Environmental Dust Control tries new ingredients as renewable energy ups the demand for crop oils

Editor’s note: This series updates readers on entrepreneurial ventures featured in past issues of Ag Innovation News. Where are these businesses now? What challenges have they faced? What have they added, deleted and learned about bringing new value-added products to the market?

 

Environmental Dust Control has been using vegetable-oil coproducts since 1996 to make Dustlock, applied to roads and construction sites.

Currie, Minn. — For the past 12 years, Howard Hamilton, Arland Moger and Bob Nelsen have settled more dust ups than Judge Wapner. But in their case, the dust was real.

The owners of Environmental Dust Control have been using vegetable-oil processing coproducts to fight dust since 1996. EDC produces Dustlock, a thick, natural biodegradable liquid used to suppress dust on roads and around construction and industrial sites.

“Our goal is to provide environmentally-safe dust control by using renewable, agriculturally-based, biodegradable resources for dust control and soil stabilization,” says Hamilton, EDC president.

Dustlock has been used on roads and construction sites in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. EDC has even shipped product to Tennessee and Missouri and applies about half a million pounds of Dustlock a year.

When Dustlock is applied to prepared gravel roads or work sites, it penetrates the surface to form a pavement-like crust that lasts for at least a year. Since it is biodegradable, Dustlock has been popular to use in environmentally-sensitive areas.

During 12 years in business, the EDC owners, who also farm in southwest Minnesota, had to adjust to changing times and ingredients. When they started producing Dustlock, soybean soap-stock was the key ingredient. AURI chemist Jerry Crawford, who’s now retired, worked closely with EDC to test and develop formulations. Rising prices and ingredient demand has forced EDC to look at other vegetable-oil coproducts that make economic sense. Since they use commodity-based raw materials, crop-price fluctuations impact their business.

“The high cost of commodities has driven up the cost of what we have to buy,” says Arland Moger. Determining a product’s value is difficult. “We have to analyze the raw products that are offered to see how they will work.”

Hamilton says energy production has changed the market. Acidulated corn and soybean oils, key ingredients in their proprietary formula, are now in high demand. “Suppliers used to almost beg us to

take it, now it’s hard to find,” Hamilton says.

That’s not the only thing that has changed since EDC’s start. An on-line presence has increased calls to their business and they do more work on industrial sites than roadways, primarily for economic reasons. But the entrepreneurial farmers have learned to be flexible.

“It’s been an education at the school of hard knocks,” Bob Nelsen says. Because of continual changes to markets and feedstock supplies, “we’ll always be experimental.”