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Reference customer Kroll Ranch | From horse manure & straw to natural fertilizer and bedding

Steffen Kroll from the Kroll Ranch in Aldingen in Baden-Württemberg had been looking for another mainstay for his business for a long time and initially did not know in which direction it should go. During his research on the Internet, he came across the possibility of pelletizing raw materials, among other things. His interest was aroused and the idea of pelletizing horse manure and straw, which was specifically tailored to his farm, developed from this.

Horses have always been with the Kroll family. Grandparents Alfred and Martha built up the business - a classic farm with a few cows, pigs, poultry and 2 horses. When father Theo took over the farm in 1996, he continued to farm the land and gave up animal husbandry with the exception of the horses. This division he expanded accordingly over the years.

Fig. 1: Steffen Kroll with one of his horses on his farm

Today, the ranch with 50 boarding horses produces 2 to 2.5 tons of manure every day, which until then had been disposed of either on third-party land or directly in a nearby biogas plant with redemption of the digestate. "I could well imagine refining the manure myself, pelleting it and selling it as natural fertilizer. The second thing I had in my sights was the straw, which until then had been purchased from another company," the 30-year-old looks back. He did a lot of research and approached Ecokraft to explore the specific possibilities for his ranch. After mutual plant visits, the decision was made in the summer of 2022 to purchase the pelleting plant, which offers versatile options for pelleting different materials.

Fig. 2: Ecokraft pelleting plant at Kroll Ranch

The Kroll Ranch is run as a sideline business - since 2016 as a GbR by father Theo, farmer and industrial mechanic, and son Steffen, industrial clerk. "I grew up with horses, they have always been part of my life," the junior tells. His father and he specialized in boarding horses and gradually converted all existing farm buildings for horses. Currently, the farm offers space for 50 horses, which are hired by owners mainly within a radius of 25 km.

Now there is a completely new foothold on the ranch. In September 2022 the pelleting plant with straw went into operation, since this year in March also horse manure is processed to the natural fertilizer "Plant Power". For this purpose, the two approximately 100 m3 piles on which the horse manure is stored at the farm are shifted several times in advance to accelerate the rotting phase. After four to six weeks, the horse manure is transported by tractor in a 40 m3 roll-off container to a biogas plant 8 km away, where it is dried using its waste heat. After two weeks, 2 tons of dry material returns to the farm and is processed directly from the container.

The Ecokraft plant works in several steps. 1st station is the cutter mill, which cuts the material to 4 mm. Dust removal follows in the extraction plant before continuing with the material bunker, which serves as a buffer for intermediate storage. Zeolite in dust form is added before pelletizing. The heart of the plant is the pellet press, which produces 250 kg of manure or 200 kg of straw pellets per hour. Any fines are then screened and extracted before the pellets finally go into the big bags, where they cool for 8 to 10 hours. They hold 1.2 tons of manure and 750 kg of straw pellets.

Fig. 3: Fresh horse manure pellets sold as valuable natural fertilizer

"We produce as much as is necessary and possible. At the same time, we are flexible in production," informs the entrepreneur. The plant runs between three and 12 hours at a time - half with straw and half with manure - and is operated by three of the seven temporary workers employed. Manure is processed when dry material is available, and straw takes its turn in between. However, there is always a small supply of straw pellets on hand, because 1 to 1.5 tons are needed each week for bedding. Not all of the horse manure is pelleted, but only as much as can be dried. The rest still goes to the biogas plant.

The required amount of straw is purchased from arable farms within a radius of 7 to 8 km. Steffen Kroll appreciates the advantages of the small straw pellets, which are all destined for his own farm. Because compared to normal straw bedding, the pellets score with significantly less labor. They save space, are much more absorbent and prevent respiratory diseases. "And we know exactly what's in it and that it comes from the region," adds the junior boss, who also welcomes the fact that the new system has significantly improved the stable climate, which horse owners rate very positively.

Fig. 4: Straw pellets as ideal bedding for horses

At Kroll Ranch, these can choose the appropriate type of husbandry for their horses: beautiful and spacious open stables with paddock and pasture connection in group husbandry, paddock boxes with external pasture as well as year-round pasture or paddock husbandry. There is the possibility of hiring the horses as self-supporters or in full board up to farrier service. In addition to very good riding opportunities through forest and meadows, a spacious riding arena with 25x50 meters and roundpen with 20 meters, including floodlights and automatic watering, are available.

The unique "plant power" is enhanced by the addition of zeolite. The natural mineral improves the structure and water holding capacity of the soil, enhances the absorption of nutrients and binds environmental toxins. The horse manure pellets are packaged in 2.75 kg paper bags, in the 3.5 kg carton and the 20 kg bag and marketed ex-farm, at farmers' markets and garden markets in the region, as well as in direct sales, e.g. to surrounding municipalities. The organic fertilizer is suitable for use in the garden and on the balcony - with its long-term nutrient release, sustainable plant growth and no odor.

Fig. 5: Steffen Kroll with his own product - high-quality natural fertilizer pellets made from horse manure.

In all his projects, the young entrepreneur always has sustainability in mind. Thus, the horse manure is produced daily on the farm. Except for manure drying on a farm a short distance away, all production steps take place on the farm itself. The produced goods are sold with short transport distances from the farm or in regional markets. The photovoltaic system produces all the electricity needed on the farm. The rest is fed into the public grid.

Fig. 6: Steffen Kroll with his father and his own plants Power products from fertilizer and bedding pellets

Steffen Kroll is satisfied with the new operating branch. "The plant is running as it should," he sums up and confirms that the support provided by the manufacturer was perfect. Thus, the test run was professionally accompanied and the subsequent service leaves nothing to be desired. In case of questions or problems, ecokraft is available at any time and tries to find a solution.

For the future, Steffen Kroll already has a number of further ideas in mind. For example, there are initial plans for contract pelleting of straw for pig and horse farms. In addition, he can imagine pelletizing other materials, such as sawdust. "The focus is clearly on fertilizer and straw, but let's see what else the future holds," says the young man with a grin on his face.

Website Kroll Ranch:

- Helga Gebendorf -


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