Warren Etches, left, and Mark Limpert, two of four partners with Limpert Environmental, have been churning out straw matts and wattles for erosion control since July. Soon they will start marketing their flagship product: Buff Stuff, a patent-pending buffalo-manure compost blend.
Litchfield, Minn. — A central Minnesota company is being built on buffalo manure and straw.
In a few months, Limpert Environmental expects to start marketing “Buff Stuff” — a patent-pending buffalo-manure compost blend — for mulch and fertilizer. In the meantime, the company is producing straw mats and wattles for erosion control.
“The ‘Buff Stuff’ mulch will be our flagship product because it is unique … it’s a great growing medium,” says Warren Etches, Limpert Environmental president and partner. “It’s an all-natural product that contains no chemicals.”
“But the first phase of our business plan is the development of our straw products,” which creates cash flow for the company, allowing development time to get the Buff Stuff products to market.
Two of the company’s partners, brothers Mark and Sandy Limpert, grew up on their family’s western South Dakota ranch. Sandy, who still ranches, became an expert at composting buffalo manure. Over the past eight years he perfected a process involving the bisons’ diet and controlled composting to produce a quality growing medium for plants.
North Dakota bison rancher Wayne Buchholz, adopted the compost process and later became a company partner.
“The buffalo compost is pretty specialized,” says Mark Limpert, executive vice president. “We’ve perfected the way the animals are fed because it affects what comes out the other end. The compost process affects it as well.”
Expanding the bison line
In 2006, Mark Limpert met with Alan Doering at AURI’s coproducts lab in Waseca. They evaluated various blends of ag products and composted bison manure to make hydroseeding mulch.
Liquid hydroseeding mulch is sprayed on slopes and exposed areas to spur plant growth, stabilize the soil and reduce erosion. Limpert and Doering found a winning combination and identified blends that had potential for future products.
“They’ve taken the idea and run with it,” Doering says. “The fact that they are utilizing various agricultural coproducts in their products definitely raises the value.”
While the buffalo product line, including hydroseeding mulch, seed-and-compost-impregnated straw mats and bagged premium compost, is not on the market yet, Limpert Environmental has been churning out straw erosion-control products since July.
Mark Limpert is trained in civil engineering and has worked in the Twin Cities area on erosion and sediment control projects for engineering firms.
In June, Limpert Environmental took possession of a large complex in Litchfield being vacated by a computer-component manufacturer. The next month, after building modifications and the installation of German-engineered equipment, the company started producing erosion-control mats and tubes called
wattles made from straw.
“Wattles are essentially straw logs held together with photodegradable netting that can be staked to the
ground to prevent sediment runoff,” Limpert says. “The straw mats are used for erosion control and
slope stabilization, but they also help reduce dust pollution.”
The mats and wattles are expected to provide an annual market for 3,000 tons of Minnesota-grown straw. “We are looking to build long-term relationships with growers,” Etches says.
Etches says his company is looking for consistent supplies of clean, dry straw bales that have been stored in shelters and contain long fibers for the wattles and mats.
But the straw products are just the beginning, Etches says. “We want to be multi-faceted and produce more than one product.”
Etches, a CPA who joined the company in March after years as a manufacturing senior executive, uses a calculated approach to growth.
“Our objective is to have 40-plus employees this time next year,” Etches says. “The community has been very supportive. They want us here.”