Getting started

Here are four tips for adding a bionutrition program.

October 12, 2011
Lawn & Landscape Staff

With all things ‘green’ and organic gaining momentum among consumers, adding a bionutrition program to your lawn care service could be a profitable move for your company.  Also known as biofertility, the method involves applying living microorganisms to turf, trees and shrubs. These tiny living things change the biology of the soil and help facilitate nutrient availability and uptake.

For those thinking about starting a biofertility program, here are a few tips from LCOs who have successfully added the service.

Crunch the numbers. The benefits of bionutrition include increased insect and disease suppression overtime, but it’s important companies take a hard look at what the program consists of before committing. There usually is equipment costs involved. Companies that have always applied granular fertilizers will need to switch to liquid application equipment. Existing sprayer equipment usually has to be updated with nozzles with bigger holes so the living microorganisms can safely flow through without being killed. “It wasn’t a cheap undertaking, but we look at the long-term of it, and it works,” says Tom Winkler, owner of Go Organic Lawn Care in Haledon, N.J. “It’s a huge benefit to the environment as well.”

Find the right customers. Tapping into your existing customer base is usually the best way to get any new service off the ground. Jim Buck, owner of Terra Scapes in Stone Harbor, N.J. says his company first sent a letter to clients to explain the switch to a biofertility program. “It’s amazing, the number of people who didn’t pay attention to it,” Buck says. “When we explained (in person) what we were doing, everyone seemed to be on board.” When Lasting Impressions in Stroudsburg, Pa., looked for new clients to offer the service to, it found the best results by reaching out to an audience that was receptive to greener programs. That method was placing an ad in a local holistic magazine that provides consumers information on nature-friendly products.

Share the advantages.
Many home or business owners are still unsure of organics’ effectiveness and reluctant to take the plunge, especially when the service is priced higher than a traditional synthetic fertilizer program. Pointing out how bionutrition is different from people’s perception of organics can be essential, especially when competing with another organic company, says Ryan Wilmott, owner of R-Green Turf in Northampton, Pa.  “For most organic companies using an organic-based fertilizer, it’s a whole different thing and not even comparable,” he says, adding he uses talking points to share with clients the long-term advantages of his organic program. “I basically tell them we feed the soil, and the soil feeds the lawn.”

Save yourself some time. Comparing bionutrition and organic to a synthetic application, the two can differ from a frequency standpoint. Many lawn care operators say fewer applications are needed with a biofertility program. For example, Wilmott says he makes four applications of organic liquid fertilizer, where synthetic fertilizers would be applied six to eight times or more, he says. “For anybody who has a standard four-step program, it’s basically the same deal: Spring, summer, summer and fall,” he says. Buck says he can offer more services at the same price because he is incorporating weed prevention and insecticides in his bionutrition program and he’s not going on to each property as many times as he was using synthetics. The new method has helped him save time and cut down on costs. “We’re going out four times, but each time we’re providing three separate services,” Buck says, explaining the compost tea he uses can include insecticide, weed control or other treatments.