- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A Mandan man is opening an organic fertilizer plant, making the product with ingredients found close to home.

Using knowledge from his background in forestry within his own vegetable garden, Derek Lowstuter has spent years toying with different forms of organic fertilizer. And once he had his list of preferred ingredients he discovered, “North Dakota is one of the best sources of the main components.”

Black Bison organic fertilizer pellets include a low grade lignite called leonardite, found in North Dakota’s coal mines, that acts as a long-lasting biostimulant to improve soil structure; biochar from pine trees destroyed by beetle kill in Colorado and South Dakota; and oilseed waste left after the oil has been extracted, The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/2jXkoEv ) reported.

Lowstuter said, while there is already organic fertilizer products on the shelves, what will set his apart is it’s “sourced responsibly.” A lot of organic fertilizers have to travel thousands of miles, making it more “energy intensive” and adding to pollution.

“This is going to be unique,” he said. “If there was something similar I’d already be buying it. It’s just my good fortune I can benefit that the ingredients in the mix are in North Dakota and are fairly easily to access.”

Lowstuter is building his fertilizer plant northeast of Menoken. He’s moving a 100-year-old farmhouse onto the property. That, along with a pole barn, will serve as the production facility, mixing old with new the same way his fertilizer will mix traditional agriculture with new technology.

In the future, he also plans to add some renewable energy, whether that is wood gasification, wind, solar or geothermal, to power his milling equipment in an effort to make his product even more environmentally friendly.

“Some of my specialized equipment sucks a fair amount of power,” he said. “Hopefully we can offset some of that on site.”

Lowstuter said he is not sure what the demand will be for his product, which will have a higher price point than traditional fertilizer, but he’s definitely had interest. The question is how much.

He knows some local organic producers and has had conversations with the Bisman Community Food Co-op. He hopes to also get into local nurseries. He’s hopeful others have had the same thoughts for their own gardens that his product will be able to fulfill.

Black Bison has multiple products targeted to different needs. One is broad spectrum with macro and micro nutrients. Another has beneficial bacteria allowing roots to better access water and fight off fungi and bugs. There’s also one with a compost amendment to improve aeration and compost production, one for iron deficient soils and one for phosphorous and other micronutrients to improve nutritional value.

The packaging is made of recycled material and is recyclable. And the 40 acres where the production facility is being built leaves space for expansion or to potentially grow some of its own ingredients.

Weather has set back construction but Lowstuter expects to be operational by March.

“Were making it happen,” he said.

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