Composting the Magic Valley
Growing operation relies on high-tech turners to create a truly Sustainable closed loop for organics
When Ray Silene started as the production supervisor with Magic Valley Compost in 2006, they had nine employees and two worn out turners. The general manager at the time was focused on bagging products and nursery sales, and the company, based in Idaho, struggled to produce 40,000 tons per year.
Silene first focused on production from the perspective of one coming from an equipment and farming background. He quickly increased the production and quality of his product, and as the company began to streamline, it started broadening its sales area. Today, the company has 74 sites, and has expanded into providing nutrients for a variety of crops, conventional and organic, along with soil reclamation.
Magic Valley Compost, like many businesses, created value in finding solutions to problems. A challenge in the Southern Idaho region specifically is the very large amount of manure created from the many dairy and feed lots in the area. Magic Valley realized that by taking large volumes of manure and selling it as a nutrient source to local farmers, they could be part of the solution. However, the manure needed to be composted in order to be land-applied.
The idea was to compost the manure on a small portion of land, each site dedicated to windrow composting, then transport the high quality composted manure to local farms and spread it. In order to accomplish this they first needed turners that were easily transportable, low maintenance and fuel efficient.
Turning over a new leaf
Over the years, Silene and his partner Luis Bettencourt, have purchased a number of different windrow turners, gradually getting bigger machines and ones designed for their specific applications. They eventually graduated to the Komptech X60 turner. According to Silene, this model allowed for less downtime, and lowered fuel and wear costs over it predecessors. He says the X60 also decreased their composting time by creating a higher peaked windrow with a lot of porosity, which meant the product could get out to market sooner and create revenue.
“The Komptech turners were much faster,” said Silene, “and have allowed our company to turn more sites in a day.”
Because of this, Silene says they have expanded their customer base and currently have three Komptech turners in their fleet. Magic Valley Compost also now has the capacity to produce, screen, haul and spread over 600,000 tons of product. They currently transport compost as far as 250 miles away and provide custom services in Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and Utah.
Topturn X63 latest in the fleet
In 2015, Magic Valley took delivery of their latest turner – Komptech’s all new Topturn X63. This newer model replaced the X60 model and incorporated many ideas that Silene and his team had brought to Komptech. A big improvement was made to the machine’s power plant. The new X63 uses a 450-hp CAT C13 instead of the 340-hp CAT C9 used in the older machines.
“The new X63 goes through the windrow twice as fast as the older models,” says Silene. “This reduces costs dramatically, since time is money. And Magic Valley Compost is constantly looking for new ways, through process and equipment, to leave a smaller impact on our environment.” The concept of a sustainable closed loop system is often preached about but rarely obtained. In this case, Magic Valley takes manure from cows, composts it and sells it back to the farmers who are growing the hay that eventually goes back to feed the same cows that produce the manure. In the true sense of the phrase, Magic Valley has created a business model that “fully closes the organic loop.”
Silene says he recently joined Komptech at their annual sales training in Blackhawk, Colorado to share his experience with engineers from the factory. Together, Silene and Komptech’s engineers are working on new ideas to incorporate into his next machine. Komptech says that by working closely in partnership with their customers, their machines get better, while at the same time, the end-user’s bottom line is improved.