Eco Partners has billions of little helpers who need to be kept happy — microorganisms that break down substances that would’ve formerly been landfilled.
“We are a provider of substrates to multiple digesters throughout the Midwest,” Eco Partners owner Tim Cole says. Much of the material is starch to be added to anaerobic digestion (AD), while other material heads to industrial composting facilities.
What was previously thought to be waste good only for the landfill goes in one end of the process, and out the other end comes ethanol, methane, and material that can be used for animal feeds and soil augmentation.
The quality and amount of useful output all depends on the billions of microorganisms working in the digesters/composters. To meet the rising demands of this work and the needs of their little helpers, Eco Partners has hired specialists who understand microbiology.
Their biggest jobs of 2018 have involved AD and composting, Cole says. By knowing the science, “we can not only help our vendor, but our customers at the same time…. We’re helping them to optimize their operation based on the science.”
Profitability is all in the mix. “Let’s assume that the facility is producing 80% of the volume of gasses it’s potentially capable of producing. Well, that extra 20% that they might achieve is what really could afford them true profit, because their operating costs are going to remain the same, but now we’re just going to enhance that business.”
By tweaking the mix of what goes into the process, “we’re going to enhance your productivity. Because now we understand the science — we know what’s lacking, we know what nutrients you need, we know what solids percentage to change, I mean all of these different things that affect that science. Which ultimately means optimization,” Cole says.
But understanding the science, “we add a little more value — we’re not just somebody who’s bringing them stuff,” he says. “We can tell them, ‘this is why you want this material,’ as opposed to just coming to them and say ‘I think you should take this, or I think you should recycle this material for us and charge us the normal fee,'” he says.
“No, it’s a little bit different. We’re coming to them and saying, ‘here’s why we think you want this material, it’s especially relevant to your mix.'”