AURI Connects: Fields of Innovation Innovator Profiles is a Q&A series with Minnesota entrepreneurs who have partnered with AURI to build capacity and successfully commercialize new crop and livestock opportunities, including new traits for existing crops.
Q&A with Brad Matsuka, co-owner of Mississippi Topsoils
AURI: For those who may not be familiar, what should people know about your business/product?
BM: Mississippi Topsoils makes its products under the brand name Soil Essentials. Soil Essentials is created using environmentally sustainable methods and all-natural ingredients. Our core business model is to use composting to turn agricultural waste products into value-added soil amendments that result in an extraordinary growing experience for our customers.
AURI: When and why did you decide to turn this passion into a business?
BM: My mother was an entrepreneur and I witnessed her passion and success for many years. In addition, my time at St. John’s University (Collegeville, MN) in pursuit of a biology degree instilled in me the Benedictan value of environmental stewardship. I gained some industry experience right after college and discovered an opportunity to turn a waste product from a local poultry producer into compost. It started with an idea that grew under the guidance of our co-founder Math Miller, and in 1998, Mississippi Topsoils was born. It all made so much sense, but it would not have happened without Mr. Miller. We had a lot of help along the way including some technical and marketing assistance from our friends at AURI.
AURI: What is the story behind the name of your business?
BM: If you put a canoe in the river behind our facility, you will be at the Mississippi River in a few hours. The thought of the Mississippi River summons ideas of history, discovery, commerce, adventure and place – just to name a few. In addition, the topsoil is where all of our food is grown and is the place where most of the Earth’s biological activity takes place. Putting the two concepts together made sense at the time. Our product brand name, Soil Essentials, was the result of a brainstorming session with our staff in the early years. Our goal was to be clear that you need this stuff to have an extraordinary growing experience. After 24 years, I’m not sure if we accomplished that or not, but we are sure trying.
AURI: What are some of the reasons someone might purchase your product(s)?
BM: Honestly, our products are not for everybody. They are not the cheapest out there and the features they have may not be important to the end user. However, if a homeowner or commercial grower wants to give soil the optimal physical, biological and chemical characteristics to grow healthy plants, our products are right for them.
AURI: What is the toughest part about what you do?
BM: I love what I do. It’s consistent with my values and who I am. As a result, tough spots and challenges are just another opportunity to adapt and learn to make our mission possible. The biggest challenge over the years has been the time it takes to tell our story in a way that resonates with our customers and partners. We’ve had some really lean years over that time but hope to improve on sharing our story in a way that connects with people.
AURI: How can people connect with your business online?
BM: You can visit our website at mississippitopsoils.com.