Dirt Hugger needs your vote to compete for $25,000 in funding

28 Jun

Vote for Dirt! Vote for Dirt!

Relax. It’s not another local ballot measure. But you can vote. Here’s why you might want to.

You may spend your time getting rid of dirt, but Pierce Louis and Tyler Miller think we need a lot more. Good dirt, that is. They want to make it, and sell it back to people who believe that dirt is life.

You might call them dirt huggers, which wouldn’t hurt their feelings a bit. It is, after all, what they chose to call their startup company — Dirt Hugger LLC.

Based out of their homes in Hood River, Louis and Miller — both former employees of Cloud Cap Technology in Hood River, Louis for three years and Miller for six — are working to create a closed loop for compost.

“We loved working at Cloud Cap,” Louis says. “We really enjoyed working for Ross (Hoag) and Bill (Vaglienti).”

But they had some mental compost cooking up heat. Nights and weekends, they were germinating Dirt Hugger. Miller left Cloud Cap earlier this year, about the time it sold to Goodrich. Louis left a month ago to start hugging dirt full time.

Now Miller is focused on the engineering and site design, Louis handles finance, marketing and sales, and Miller’s girlfriend aims them at potential funding sources. Like the Beat Waste Startup Challenge at Myoo create.

They’ve got a deal with Waste Connections to siphon off all the yard debris from Hood River and Wasco counties, which now goes to composting facilities near Seattle.

Dirt Hugger wants to eliminate that transit cost, accelerate waste decomposition at property near Google in the Port of The Dalles, and sell the compost to gardeners who can’t get enough from their own efforts.

Louis says Waste Connections will pay Dirt Hugger a slightly smaller tipping fee for taking the waste off its hands here, compared to what it pays the composting facility near Seattle. Everybody wins. Waste Connections saves some money, Dirt Hugger makes some money, and we get more compost.

But first they need money — and your vote. Louis says 200 votes at Myoo Create would push them into the final round for a possible grant of $25,000.

That would help them capitalize Dirt Hugger, and begin production.

It’s a feel-good business model. Organic waste in landfills now produces about 40 percent of the nation’s methane gas, one of several undesirable greenhouse gases. Putting that waste into productive growing cycles would sequester carbon in edible plant forms. In a nutshell, their motto could be: Eat … to beat global warming.

Dirt Hugger is starting small. Louis says Hood River County produces about 210,000 tons of organic waste each year — most of it forest biomass, and another big chunk on farms.

“We’re hoping to do 2,000 tons of compost the first year, and 3,000 tons by the third year,” Louis says.

Their startup site in The Dalles has a bit of a cloud hovering over it. Google has an option that expires in August 2011.

That gives Miller and Louis at least a year to test their business model. Now, Vote for Dirt!

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