Perdue Farms boosting composting operations

A $12 million investment will increase company's agricultural byproduct recycling capabilities.

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January 20, 2017

Perdue Farms  has expanded its $68 million investment in nutrient recycling on Delmarva, Maryland, with the addition of a $12 million capital investment in a composting operation. The AgriSoil composting facility, which started operation next to Perdue AgriRecycle’s organic fertilizer plant in Blades, Delaware, increases the company’s capacity to handle surplus poultry litter from Delmarva chicken farms and adds the capability to recycle other agricultural byproducts that were previously land-applied.

AgriSoil can compost poultry litter, nutrient-rich by-products such as treated biosolids from poultry plant wastewater and organic material such as soybean stems. With the addition of the composting operation, Perdue expects to nearly double the amount of litter and byproducts recycled and relocated to an estimated 80,000 tons per year.

Perdue AgriRecycle, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2016, already handled more than a billion pounds of poultry litter.

“Our company depends upon farmers, and we all want to protect the Bay,” says Randy Day, Perdue Farms’ COO. “The $80 million we’ve spent so far on nutrient recycling demonstrates our commitment to supporting the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture and family farms on Delmarva.”

Just as with poultry litter, most of these other by-products have been land applied, presenting the same risk for nutrient run-off. “Fifteen years ago, Perdue saw the coming need for an environmentally friendly alternative to land application of poultry litter and built Perdue AgriRecycle,” says Steve Levitsky, Perdue Farms’ vice president of sustainability. “Now, we’re taking the same proactive approach to a broader range of byproducts.”

The AgriSoil process mixes raw material with wood and water from Perdue AgriRecycle’s scrubbers. A special fabric covers the mixture, trapping odors and promoting a natural composting function that breaks down the mixture and destroys pathogens and weed seeds. The process takes 60-70 days, naturally heating to 140 to 165 degrees for an extended period of time. The end result is a high-quality composted soil amendment high in organic matter.

The final product will be marketed for commercial use and to distributors of consumer lawn-and-garden products. The compost is especially good for improving sandy soils, restoring depleted soils and as a seedbed.