Environmental Protection

From the Top: Q & A with Ed Gildea

Q& A with Ed Gildea

President and Chief Executive Officer Edward J. Gildea explains Converted Organics' mission and how the company hopes to reach its goals.

How did you get started in this field?
The company was originally started by an engineering firm from Pennsylvania called Weston Solutions and ECAP, a company that helps environmental businesses get organized and get started down the path from being a great idea to being a company. In 2001, I was acting as a lawyer for ECAP. I did organizational work and then I got involved in trying to raise funds. When we went public in February of 2007, we had decided I would become the president, because I had experience running other businesses.

I found this company attractive because we take food waste and recycle it and turn it into an organic fertilizer. The business of this business is good for the environment. The product we sell is beneficial; the recycling is an environmental benefit.

What is your company's strength?
If you look at the logic of what our company can do, it’s a very compelling story. We also think we can make a lot of money doing it. We believe there is a large demand in the retail markets, in the turf or golf course market for natural fertilizer products, and homeowners are interested in the idea of a safe nontoxic fertilizer spread around their house. In the agriculture world, the whole concept of live soil is a growing phenomenon. We have products that bring microbial activity back to the soil.

We're not setting out to eliminate all chemical fertilizers, but reduce the use of them.

How does your business work?
Our Gonzales facility has been around eight or nine years. It was started by a different company. We acquired this in January 2008. Before we bought the business, they acquired ingredients to create their fertilizer products. We are changing the plant to make it in the business of taking in food waste. We are in a transition phase, making our capacity known in the marketplace.

Woodbridge, N.J. is the first plant the company completed. We have accepted several hundred tons of waste, operated the process, and produced the product. We're making sure the systems are operating correctly.

We are in production, dealing with 12 different food waste haulers, which ensures a steady supply.

We are just getting out of the development stage mode and into the revenue-generating mode.

Our company also is working to develop other facilities. One in Rhode Island is close to the only landfill in the state. We have a lease for the land, submitted applications for the permits, but the credit markets are not as prepared to accept a bond from a company like ours as they were a year ago.

We are looking at three other sites -- securing rights to use properties, filing for permits in connection with properties. Then we will need to secure financing.

How green is your process?
We recycle food waste instead of disposing of it into landfills. We turn that food into fertilizer that is used to produce more food. Our fertilizer becomes a part of the soil and stays near the roots because it's organic. It does not run off into groundwater. Our product reduces the amount of water used to grow crops. We are as green as a company can be.

Where do you see your company in the future?
My hope would be in next 5 years we will complete four additional plants and be the biggest organic fertilizer manufacturer in the United States. We think we can do it …this is a fragmented marketplace with no dominant players in manufacturing.

Converted Organics in Profile

Size: Converted Organics Inc. is a Boston, Mass.-based company that employs 32 persons. Average revenue over 2006-2008 was $1.5 million; operating costs $13 million during that time.

Activity: Its primary activities are food waste recycling and manufacturing organic fertilizer.

Technology: High Temperature Liquid Composting

Facilities: Gonzales, Calif., and Woodbridge, N.J.

Competition: NatureSafe, Sustain, and Port Organics

Awards: N.J. Board of Public Utilities' Combined Heat and Power Program ranked Converted Organics No. 1 out of seven organizations seeking financial incentives.

Brief history: Converted Organics was incorporated under Delaware laws in January 2006. It merged with Mining Organics Management LLC and Mining Organics Harm River Rail Yard LLC, its predecessor organizations, the following month in transactions accounted for as a recapitalization.

Converted Organics, Inc. is the parent company. It has three subsidiaries: Converted Organics of Woodbridge, LLC; Converted Organics of California LLC; and Converted Organics of Rhode Island LLC.

In the second quarter of 2008, the company transitioned from development stage to operating stage, constructing and operating processing facilities that use food waste to make all-natural solid amendment products.

Environmental regulations: N.J. Department of Environmental Protection Class C recycling permit

In the news: On March 3, the company reported that it shipped 46 tons of Lawn and Turf fertilizer to a major retail distribution chain for the spring growing season.

"Converted Organics is pleased to report that we expect to ship at least 11 tons per day of our organic Lawn and Turf fertilizer to our major retail distribution chain customer for the rest of the week," said Gildea in a press release. "As with any new manufacturing system, we have had to make adjustments to the process in order to achieve our targeted level of operating efficiency. We believe the portion of the newly available funds that will go toward improving the efficiency and productivity of the plant will help us overcome many of the issues associated with running a production system that has never been operated on a commercial scale before. By week's end, we will have shipped over 100 tons of our organic Lawn and Turf fertilizer, an indication that we are resolving these initial challenges."

About the Author

L.K. Williams is the Environmental Group Editor of 1105 Media.

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