STARTUP PROFILE - Plant Nutrition Technologies: From Mine Waste to Soil Gold
Posted on March 09, 2017 16:22 PM by sthara
The discovery of gold nuggets in California in the late 1840s is arguably one of the most significant events that shaped American history. Now, Plant Nutrition Technologies, Inc. is looking to bring the Gold Rush back to America…through farming.
Plant Nutrition Technologies has developed an ecologically-sound process that converts mine waste into bio-mineral fertilizers, which it claims creates healthier and stronger plants that bear more robust fruits and vegetables. The firm says micronutrient-rich product also results in higher yields of quality crops and helps create plants with greater resistance to disease and insect damage.
“When we began, our primary goal was to remove the mine and mill waste that was left all around the states from the Silver and Gold Rush eras,” said Dennis Amoroso, CEO and chairman of Plant Nutrition Technologies. “When this waste mixes with acid rain from rain, snow or fog, it damages our lands and rivers. We wanted to fix that.”
How it Works
As the company embarked on its journey to clean up the earth, officials were soon posed with the question of where to dispose of the waste. Plant Nutrition Technologies came up with an innovative solution: use the residual materials to enrich soil on farmland to create super plants.
“The by-product of our process is rich with micro nutrients needed to remediate and amend depleted farmland,” said Amoroso.
He explained that, over time, farmland get stripped of critical nutrients because they are being passed along to the fruits, vegetables and nuts that are being harvested. These nutrient values must be replaced; synthetic fertilizers (fertilizers whose chemistry consists mainly of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) only provide nutrients for plant growth but do not sustain the soil. That’s where Plant Nutrition Technologies’ bio-conversion process comes in.
During the process, Rock Powder, a blend of the raw materials left from the mining eras, is combined with natural elements, such as bio-mass, manure, wood ash and various types of bacteria, to create a soil bio-mineralizing and regenerative fertilizer. The microbes from this fertilizer inhabit the soil, reach directly into the root system and provide better nutrition than synthetic fertilizers.
“Sometimes with synthetics fertilizers, the soil becomes immune to regeneration. We want to help farm owners reduce the input of synthetic fertilizer or to completely eliminate it. Our product is the only product on the market that can replace synthetic,” said Amoroso.
Advancing Science, Innovation and Sustainability
Plant Nutrition Technologies currently offers three products—PoweRoc, BioRoc, and RocTea—and has joined the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology (WGCIT) to enhance the firm’s offerings. PoweRoc and BioRoc are a blend of several different nutritious mineral-rich Rock Powders and can be mixed in with a compost pile or added to the soil several times throughout the growing season. RocTea is the liquid from a blend of several different nutritious mineral-rich Rock Powders and waste produce and can be applied directly on mature plants during the growing season.
As one of 26 residents in the WGCIT, Plant Nutrition Technologies collaborates with other residents on how to advance agtech and provide farmers with the technologies they need to produce the highest quality of food in the most sustainable way.
“The Center has provided a supportive environment where we have successfully interacted with many people who directly benefit from the use of our product in California agricultural industries,” said Amoroso. “Because of the Center, we’ve been able to connect with individuals that we never could have had the opportunity to connect with before and have been afforded opportunities with the media that we would not have had without Western Growers.”
Prioritizing Sustainability and the Environment
In addition to developing a solution that regenerates soils to create super plants, the company has also made a positive environmental impact. Through synergistic alliances with land owners, city, county, and state governing bodies, Plant Nutrition Technologies develops and implements operational plans for the removal and processing of tailings dumps, tailings ponds, and other sources of waste materials.
The company is currently working with the state of Nevada to clean up 300 million tons of mine waste leftover from the 1850s Gold and Silver Rush in Nevada. Through an innovative process, the company is removing 100 percent of the lead and mercury from the waste and will convert the elements into bio-mineral fertilizer, making it available to farmers.
The company’s environmental impact is overwhelmingly positive; they restore properties to their owners and eliminate hazards such as heavy metals from watersheds. “We are improving the environment by pulling the waste material out of environment and cleaning up the runoff that is damaging groundwater and the lands,” said Amoroso.
Editor's Note: This article was published in WG&S Magazine in January/February 2017.