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He Figured Out How To Pelletize Straw
Dave Simpson says that figuring out how to pelletize straw wasn’t easy but now that the process is in place, pellet markets are expanding quickly. He started Midwestern First Choice Bedding only 3 years ago. He now has customers across the country from Washington State to Puerto Rico. Pellet markets include environmental restoration, horse stalls, lawn and garden mulch, and will soon include kitty litter.
“We have a pretty good business supplying mushroom producers, too,” adds Simpson. “We are also planning to launch barley straw pellets for the control of algae in ponds.”
Straw has been Simpson’s passion for more than 30 years. He started baling straw and selling it to local landscapers at the age of 15. That was with a tractor and baler he borrowed from a farmer he had gone to work for at the age of 13. The business grew as Simpson grew older.
“We got up to 150,000 small square bales a year,” recalls Simpson.
At one point he was baling straw on 10,000 acres from northern Kentucky, across Indiana to southern Michigan and into Illinois. When he lost a major customer on a road construction job, Simpson decided to diversify. He made a million-dollar investment in pelletizing equipment from Germany.
“I thought we had the right equipment and process, but it didn’t work as promised,” says Simpson. “I had to figure things out for myself, make changes and find local fabricators to make parts.”
It took 3 years, but Simpson feels like he is hitting his stride, and new markets are finding him.
“We had a company that cleans up environmental problems buy our pellets by the semi load,” he says. “They needed to soak up the water in a pond so they could work on it.
“We dye pellets green for another customer, who spreads them when planting grass,” adds Simpson. “They look green as they break down and help hold the soil as the grass gets established.”
Pellets have proven popular for absorption and reduced dust at livestock shows, as well as in barns and even in the home. One customer raved about the pellets for her guinea pigs. A stable owner claimed bedding waste was reduced from 50 to as much as 75 percent. Another said when they cleaned it out of their stable, the broken-down pellets went into their compost and then to their gardens.
Storage space is also reduced with the pellets. Simpson estimates that ten to fifteen 40-lb. bags can replace 25 average small square bales.
Simpson prices the pellets at $5 per bag or $4.75 a bag on a pallet of 50 bags. Those are direct sales from his warehouse. Due to shipping and handling costs, prices at dealers (currently from Iowa to Pennsylvania) can run as high as $8 to $9 per bag.
Simpson is looking for dealers and continues to explore new markets. He needs to. The straw entrepreneur is still baling straw on 7,000 to 10,000 acres each summer. That makes a lot of pellets.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, 6343 N 200 W, Sharpsville, Ind. 46068 (ph 765 438-2011; simpsonpelletizing@gmail.com; https://midwestern-first-choice-bedding.business.site).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #3