Rod TYLER: Inventor of the Compost Filter Sock

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  • Tell us something about yourself, your product/service and company

Rod Tyler is a graduate of The Ohio State University, a Certified Professional Agronomist, and has been working with compost and environmental projects for nearly 30 years. He is currently President of Green Horizons Environmental, a firm that built Filtrexx International www.filtrexx.com .  As founder and inventor at Filtrexx International, Rod is also the inventor of the patented ‘Soxx’ technology Rod received 8 patents for various applications during the Filtrexx development including applications for living walls, living shorelines, sediment control, growing systems for agriculture,  and over 20 total low impact development applications.  Green Horizons Environmental  www.greenhorizonsenvironmental.com designs, specifies and installs Living Shoreline systems developed from 30 years of experience in the field and we also own GardenSoxx®, a mesh containment system that replaces any other growing system for local food production www.gardensoxx.com .   Rod has written extensively including three books, several chapters in other books, hundreds of industry articles and research papers.  Rod has presented at hundreds of industry related meetings as well as keynote presentations for dozens of conferences. 

  • How/Why did you start inventing. What set you off?

I was a fan of product and market development in several previous jobs, but in 1996 I went out on my own to create Green Horizons Environmental as a consulting company.  I was fully booked within the first week due to a recent book publication.  I worked with composters to find markets for finished compost and mulch and was instrumental in helping start the colored mulch business.  Compost marketing was the cornerstone of the early consulting business but then I started working with blower truck companies to use them for applying thin layers of compost with seed to replace hydroseeding, mostly for residential lawns.  During the mid 90’s, a landmark research project was completed in Washington state showing that ‘compost blankets’ and ‘compost filter berms’ were more successful in reducing sediment transport to water than any other currently accepted practice like straw mats and silt fence.  Projects in the west started to use compost filter berms in place of silt fence and I felt this was a great use for compost.  However, in discussions with regulators, they were uneasy about the filter berms ‘not being contained’ or ‘being loose’.  So, I asked the magical question: “what if the compost were contained?”.  The answer was immediate acceptance for trials and consideration for including in state handbooks as an alternative to silt fence. 

  • How did you get from idea to finished product?

I had researched the specifications for silt fence finding that flow through rate they were looking for was 10 gallons per square foot per minute.  I owned a small nursery with plenty of space and began doing vertical column testing for flow rate with various types of compost (which we later renamed appropriately as filter media).  At a certain mix between coarse and fine particles I found I could actually match or exceed the rate of flow through the media compared to silt fence.  From there, after dozens of tests, I inquired about mesh netting and found a company to send me samples.  After getting samples and manually filling soxx, I found it was nearly impossible.  Since I was already consulting with some blower truck owners for the other applications, I took some with me on a road trip and put it on the end of the blower truck hose to see how it would fill.  In less than a minute I had filled over 30 feet of ‘compost filter sock’. 

In 2001, I invented what is called the Compost Filter Sock.  The process at that time involved using a blower truck to fill a mesh tube.  The product was used immediately as a silt fence alternative which continues to this day to replace silt fence in applications that are focused on performance-based goals.  Progressive engineers, architects, regulators and contractors have found Compost Filter Sock affordable, reliable, and easy to work with. 

Some interesting metrics surround the environmental value of these inventions.  Since this ‘category’ of products was in fact new, and there was no metrics on sales of soxx or filled soxx previously, we began studying the impacts of utilizing compost in these applications.  Today, an estimated 10 million cubic yards of compost are used to fill soxx and for compost seeding and blankets on jobsites.  It is currently estimated that about 50+ million linear feet of empty soxx are sold.  The carbon offset on one 4×4 garden, using 24 filled feet is  58 lb for 8” soxx and 118lb for 12” soxx. This value set compared to oil derived silt fence with a negative CO2 offset is a dramatic difference.  If you add these benefits to benefits demonstrated by years of research on what compost filter soxx remove compared to silt fence, the environmental impact from these inventions have had is absolutely staggering.

In about 2007, Filtrexx began to conduct research about pre manufacturing the soxx on pallets.  We helped invent the Filtrexx FX machine, an auger unit that filled soxx as an attachment to a bobcat.  The price difference between this unit ($16,000) and blower trucks ($300,000) allowed us the ability to scale faster and reach smaller customers not suited for having a blower truck perform installs.  It also helped develop stocking distributors that could sell one or two pallets for smaller projects because the blower trucks were not servicing this market at that time.  By 2012 we had effectively scaled palletizing compost filter sock and had set up about 32 manufacturing centers for demand across the US. 

The product filling the sock evolved just like choices of mesh netting have evolved.  The Original Compost Filter Sock from Filtrexx used compost to fill the sock.  As there was obvious confusion about ‘what compost was’ we changed the term to ‘Filter Media’ and ‘Growing Media’ to reflect the two distinctive options for fill.  Growing media is basically a fine compost, with all particles passing a ½” sieve, and having plant growth properties.  Filter Media is a coarser product with higher flow through rate for sediment laden water and is designed to filter water and trap sediment.  By changing the terms of the fill media, it helped specifiers and designers to better understand what is needed in preliminary designs. 

Specification and design development rapidly followed publication of the research that Filtrexx conducted, leading the field in allowing engineers to specify this type of product based on a minimum performance expectation proven in research.  In addition, Filtrexx started a Filtrexx Certified Installer Training Program and Filtrexx Certified Filter Media testing programs to make sure the media used meets minimum specifications required to target this performance. 

Research of Filtrexx products by USDA and USEPA soon moved us into other pollutant removal areas, including Hydrocarbons, Heavy Metals, Nutrients, and Bacteria.  Research results have shown up to 99% removal of some of these items, and in tests of 30 straight rain events, the Hydrocarbon removal rate remained 99% for the entire 30 days. These types of applications with Filtrexx® products hold a lot of promise for meeting future Runoff Limit Guidelines where more than just sediment is being targeted.  This includes especially sensitive areas like the Chesapeake Bay and other areas already targeted for clean up.

Filtrexx International is proud to continue to lead the field and we look forward to your ideas, questions, and situations that will continue to challenge us to invent new ways to stay in compliance.  Filtrexx® products are accepted by all reputable state, federal or local agencies, and are available in all US States and 10 countries.

  • Can you list the products you have invented and tell us where they can be purchased from. Please include links.

Products invented all use some type of compost or filter media and mesh.  There are over 20 specifications written covering this in THE SUSTAINABLE SITE – a handbook for engineers published in 2010:

https://www.foresteruniversity.com/ProductDetails.aspx?ProductID=2087

Erosion control Products can be purchased from Filtrexx International at www.filtrexx.com

However, perhaps the greatest future value of my inventions is in growing clean, healthy, nutrient rich food in GardenSoxx www.gardensoxx.com using locally made compost.  In 2009 USDA researched GardenSoxx and the results showed nearly a 50% greater volume of food produced compared to matted row and plasticulture for strawberries.  In addition, the nutrient content for antioxidants, vitamins, flavonoids and other constituents were nearly 50% higher than conventionally grown strawberries. 

We went on to test these principles on over 300 varieties of vegetable at my nursery (Grafton Nursery) and show that people with little skill could become good organic gardeners without soil, rototillers and could grow on blacktop or concrete.  GardenSoxx also solved issues with weeds (compost is weed free) and watering (drip irrigation used) so most of the trouble facing gardeners or farmers was eliminated.  In fact, this product WAS NOT available when I was purchasing empty mesh from a manufacturer, so I was determined to find a way to produce it or buy it.  My search led me to Tompkins circular knitting machines and I was intending to buy a machine to make my own products.  However, the company decided to sell, and long story short, I bought this company in 2008.  Tompkins USA was the principle designer behind GardenSoxx and the Durasoxx material used to palletize compost filter sock.  Tompkins sells circular machines for a variety of industries including apparel, hockey socks for professional hockey, medical compression bandages, hats, gloves, etc.  www.tompkinsusa.com

GardenSoxx® have many advantages over conventional pots or in ground plantings.  More air reaches the roots due to porosity of the mesh and it is virtually impossible to overwater.  There are virtually no weeds if quality compost is used and using the drip irrigation provided in the EZ filler kits reduces water use by 90%.  Fruit is cleaner because drip irrigation causes no rain-drop splash and fruit does not sit on soil, therefore also creating less diseases.  GardenSoxx® can be used as a stand-alone container or placed in raised beds or plant stands to match whatever look the designer desires.

We created the GardenSoxx® EZ filler kit to be used with locally made compost.  There are over 4,000 compost facilities across the US that can utilize this tool to provide to their customers.  The GardenSoxx® EZ filler kit comes with enough mesh to create a 4×4 garden (using your own compost) or a straight-line garden of 24 feet and requires 8 cubic feet of compost. 

Using compost with GardenSoxx® helps complete that loop of locally recycled, annually renewable, organic, bio-based products that are used to increase carbon in our local footprint.  With the extra benefit of growing food, it is one of the greatest local contributions we can make as a society.  GardenSoxx® can be used on existing soil, pavement, concrete, or even on rooftops. 

Using this kit as a fund-raising idea is ideal when combined with the curricula ‘A Garden For Every Child’.  This guide has multiple lesson plans for teachers to use with students while they interact with compost and the use of compost by filling GardenSoxx®.  Furthermore, purchasing multiple kits and selling them to parents of the students can help create an instantly successful fundraiser for most schools.  By example, if a school can sell 100 kits, they can raise $1,000 easily, while our schools teach our youth to go back home and teach parents how to garden again. 

For those that are interested in creating larger gardens, or for urban gardens, and small ag projects, we can also sell GardenSoxx® in larger quantities of 50, 100, 250, and 500- foot rolls.  The larger scale proof of concept was proven out the last few years resulting in an award winning documentary, THE NEED TO GROW, a movie that I helped sponsor.

The film covers conventional farming issues, food security, nutrition and density with GardenSoxx being one of the key solutions to big Agriculture. 

 

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