— A few short years ago a father and son saw a need. “We saw a lot of the farmers struggling with the sandy soils in Southwest Florida, and we thought there could be a better way to increase the yields and keep the farming economy and job growth strong here, while at the same time putting less fertilizer in the ground,” said Tony Cialone, CEO of Environmental Turnkey Solutions, or ETS.
Their goal was to produce an enriched, fortified compost for the farming community. They started the company in 2011, began collecting yard waste in 2012, and by 2013 they were producing compost. Today ETS produces more than 150,000 tons of compost for farmers, horticulture operations and more.
“Compost has always been around, but we can supply the quantities needed. And it’s high-quality compost,” Cialone said. “Customers see the opportunity to increase their yields, recover and re-use plots of land they hadn’t been able to use, and to do it in a sustainable way.”
In addition to the short-term benefit of higher yields, Cialone says his customers see long-term benefits in less field rotation because nutrient levels are maintained, “and the quality of the fruits and vegetables goes up. Compost helps increase brix (the nutrient uptake), which makes the produce more nutritious.”
Compost is full of essential plant nutrients that are released slowly. It buffers the soil, bringing pH levels to the optimum range. It helps bind clusters of soil, called aggregates, which provide good soil structure. “The farmers are using less nitrogen and less water, so that means there is a lot less leeching of nitrogen back into the aquifer and a lot less water consumption,” Cialone said. “The sustainability aspect is very important to not only our customers but their customers. They get to pass forward the benefit of the sustainability practices that can then be attributed to their customers.”
A full list of compost’s benefits can be found in this presentation (link to be embedded), given in April at the University of Florida IFAS Extension Spring Vegetable Field Day.
Before starting ETS, Cialone had been in the recycling business. His father specialized in logistics. The combination of skill sets was instrumental in the new company’s success in that ETS collects the materials used in the compost, produces the compost and distributes it to its customers.
“We provide a collection service for yard waste,” said Cialone. “We’re very selective in the materials we accept. Obviously, what you put in is what you get out. And we control the whole operation from collection to grinding to composting to screening and delivery. That allows us to cut out the middleman and offer the best value with the assurances of quality and consistency.”
All compost is thoroughly tested. ETS works with four nationally known labs to test for nitrogen salts, MPK, pH, maturity, germination and more. “Each lab has a different set of tests,” Cialone said. “We do testing all the way along the process and if any adjustments need to be made – more watering, more turning, et cetera – we’re able to adjust and have a very consistent, uniform product day in and day out.”
The company’s products are listed and registered organic following the strict protocols and testing standards established by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, OMRI and the U.S. Composting Council.
Cialone says each of his customers enjoys a tailor-made application program. “Someone may want a finer compost; some may want it a little coarser. Citrus may want something skewed more toward a nominal half-inch , but tomatoes may need only a quarter-inch. So we have the ability to change some of the physical characteristics like size, bulk density and particle distribution, and recommend application methods and quantities. But the chemical characteristics of our compost remain consistent.”
In order to get started with compost, Cialone encourages growers to contact him and arrange for soil testing. “We’ll perform soil tests so we get a good profile of their nitrogen, potassium, calcium, pH, salts, sandiness, et cetera,” he said. Once that’s completed, ETS will recommend how many tons per acre are needed and how it should be applied – whether a grower should use broadcast or band spreading – and create a multi-year plan. “We do customer-specific, soil-specific testing so we can customize every application to the particular field and location,” Cialone said.
Growers interested in learning more about using compost in their operations may contact Tony Cialone at Environmental Turnkey Solutions, LLC, 999 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 200, Naples, Florida 34108.
Tel: 239 325 1855
Learn more at the company’s website here.