ROME — Nick Carlson’s landscaping business was making money, but he noticed that mulching was frustrating and used up a lot of unnecessary time.
So he went to work designing something that would make his life easier, and then began searching for a way to make his vision a reality. That search led him to R-Tronics in Rome, a custom cable manufacturer that now also manufactures Carlson's invention: the Mulch Mate.
Mulch Mate is essentially an attachment that goes where the tailgate would go on a truck. The device includes a military-grade tarp that is unwound and acts like a walking floor to pull mulch into the unit for processing.
“Typically you would put a full load of mulch in a truck just like this,” the Annapolis, Maryland, resident said during a demonstration in Rome on Wednesday. “I’d stick a guy or two up there; they’d shovel mulch, typically make a big mess, and then the guys who had the wheelbarrows would run off and go do their mulching — they’d dump it and spread it. ... So what we’ve done is we’ve eliminated the not safe part of the whole entire job and we’ve been able to get rid of the pitchfork.”
Representatives from Oneida County and the Griffiss Local Development Corporation were at the demonstration to see what the Mulch Mate could do, hear about the savings the device could offer their organization and generally get more information.
R-Tronics specializes in manufacturing custom and prototype cables, wire harnesses, electro-mechanical assemblies and RF applications, according to Vice President of Operations and Finance Rocco Garro.
The company began in 1991 with one customer; it now has 20 steady customers and has defense contracts through the government, said Garro, whose father founded R-Tronics.
Carlson said the company has been incredible and they’re glad they chose it for their product.
“It’s really difficult to find good companies that will communicate with you,” Carlson said. “When we got ahold of these guys, they actually listened to us. So it was like a little light bulb — ding — so I said alright, let’s talk to them.”
When a truck using Mulch Mate gets to a job site, the unit can be started with a key and a joystick. The tarp pulls mulch from the truck into a twin auger system, which fluffs and separates the mulch and places it on a cross conveyor, which then delivers the mulch directly into a wheelbarrow.
All of this can be done in under 3 seconds, Carlson said, and it allows 10 yards of mulch to be dispensed in 10 minutes — saving a large amount of time and money for private companies and municipalities.
The device costs about $30,000, which is less than some Department of Public Works employees make, Carlson said during his demonstration.
“Now you’re eliminating safety issues, you’re eliminating the employee issues we’ve had over the years just in our industry — you can’t find people and if you do, you want to keep ‘em right?” he said. “So if you want to keep your guys happy, you’re going to attract better quality employees, as well as the ones that typically don’t show up on Monday, you don’t have to worry about that now.”
As of now, the machine can do shredded mulch, wood chips, pine bark, wood shavings and kiddie mat normally. It can do masonry sand, CR6, pea gravel, river jack under 3 inches and low moisture topsoil on a limited basis.
The machine can’t run No. 57 stone, clay based dirt, river stone above 4 inches, high moisture top soil and No. 2 recycled concrete. They are testing to see if rock salt can be run through the Mulch Mate, Carlson said.
The company has already sold about 20 units and they’ve only been on sale for roughly two months.
“We’re in full production,” Carlson said. “We just launched two-three weeks ago in Kentucky at the GIE show, so that was our official launch and I’ve think we’ve sold 20-plus units. … We’re ready to rock and roll.”
Contact reporter Samantha Madison at 315-792-5015 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Madison)