In 2008, while volunteering at Grow Pittsburgh's Braddock Farm, we asked the question: "If we expect urban farming to produce about half our city's diet, how much compost are we going to need?"
We quickly learned that it will probably never be enough and that most of our food scraps are thrown away never to be seen again. This was the inspiration for an 8-year journey to start a compost business that could directly support a thriving, sustainable, local-food economy here in Pittsburgh.
In 2014 we asked for help from many of the people we've met along the way, and SCS turned into a cooperative model in which people could learn, work, and join in on the compost fun. Since then we've developed about 10 worker-owners who have pledged their time in exchange for ownership in the compost co-op.
This cooperative model was one of the reasons we have made it this far. Now with this campaign, we are trying to get equipment needed to save labor hours and create a viable product.
Risks and challenges
We have been making compost for many years now. Currently we process waste from 4 restaurants and cafes. Over the years our challenge was to make the best compost possible. We achieved this goal by free labor. All of us have put in unpaid hours, and now we are making lots of excellent compost.
Now that we have achieved that goal we realized the fact: Each cubic yard of compost takes about 20 hours of labor to produce and deliver. At this rate, we would need to charge over $600 per cubic yard to break even.
Any system that runs on unpaid labor has the risk of failing when the workers are burned out or busy. We are also at our physical limit, so we can't increase the amount we are making without adding more people.
Now that we know how to make the best compost, our challenge is to create a small system which can reduce the number of hours it takes to make our compost. If we can make more with less, the system will be economically sustainable through sales and we will be able to collect from more restaurants.
With this kickstarter, we plan on getting equipment to quadruple our production (12 restaurants) with the same number of labor hours. This will get us closer to our goal of becoming financially sustainable.
After a proof-of-concept project is completed, our challenge will be to scale up effectively to a size that makes business sense.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)