Breckenridge couple brew up compost tea company
July 5, 2014
The back of the yellow, renovated moving van looks like something from season one of "Breaking Bad."
With the back rolled up, a dark brown liquid slowly sloshes in a 275-gallon tank.
Inside the tank is Manfred Herrmann's special blend. He uses this mobile lab to brew his own formula of aerated organic compost tea.
He can travel anywhere with this setup and spray his compost tea directly onto lawns, gardens, golf courses or any other type of landscaping. He also has a device allowing him to do deep root injection, shooting the potent fertilizer directly into plant root balls.
"This compost tea is a much better fertilizer than something like Miracle Gro you have to reapply every two weeks," Herrmann said. "Once it's in the soil it continues to work. It is much more sustainable."
Herrmann, who holds advanced degrees in engineering from his home country of Germany, has devoted most of his professional life to industrial engineering. He's designed conveyor systems at locations around the globe, from the Carolinas to the Middle East.
His wife Claudia Wintergerst also comes from a high tech background. She spent nine years in sales with Apple during the company's early years, and five more with another high tech start-up.
But now, both have traded in their hardware for green thumbs.
Last month the Breck couple founded a company called ComposTeaology, LLC. Herrman describes himself as a compostealogist. He brews it almost like he's making a giant serving of Lipton. He fills a mesh net with 16 to 18 pounds of compost. He then brews it in his mobile lab for 24 hours, adding any kind of special additives like kelp powder or humic acid, depending on the type of batch he's crafting.
But what really sets his tea apart from other organic tea fertilizer is the aeration process he's created.
"I designed and built an aerator that is attached to it," Herrmann said. "It creates an aerobic environment for the compost. The beneficial bacteria stays alive and multiplies in the aerated environment."
The aerobic environment increases the tea's potency by providing extra life to the beneficial bacteria and fungi that live in the tea. Those microbes go on to live inside the soil, and not just give a temporary boost to plants, but actually improve the sustainability and quality of the soil.
"The problem with most soils in this area is that water runs off it too quickly," Herrmann said. "You can dig down just a few inches and the soil quickly dries out."
His compost increases the soil's ability to retain moisture. It allows gardeners and landscapers to get more out of the short growing season of the High Rockies.
Another benefit of using organic compost tea over synthetic fertilizers is that the area where it is applied is immediately safe for pets and children who might wander into the area. It's also a lot easier to apply and lot less backbreaking than stirring solid compost into a thick layer of soil.
"We are really excited about this product and we hope it takes off," Wintergerst said. "People are very interested in being green here. Green is the way of the future. This is one of the greenest products you can use on your yard."
The town of Breckenridge is allowing ComposTeaology to perform a demonstration at their Riverwalk garden from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 8.
Anyone interested is encouraged to attend.
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