns of odor and increased truck traffic while also calling it a good way to help the area.
"There's no magic bullet for the lake's problems, but we think we have something to help take a big step forward and help heal this watershed," Paul Chadwick of Amiran Technologies in Oak Creek, Wis., said.
Chadwick announced the plant's construction during a Manure Technology Workshop at the Knights of St. John hall. Company officials want to break ground in April or May.
The Ag Conversions Ohio Grand Lake Watershed Facility would use manure to make custom-blended, organic dry and liquid fertilizer. The conversion process would kill natural pathogens and E. coli; there would be no leftover wastewater.
Chadwick said the plant would be able to take all types of manure but officials plan to start with liquid swine manure and poultry litter.
Running at capacity, the plant would need 350,000 tons of liquid manure per year to produce 590,000 tons of dry granular fertilizer per year, he said. The amount of liquid fertilizer the plant produces will depend on demand. Chadwick sees the plant producing mostly dry fertilizer.
Construction is estimated to take 18 months, but Chadwick said the company hopes to start producing a lesser amount of product this summer.
The facility would include a visitor's center to showcase the one-of-a-kind technology. The company wants to build more plants in the U.S. and abroad.
Patrick Moeller, who lives on Olding Road north of the site, is concerned about odor and is not in favor of the facility.
"I wouldn't want that there," he said Monday after learning of the announcement.
Lona Mescher, whose home is directly across from the site, also expressed concerns of odor and increased truck traffic, but said it was a "good thing" if the plant helped remove manure from the watershed.
Neighbor Jim Wuebker said if the plant reduces the amount of manure in the watershed, it will be a positive for the area.
"I don't think it's a bad idea," said Wuebker, who lives on state Route 119. "The ground around here's got plenty of nutrients already and if they can find a way to truck some of them out of here, that's good."
Chadwick, who is executive vice president of market development for Amiran, said the company is meeting today with Ohio Department of Transportation officials to create a transportation plan. He also said an odor control chemical will be added to the manure lagoon that should eliminate almost all odor.
The company also plans to have a meeting with neighbors.
"We want to be good neighbors and want people to come work with us and be good community partners," Chadwick said.
Local officials have been working with Amiran since July. The company demonstrated its technology locally at two separate events.
Two spin-off companies already have been created.
Kyle VanTilburg and Jeff Tuente on Monday announced they have formed Ag Trans LLC and Innovative Ag Nutrients LLC. Ag Trans will pick up manure from local farms and deliver it to the plant, while Innovative Ag Nutrients will sell and distribute the fertilizer. Ag Trans would handle any payment to farmers for their manure, Chadwick said.
The organic fertilizer produced by the plant would be used to grow agricultural crops.
"We expect to distribute all 590,000 tons of it within a 300-mile radius of Celina as an ag fertilizer for row crops," Chadwick said. "Because of the organic nature, it will hold to the soil better than synthetic fertilizer and be less likely to run off."
Chadwick said the facility will custom blend the fertilizer to contain little or no phosphorous, the nutrient that contributes most to toxic algae blooms in Grand Lake.
The lake has suffered toxic blue-green algae blooms and water advisories the past three summers. The lake's algae is fed primarily by phosphorous (found in manure) that runs off mostly farmland, the largest land use in the 58,000-acre watershed.
Just more than a year ago the state designated the watershed distressed and set new manure rules for farmers. The roughly 300 livestock farmers in the watershed must test their soil to determine where they can spread manure.
Jared Ebbing, economic and community development director for Mercer County, said the facility will allow farming operations to grow instead of being stifled by the distressed designation.
"We don't want to hear farmers saying 'we're going to have to thin our herds,' " Ebbing said. "We don't want to lose what we have with our ag community … we wanted to see what technology was out there to help."
Amiran Technologies is headed by Mohsen Amiran, a scientist who has spent 20 years developing the technology dubbed "green done right."
Funds to build the plant will come from the Jobs Ohio debt financing program, the company's own private equity and private investments. The company also is applying for funding through the Mercer County Revolving Loan program and federal Small Business Administration loan program.
Chadwick told the farmers at Monday's workshop that the area's water quality problems aren't unique. The company has received inquiries about the technology from Sri Lanka, Ireland, California, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Kiev.
Bill Knapke of Cooper Farms in Fort Recovery said he has spoken with Amiran officials about the plant using manure from Cooper's contract swine and turkey farms. He called the plant a positive development.
Ebbing said any type of investment in the community is good.
"Anytime someone invests in our community, it's a positive thing," he said. "If it helps farming and the lake, it's even better."
Amiran officials in the future want to build a plant that turns sediment dredged from Grand Lake into potting soil.

Company answers questions:
The following questions and answers were provided by Amiran Technologies.
Are you paying for swine manure?
There are costs (diesel fuel, etc.) related to removing swine manure for the producer, and we, therefore, will be doing whatever we can to reduce that cost through our logistics and handling of the manure. The distance from the facility will have a significant impact on expenses related to moving the manure. Producers closer to the plant will benefit more. Ag Trans will meet with producers as the plant's startup approaches.
Will manure be sampled?
Manure will be sampled by Ag Trans LLC at producer's farms and by AG Conversions at the plant.
How much manure will be stored at the plant?
Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 tons dry manure under covered storage and 7 million gallons of liquid manure in lagoons.
Will all of the manure used at the plant come from the Grand Lake Watershed?
The vast majority will come from the lake watershed; however, in order to produce a variety of fertilizer formulations some manure may come from outside the watershed.
Who is the contact for manure sales information?
For swine manure, contact Ag Trans at 419-582-2030; for poultry manure, contact VanTilburg Farms at 419-586-3077.
How many and what types of jobs will be created?
At full production, 60 direct jobs in management, supervisory, chemistry, research and development, quality assurance, accounting, IT, logistics and drivers. About 180 indirect jobs in transportation and warehousing.
When will job applications be taken?
Soon for direct jobs. Go to the employment link at www.agconversions.net.
For more information and renderings of the facility, go to www.agconversions.net.
Additional online stories for this date
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• Superintendent objects to new grade system
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