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January 5, 2023 32 min

Like with many projects on a sustainable farm, composting at Niner Wines Estates began with a problem; what could be done with all the pumice from the winemaking operations. Patrick Muran Winemaker at Niner Wine Estates started experimenting with thermal aerobic composting in 2016. With a 200-acre property, the farm has a diverse array of plant material coming from the restaurant garden, cover crops, and vineyards. Patrick explains how they turned a waste stream product into a valuable commodity including what temperature a compost pile must reach, what plant material to include, how to inoculate a new pile, and how long it takes to make top quality compost.


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Craig Macmillan  0:00 

Our guest today is Patrick Moran, winemaker at Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles, California. And today we're going to talk about composting. Welcome, Patrick.


Patrick Muran  0:07 

Thank you, Craig. Happy to be here. And to talk about some compost today.


Craig Macmillan  0:11 

Yes, we are. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to let everybody know that Patrick and I work together. So this is not the first time that we've talked about this. So I know about what we do. But we're gonna try to get into the details here and try not to forget anything. It's a really cool project that you, you kind of you founded. Correct. You kind of got this whole thing going, right?


Patrick Muran  0:31 

Yeah, it was birthed out of a problem of what do we do with all this pumice waste and ruin to kind of a passion project of figuring out how to unlock the keys and composting all this waste that we had?


Craig Macmillan  0:49 

So when did it start? How long have you been doing this?


Patrick Muran  0:52 

So this started late 2016, early 2017, we start building piles, Gosh, 5, 6 years now?


Craig Macmillan  1:01 

Yeah, in a minute. So the idea here was that you had a lot of waste that was coming in, or grape material that was coming in and you wanted to do something with it. What were you doing with it prior to accomplishing with it?


Patrick Muran  1:12 

I mean, I've been at this now, gosh, almost 24 years, you know, when I started, we had our big 40 yard roll off dumpsters getting dropped off and are filling them up with grape waste and pumice and stems and all that kind of stuff. But you know, we're scheduling trucks and paying for these trucks to be on the road and do all this material and material is getting stinky out there in the yard, flies are starting to fester, we had, you know, a similar problem here. Here I'm paying for a truck to come drop off this dumpster that's going to kind of make a mess and in our yard for weeks on end. And then pay to have that material removed. It was a kind of an, I love elegant solutions in

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