Many congratulations to Atlas Organics for the success of its grand opening. We are pleased to be part of an entrepreneurial team that has been able to bring together public entities, economic development, private capital, and others to attempt something new.
An Upstate venture hauling and processing bulk food waste from grocery chains, restaurants, hospitals, schools and others to make soil enriching compost has opened with funding from the S.C. Angel Network and is looking for customers. At the Atlas Organics grand opening today, the owner-operators said the operation at Greenville County’s Twin Chimneys Landfill is the first such public-private venture in the Southeast.
Atlas Organics COO Gary Nihart said that he, CEO Joseph McMillin and Vice President of Business Development Jim Davis are among eight employees in the business that is already collecting bulk table scraps in Greenville and Spartanburg counties and in the Midlands to be blended with compostable materials and used as compost instead of being dumped at landfills.
“We are looking at other opportunities in other markets throughout the Southeast,” Nihart said. “We are taking something that is done very commonly on the West Coast. The Northeast is starting to get into it, and right now the Southeast is kind of wide open.” He said MacMillin has operated a company called Junk Matters in Spartanburg and “we realized it was a better deal for investors if we kind of packaged the deal. So basically we merged Atlas Organics and Junk Matters under the name Atlas Organics so we now have collection and processing. So we are vertically integrated.”
Nihart and MacMillin said they collected 420,000 pounds of compost in May, including some from Greenville Health System, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, multiple school districts in Spartanburg County and companies such as Michelin and GE.
“We’ve still got about two months or three months before we have any finished compost, so we’ve still got to prove that we can sell compost,” Nihart said. “We have proven we can collect food waste. Now we’ve got to prove that we can sell the compost.” He said they are starting with bulk sales and eventually may also bag the compost.
Nihart, McMillin, Davis and S.C. Angel Network Managing Director Matt Dunbar declined to provide the total amount invested. Greenville County is providing the space and did some grading at the site.
Dunbar said the network includes eight angel networks across the state and in Western North Carolina. He said the investment is unique for them, “so far. Most of our investments tend to be a little bit more, not that this is not a technology, but a new technology. This is a known technology, but we’re really investing in a business model here more than a technology. Most of what we invest in is a technology that we think has an opportunity to make an impact on the market. In this case, it is the application of the known technology to an underserved market that we think has a lot of opportunity.”
McMillin said there are no other such “private-public partnerships” in such an enterprise.
“We can service basically within a 100- to 150-mile radius,” including Western North Carolina, McMillin said. He said Atlas Organics “is still pretty unknown, especially on the compost sales side of things. We have already pretty much got all of our product that we are able to make this fall wrapped up in letters of intent, so right now we really need that extra food waste coming through this facility to generate more finished product.” McMillin declined to identify the compost customers.
“We do have a partnership with the feed and seed in Greenville,” McMillan said. “It is going to be opening the food co-op area. So we are working with a lot of their farmers, and they work closely with Clemson Extension, some of the farmers in that program.”