Front Range

Pine-Solved

How beetle-kill trees can make your garden grow.

April 2013

Andre Roy’s trademarked organic fertilizer isn’t that different from plant matter that has naturally decomposed over decades in the forest—except that Roy can produce his so-called Soil Primer in two hours.
The retired 58-year-old, who owns 40 acres of forest northwest of Fort Collins, was looking for a way to dispose of the pine-beetle ravaged trees on his property and make a few bucks in the process. Turns out, a typical Colorado tree holds years’ worth of nutrients drawn from the soil. (Some experts argue that beetle-kill trees should remain in the forest so they can decompose and enrich the ground.)
No commercially viable method of turning sap-filled fiber into fertilizer existed, so Roy invented a contraption that does just that. He calls his method Static Enhanced Processing (SEP). How it works: Roy feeds chipped trees into the machine, which uses static electricity to dry out the timber. The chips eventually crumble into a fine, nutrient-rich powder, which Roy packages and sells as Soil Primer. Unlike chemical fertilizers, which are commonly composed of nitrogen, Soil Primer contains a mix of 27 nutrients such as zinc and iron. Think of it as organic steroids for your garden.
Small, organic farms across the country have begun using Soil Primer, but, so far, the pine powder has yet to displace the corporate giant Miracle-Gro, and larger farms still prefer cheap blasts of nitrogen. The technology’s biggest impact may be in developing countries. In the past, Roy worked with a nonprofit that brought SEP to Africa to help small villages battle chronic soil depletion. But SEP could still impact the U.S. market, says James Self of Colorado State University’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. “Someone could use SEP,” Self says, “to take all kinds of waste products, like manure from huge feed lots, and turn them into something useful—turn them into money-makers.” millcreekweb.com

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Percentage of Soil Primer sales Andre Roy donates to the Growe Foundation, a Longmont nonprofit that teaches kids ways to care for the environment. growefoundation.org