Pratt ag company combats price and appeal of fertilizer with topical micro-carbon amendment

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When Robert Herrington opened PrairieFood in Pratt last November, he knew he wanted the company to expand. He expected to grow his soil health manufacturing plant at a steady pace, not double its size in six months.

Herrington is on a mission. This Colby native, the co-founder of PrairieFood, wants to spread the word of healthy soil amendments, which help add nutrients to soil through a micro-carbon rich product.

“This is a 12 year overnight success,” he said. “We’re ramping up our production to begin doing commercialized operations. We have more demand than we can make product.”

This mixture, which combines manure with distiller’s grain from ethanol plants, feeds soil bacteria and fungi. By breaking down cellulose, proteins and starches into small molecules, the soil can absorb the nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous.

“We make our product from cattle manure and wet grains,” Herrington said. “And we shred those products down to the carbon level, and we put it in a slurry that we deliver to the farmer to put on his fields.”

According to PrairieFood scientists, fertilizers bypass nutrient cycles and in so doing may cause mineral deficiencies. The diversity found in PrairieFood’s blend of microbes adds diversity to the soil.

The blend builds soil carbons and supports the soil biology that recycles and releases nutrients. Unlike chemical fertilizers, this product works in conjunction with the soil. It also minimizes disturbance to the soil and increases biodiversity.

What is a micro-carbon amendment? A micro-carbon rich soil amendment, like PrairieFood, is produced from readily available biomass waste sources. This liquid “soil booster” helps build nutrient-dense food for soil.

“It is not a fertilizer,” Herrington said. “We are a soil amendment. Our product is pure micro-carbons. Our product feeds the microbes in the soil.”

By using a micro-carbon amendment, Herrington said, farmers eliminate their dependence on synthetic and mined fertilizers.

“It is much less costly than synthetic fertilizers, so it’s very profitable for the farm,” Herrington said.

Because the product is liquid, it does not need water and it does not run off.

“With the increase in price in synthetics (fertilizer), there just is more demand for our product and others as well,” Herrington said.

The company’s plant expanded from less than 20 workers when it started in November 2021, to slightly less than 50 now, and the company soon hopes to expand again and hire more.

The company went from producing 25,000 gallons of this amendment to 50,000 gallons in April. With the company doubling its capacity, more farmers from across the country are obtaining the product.

“A lot of products have been going out between two and four tanker loads a day, seven days a week,” Herrington said. “We’re able to deliver on the demand we have right now.”

But, Herrington said, demand is growing. He expects to more than double production to 115,000 gallons a week, labeling this “medium capacity.”

A tanker load is about 5,200 gallons.

“That will cover 133 acres and that’s the size of the pivot,” Herrington said. “That’s about a quarter of ground is what it’ll cover.”

Along with sending product to Florida, Delaware and South Dakota, the plant is delivering product to farmers throughout Kansas.

Because of the demand, Herrington hopes to open more plants in Kansas.

“We have three sites that we have picked out,” Herrington said. “We haven’t announced those sites yet.”

As published in The Hutchinson News.

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