Start-up Monterey company turns local fish guts into fresh fertilizer.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The nastiest part of Brian Gorrell’s job inspired him to become an entrepreneur.
The Pacific Grove native developed a saltwater passion as a kid, when his parents took him sailing to Australia. He came of age on the sand, surfing and lifeguarding at Asilomar Beach and in Hawaii, before starting work at Sea Harvest, his dad’s restaurant in Carmel. It’s a family business: His relatives fish out of Moss Landing Harbor and run two other Sea Harvest locations, in Moss Landing and Monterey.
“We ended up with all this head and gut waste from the fillet process,” he says. “It was a headache. That stuff goes bad fast.”
So Gorrell and his uncle, Daniel Deyerle, came up with a process of grinding the fish waste, stabilizing it with a food-grade sodium compound and adding secret, all-natural ingredients to create an organic fertilizer.
The resulting company, Monterey Bay Fertilizer, recycles waste from fish caught within Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and processes it at the family’s plant in Moss Landing.
The fertilizer closes a critical loop, Gorrell says: “It’s really important that we put the fish back into the earth, because it eventually ends up in our streams and water and comes back out into the system again.”
Approaching its one-year anniversary, the company’s producing about 65 gallons of its Monterey Bay Sanctuary Blend per week.
The product’s sold at more than a half-dozen local garden stores, including Monterey Bay Horticulture in Marina, where a quart of liquid concentrate goes for $11 – a buck or two more than standard fish emulsions.
But Sales Associate Rory Turnbull says it’s much higher quality. Most emulsions are made from cooked fish waste that’s been stripped of its oil, he explains, but MBF’s blend is an uncooked hydrolysate that retains its oils and minerals. It also has a higher phosphorous concentration, which is good for fruiting and flowering plants.
“A lot of fish emulsions are just boiled fish scrap, but this keeps a lot of the good stuff intact,” Turnbull says. “It still smells fishy, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the boiled ones.”
If demand grows, Gorrell hopes to start recycling fish waste from Monterey Harbor. “It should be produced at every fishing port,” he says. “If these guys are catching fish, we should work with it.”