Business: MW Horticulture Recycling
In business since: 2013
Location: Fort Myers, Florida
Doosan machines: DX225LC-3 (three) and DX300LC-5 crawler excavators; attachments include buckets and hydraulic clamps
Doosan dealer: Bobcat of Fort Myers
While composting material is not scarce, how often do you hear it referred to as “black gold”? That is what Mark and Denise Houghtaling call the premium compost their company produces at two facilities in southwest Florida.
The Houghtaling’s company — MW Horticulture Recycling — has been elevated to an elite class of commercial compost manufacturers by the prestigious U.S. Composting Council because the Houghtalings invest the time, effort and money to produce and test a safe and beneficial product.
While not all compost is alike, the same can be said about heavy equipment, according to Mark, who believes Doosan equipment is the best.
He has operated almost every piece of equipment that is available and rates the company’s four Doosan crawler excavators a step up from all the rest in power, reach, efficiency and bottom-line economics.
The excavators typically work more than nine hours a day, five days a week and six hours on Saturdays. The fast, agile units spend most of the time loading the grinding and screening equipment at the firm’s locations in South and North Fort Myers. The excavators also fill trucks hauling material out and occasionally separate the material as it is dropped off.
With best-in-the-business equipment and superior dealer support, along with a combination of science and a streamlined manufacturing process, the company has become a leader in producing premium compost, selling to some of the nation’s major green-industry enterprises.
Discovering an opportunity
When the Houghtalings discovered an abandoned site on Thomas Road in South Fort Myers in 2013, all they saw was a lot with 400,000 yards of unprocessed green waste piled up. The company that previously operated the 11-acre mulch facility was gone and so was all of the equipment. Almost immediately after inspecting the location, Mark labeled the organic waste “black gold.” The material, he reasoned, could be turned into compost, mulch and other products.
“When we took over, much of the waste material had been here for some time and was already starting to break down,” Mark says. “As a result, we were able to start making good compost within about 60 days.”
During the first year in business, the company’s composting efforts were based on trial and error to get the science right. The Houghtalings talked with a lot of people in the business, including University of Florida experts and the local extension service, and attended classes.
“Initially, we were not sure how good our product was,” Mark says. “After the University of Florida called it outstanding, we knew we were on to something. Others had the same reaction.”
There is plenty of activity on a typical day at the MW Horticulture Recycling facilities. Regular customers — landscapers, tree firms, lawn service, site work and land-clearing companies — deliver their green material. It is dumped at a single location and is quickly sorted by machines. Green waste and palm trees are ground up to begin the composting process.
At that point, Mark begins to work his magic on the 300,000 to 400,000 cubic yards of material on hand at any one time between the two sites. During the six to eight months (much longer than many others in the industry) it takes to make a premium compost, he follows very strict guidelines for checking the piles, turning, watering, getting air to them, heating, cooling, and combining old and new material.
The goal is to maintain a temperature between 110 degrees F and 165 degrees F during the entire manufacturing process. Maps and daily logs help him keep a close watch on the compost.
“Mark has the science of producing premium compost down,” Denise says. “We go through the process the right way, taking the time to ensure quality. That’s why our nutrient values are off the charts.”
While the Houghtalings have a successful formula for producing premium compost, they also rely on best-in-class equipment such as their Doosan excavators to help achieve their goals efficiently and economically.
“Bobcat of Fort Myers, our local dealer, understands that we are similar to a manufacturing plant — if one piece of the puzzle goes down, everything stops,” Denise says. “The reliability of the excavators is outstanding and the support we receive is invaluable. When we find a dealer and manufacturer that we like, we stick with them. Our Doosan machines are doing an excellent job for us.”
Initially, the Houghtalings were a little hesitant about Doosan equipment because they had not heard much about the company. That quickly changed once they demoed a DX225LC-3. “We tried it for two or three hours and then asked ‘where do we sign?’” Denise says. “We have never looked back.”
The three user-friendly DX225LC-3 excavators have given the Houghtalings years of solid performance.
More recently, MW Horticulture added a DX300LC-5 with bucket and hydraulic clamp. This robust machine has the power to handle bigger loads of waste material, compost and mulch at the facility.
“These are very solid, strong and dependable machines,” Denise says. “Superior fuel efficiency and operator comfort make the excavators a very good fit for our needs. They fit our budget perfectly, especially with all they can do.”