July 11, 2023 | Composting, Facilities, Food Waste, Markets, Soil Health

Florida Composter Awarded USDA Fertilizer Grant

Top: The Compost Jax facility is expanding its composting pad and upgrading its equipment with funds from the USDA fertilizer production grant.

Sunshine Organics and Compost, LLC in Jacksonville, Florida, has been awarded a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Fertilizer Production Expansion Program (FPEP) to become a state-of-the-art facility with efficient equipment and a delivery service to serve more farmers. The grant will enable Sunshine Organics and Compost to provide innovative composting and biochar products that reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and improve soil quality. “Our goal has always been to make a positive impact on the agricultural sector, the environment, and the local community,” says Mike Kelcourse, founder of Sunshine Organics and Compost. “We are excited to take our operations to the next level.” Its composting facility in Jacksonville does business as Compost Jax.

The USDA FPEP grant program is aimed at expanding or bringing into operation new, independent domestic production capacity, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 714c(b), to “make available materials and facilities required in connection with the production and marketing of agricultural commodities (other than tobacco).” The program is particularly interested in supporting projects that are in the later stages of development, technically feasible, financially viable, and that have already identified other sources of funding. Sunshine Organics and Compost started in 2020 and opened its composting and biochar facility in 2022.

Biochar is made from cyprus wood scraps. Photos courtesy of Sunshine Organics and Compost.

“We learned about the grant in April but had to wait until USDA did a formal announcement before we could speak publicly about it,” explains Kelcourse. “We’ve already started building out the infrastructure to upgrade the facility and have expanded our concrete pad area by 1.5 times the current size, which is our windrow area. Bunker walls and an aerated static pile system will be built before the end of the year, which will allow us to triple compost production. New biochar equipment is on order to replace our two kilns. We selected a 5-train ARTi biochar machine that will produce between 6,000 to 8,000 tons of biochar annually. Now we are only producing  between 500 to 1,000 tons annually.” Scrap cyprus wood is used to make the biochar. Upgrades also are being made to the existing equipment, including grinders, shredders, wheel loaders, and excavators. “All grant-funded items should be purchased, operational, and increasing our production within 2 years,” he adds. “Sunshine’s new delivery service will ensure that farmers in need of compost and biochar will receive timely and efficient delivery of these products, making it easier for them to enhance soil health.”

Compost Jax accepts pre and postconsumer vegetative food waste bakery and dairy products, yard trimmings, BPI-certified compostable foodservice ware and other materials.

Compost Jax has a Florida Department of Environmental Protection solid waste permit. Feedstocks accepted include pre and postconsumer vegetative food waste and bakery products, dairy products, agricultural and forestry waste, yard trimmings, BPI-certified compostable foodservice ware and liner bags, soiled paper, pizza boxes and more. Food manufacturing residuals are received from local companies including spent brewery grains, eggplant breading, and bread waste. The company offers organics collection services.


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