Pure-Gro Inc. is in the process of licensing an organic coal-based fertilizer and agricultural growth compound. The advanced blend formula, which is 100% natural and 70% coal, permanently enriches the soil, improves crop quality and produces a yield in a way that would be equal to or greater than today’s chemical-based fertilizers, according to its developers. It is cheaper to produce than the commercial NPK fertilizers that use ammonia to generate nitrogen (N), which is combined with phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). It requires only one application per crop, unlike other fertilizers, which normally require two applications.

Feed corn (after 5.5 weeks) grows in Florida’s sandy soil with the help of Pure-Gro.

According to the company, the product works by increasing the nitrogen efficiency/uptake by plant roots. The production process is relatively simple and any coal (especially high-sulfur coal) can be used to make a single blend that can be used effectively on farmland everywhere and for all farming purposes.

If this idea were to take off, it would open a new market for coal, by disrupting a traditional method that fouls waterways and water tables worldwide. It would greatly reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, representing a significant potential cost savings to the farmer.

“The carbon to nitrogen ratio is a key factor for soil fertility,” said Jim Kalyvas, spokesperson for Pure-Gro. “That’s how we have arrived at this advanced blend of a coal-based fertilizer. It’s presently under trade secret protection, not patent protection. We are now seeking to commercialize the product. It would have very broad worldwide applications.”

Engineers envision three-line automated manufacturing plants that could produce 800,000 metric tons per year (mtpy) of fertilizer that would cost approximately $14 million to build. Using a conservative price estimate and cost assumptions, the developer believes that each of these plants could generate more than $200 million per year in gross revenues, and more than $60 million in EBITDA. Cash flows from each plant indicate a per-plant enterprise value of approximately $171 million that could generate a significant rate of return.

The formula has been developed, tested, refined and upgraded over a 30-year period, and is now ready to be commercialized. Pure-Gro has not failed a field or laboratory test, including those performed by two major U.S. universities and a large U.S. coal company. A major global seed manufacturer has also reviewed the product and deemed it “revolutionary” in agriculture, according to the developer.

University and Commercial Tests

Pure-Gro has been tested extensively and successfully in laboratories and the field by reputable agronomy departments at three major universities: Pennsylvania State University, the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska.

“This is the third iteration of this concept,” Kalyvas said. “We pursued patents, which were approved for 160 countries, with the original formulations. But, we decided that we needed to have additional nitrogen input and the University of Nebraska recommended that we pursue a more natural source for it rather than what’s commonly practiced today.”

The coal producer field-tested (and later laboratory-tested) the fertilizer on corn crops in Washington County, Pennsylvania, using plots of farmland. Crop yield and nutrition, cost and commercial viability, and complete soil, crop, and fertilizer analyses were uniformly successful — as was the use of coal and fines from a slurry pond. Of note, all mercury and heavy metal tests were successful. All findings have been documented, according to Pure-Gro, and the testing protocol, in its entirety, was designed, carried out and analyzed independently.

The company’s original formula was tested by Penn State agronomists early in field trials and later in chemical analysis. The early field tests were photographed and controlled by Penn State with