September 11, 2023 | Composting, Facilities, Food Waste, Operations

Dirt Hugger Founders Reacquire Composting Facility

Top: Dirt Hugger founders Tyler Miller (left) and Pierce Louis (right) are once again owners.

Pierce Louis and Tyler Miller founded Dirt Hugger, a source separated organics composting facility, in 2010. The facility was originally located in The Dalles, Oregon, then moved across the Columbia River in 2014 to its current site in Dallesport, Washington. BioCycle has chronicled Dirt Hugger’s growth over time. An article in 2020 reported the site had been built out to accommodate about 63,000 tons/year of yard trimmings, food waste from residential and commercial generators, and food processing residuals (both solids and liquids).

In July 2022, Atlas Organics announced it acquired Dirt Hugger from Louis and Miller. Atlas itself was acquired in early 2022 by Generate Capital, PBC, and is a Generate Upcycle company. Then, on September 1, 2023, Louis posted on Linkedin that he and Miller had reacquired Dirt Hugger. “Fourteen months after selling Dirt Hugger to Atlas Organics and Generate, Tyler and I have purchased it back. This was not part of the original plan nor wholly expected, but this past year has been a wild ride, offering an educational experience for us and our team. … We’ve had 14 months to see 12 other facilities run, learn from site managers, general managers, and vice-presidents — all things we never had in the past. We will absolutely keep some of our new learnings, especially in the areas of safety, recordkeeping, and compliance.”

In an article in the US Composting Council’s Monthly Flash Compost Communicator, Frank Franciosi, the Council’s executive director, reported that Dirt Hugger’s “reacquisition plan had been in the works since June 2023 and came together quickly after Generate Upcycle floated the idea to Louis and Miller. “Essentially, Generate Upcycle was consolidating operations, and Pierce and Tyler were the first on the list of potential buyers for Dirt Hugger,” wrote Franciosi, adding that one change is installation of dedicated liquid feedstock processing infrastructure to receive up to ten 6,000-lbs loads/day of liquid material.

Dirt Hugger is also expanding its aeration pads to increase its capacity from 62,700/year to 90,000 tons annually while reducing air emissions. The company received a $500,000 grant from Oregon Metro’s Investment and Innovation Program, which it matched with an additional $500,000. According to Oregon Metro, Dirt Hugger processes the greater Portland region’s residential and commercial food waste and yard debris through a designated facility agreement — almost 70% of the composting facility’s incoming organics. Over half of the end products — high quality compost — is sold in the Metro region. Dirt Hugger will work with The Next Door, a social services agency based in the Columbia Gorge, to advance equity in the business by completing a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) assessment of the company’s policies, procedures, work culture and physical environment, and a series of DEI workshops for staff. The project will include development of DEI goals for at least two years after the grant period to ensure the company’s commitment to advancing equity continues beyond the grant.

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