Sustainable fertilizer firm plans north St. Louis riverfront factory

May 20, 2021 St. Louis Post – Dispatch (full article below)

A Canadian firm plans a north Mississippi riverfront production facility to manufacture its signature fertilizer, billed as a more sustainable crop nutrient that limits waterway runoff responsible for massive dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc. plans a $25 million retrofit of an idle nitrogen factory just north of the McKinley Bridge that it says will create 40 jobs, including some high-level company employees, with an average wage of $66,000.

“There’s an excellent logistics center and logistics hub in St. Louis, which was part of our decision-making process,” said Chief Financial Officer Koert VandenEnden.

The plant, which Ostara executives said they sited here because of the city’s close proximity to major Midwest agricultural markets, is scheduled to go online next year and scale up to produce 200,000 tons a year of its proprietary fertilizer, Crystal Green.

It would be the Vancouver, British Columbia, firm’s second production facility for the fertilizer. It has an existing plant in central Florida and is ramping up production of the product, which CEO Dan Parmar called “environmentally friendly.” The company says Crystal Green limits phosphorus runoff because it’s not water soluble and is activated by plant roots.

Top executives made their pitch to the St. Louis Port Authority on Thursday. They’re seeking local incentives from the Port, including a 10-year, 25% property tax abatement on personal property and a sales tax exemption on construction materials. The Port Authority board voted to advance the project, which will be reviewed by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen next.

Alliance STL, the business attraction arm of civic booster Greater St. Louis Inc., worked with the company to promote St. Louis for its expansion. The Missouri Department of Economic Development has also indicated it would provide Missouri Works tax incentives for the new jobs, according to officials.

The site here is a former Koch Industries fertilizer plant at 39 Bremen Avenue, which has been idle since 2017.

Ostara will lease the land from the Terminal Railroad Association and it has a pending storage and transportation agreement with logistics firm Bruce Oakley Inc., which operates an adjacent Mississippi River facility.

“We are going to make substantial investments into St. Louis,” Parmar said. “We’re here for the long term.”

Ostara started about 15 years ago as a water treatment firm. Some of the ingredients for its Crystal Green fertilizer come from more than 20 facilities around the world.

In an interview, VandenEnden said in addition to the environmental benefits, field trials and studies demonstrate larger and higher quality crop yields with Crystal Green, making it an easy sell to farmers.

“It needs to make economic sense as well,” he said.