ReNewtrient: Chicken litter transformed

Wright County eager to dispense with fly problem

CLARION — A company intending to turn chicken droppings into a more environmentally friendly organic fertilizer is looking to locate its $25 million facility in Wright County, according to Bryce Davis, Eagle Grove city administrator.

Ryan Brandt, a representative of ReNewtrient 1 LLC, presented that company’s proposed development to the Wright County Board of Supervisors on Monday.

“They will be taking raw material from egg laying facilities and will be doing a two-part fertilizer, dry and liquid, which will be certified organic,” Davis said.

According to Davis, the plant’s processes may cut down on flies in the county.

“We are hoping because they are reducing the moisture content from 40 percent on average to 10 percent, the manure will no longer be at a stage where it’s OK for fly breeding,” he said. “We are hoping it will reduce the fly population.”

He added, “Because this product is organic, it cannot be outside. It has to be under covered storage at all times, which means it will reduce the in-the-field storage that we see right now where there is no place to bring the litter, so it gets left in the field until land application time. This will hopefully reduce that because of the production process and what has to be done. That’s our hope, is that will reduce the flies and have a better environmental impact and we will be able to regulate it better.”

Davis left his position as the Wright County economic development director to become Eagle Grove’s city administrator in December, but a transition agreement between him, the city of Eagle Grove, and Wright County allows him to work in both capacities for the next six months.

The proposed location for the plant is about 10 miles southeast of Clarion. The site is about a quarter-mile west of the U.S. Highway 69 and 275th Street intersection.

A new processing facility, administration office, lab, outside containment areas and truck disinfectant bay would be built there.

If approved by supervisors, construction could begin in the next 60 days. It’s projected to take one year to have the plant built and ready for operations.

“There will be no electrical cogeneration,” Davis said. “It will be certified organic, which will allow organic markets to purchase that product for their fertilizer needs. It will be regulated as fertilizer, instead of right now, poultry manure.”

The development would deliver up to 12 new jobs to the area.

According to Davis, the average hourly wage per employee would be about $24 per hour.

ReNewtrient would work with Farm Nutrients LLC, of Rembrandt.

According to Davis, Farm Nutrients has contracts with poultry facilities throughout Wright County and northwest Iowa.

Stan Watne, chairman of the Wright County Board of Supervisors, said Farm Nutrients would supply the chicken litter.

ReNewtrient would take the chicken litter from Farm Nutrients, process it and sell it back to Farm Nutrients to sell to the market, which would be organic farmers.

Inside the processing facility, manure would be brought in and sorted before being shipped back out as fertilizer.

“The litter comes in one side and gets crushed, all of the nonideals will get shifted out of there,” Davis said. “It will be put on a conveyor belt, it will be heated and shaken again, so it’s an ideal size. This will make sure it has an easier land application. It will be stored, moved, and stored again under covered storage.”

He added, “The trucks that move the product out will be covered. There will be a liquid product, which will be put into liquid tankers and shipped to customers.”

The ammonia from the manure will be turned to liquid nitrogen.

“Our goal with this project is they will be siphoning off the ammonia from the manure, which will have greater environmental benefits because the ammonia does not go into the atmosphere as much,” Davis said.

Watne believes the plant will make a difference in combating the county’s fly issues.

“We hope this will go a long ways to helping our fly problem we have in the spring,” Watne said. “When you spread chicken litter, it’s kind of a natural fly thing and you just throw it in the field. That’s always when it’s the worst is right before it gets worked into the ground and you get crops coming, in April and May. This will be all dried out and hauled out of here.”

The manure would be moved out of barns more often, according to Watne.

“This will be healthier for everything,” Watne said. “To keep those chicken houses current. We will get away from some of those outdoor piles — not all of them, but we can get away from some of those. That’s kind of a natural fly heaven right there.”

Watne said the project appears to have the support of the community.

“Last fall we brought in neighbors and landowners and it was unanimous in thinking it would be great to help with the fly problem to get that manure dried out,” Watne said. “It also kills all the pathogens. The other thing they wanted to keep those manure trucks off of gravel and keep them on 69 and this new road.”

Supervisor Karl Helgevold is also supportive of the project.

“I think the technology that’s out there — if we can control the litter and not spread it, it should reduce flies,” Helgevold said. “Once you put it in a fertilizer form, it’s value added. If it can eliminate flies it would be a wonderful thing.”

Helgevold added, “I think anytime we can add value to chicken litter that’s great.”

Davis said this development has been about two years in the making.

The company has obtained the necessary permits from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Wright County.

The county’s obligations for the project are still being hammered out.

Watne said his main concern is a stretch of road on 275th Street.

“Right now it’s on a gravel road and we need to have that concrete because right now that road is taking a beating,” he said. “We need to make sure we can get 2,000 feet of concrete highway to handle the increase in truck traffic. I hope we get that ironed out. That will make the whole thing work better. That’s the big thing I’m concerned about. We want 2,000 feet of that just to service the plant.”

Davis said the cost to improve that road would be at least $425,000.

According to Davis, ReNewtrient would pay taxes in the range of about $55,000 annually based on its assessed valuation.

Davis said officials seem to be on the same page with the project.

“The feeling I got from supervisors when the company first presented it, we have met with landowners nearby, we have met with different boards — the planning and zoning, the board of adjustment,” he said. “From the feelings of those conversations, everyone can see the value this brings to Wright County. It’s a value-added agriculture product.”

He added, “The supply chain from which would help out other agriculture companies that do business in Wright County. They will bring in high-paying jobs to the area, but most importantly, the environmental aspects to this and the potential to decrease any type of pests, with flies. If they can decrease that, then we are willing to take the risk to look at this company from a due diligence standpoint.”

At least one public hearing on the project will be held in the weeks ahead.

Helgevold is anticipating the project moving forward.

“In the next few weeks we will work out a development agreement and go forward,” he said. “The board is pretty excited. It could solve a lot of problems.”