has been just over a year since we last spoke can
you give us an update? We heard your product changed
customers have taught us some very interesting (and
unexpected) things about indoor home composting.
For one thing, they want an indicator light to tell
them when the compost is ready. So we added a blinking
red light - now there is no more guessing or checking
up on progress. The new unit is also about 10 inches
shorter – about the size of a kitchen trash
bin - yet it still handles enough food for a family
of 5. Another “must have” feature we
added is a food pedal to open the lid – I
guess our engineers don’t do enough cooking
to realize that there are never enough hands in
The most important change is that we can manufacture this product in high enough quantities to keep up with demand. That was a real problem with the old unit. We really had no idea there would be so much demand. We started this whole thing to make our own compost and help out or friends and families. With the old design there was a lot of manual assembly and we just couldn't manufacture them fast enough.
Can you give us examples of some of
the feedback you received from people using the
People are really surprised about the lack of odors.
When they think compost, they envision the furthest
corner of their backyard away from the house (and
preferably down wind). We hear a lot of "oh wow
- no smell." It really has no odors and that takes
some getting used to.
We get a lot of questions about the capacity. Some
people wonder if the unit is too small for their
families, while others assume it's too big. I suspect
that most people really don't know how to gauge
the size because they've never weighted their food
waste. So we created a very wide capacity range:
you can add as little as ½ lb per day, or as much
as 5 lbs per day, and still get excellent quality
compost. That's a pretty wide range - definitely
wide enough for a single person living alone, all
the way up to a family of 5 who eats at home often.
Most households fluctuate anyway: eating out on
weekends, then throwing away lots of leftovers,
then going away for vacation, then having a dinner
Another piece of feedback we hear is that people
appreciate the low power consumption (10 watts),
but they want all the automatic features like motorized
mixing and continuous air filtering. We made a great
effort to use the compost’s own heat to do
most of the work, thus minimizing the need for electrical
power. We’ve even had a few requests for a
solar powered option – and we’re going
to work on that too!
To our surprise, we are finding that even people
in rural areas are using NatureMill. They have plenty
of outdoor space to build an old fashioned compost
pile, and they have plenty of compost knowledge.
But they also have bears. Or arthritis. Or frozen
winters. All these things can make outdoor composting
impossible. We always had assumed that all our customers
would be urban apartment dwellers.
Can you be more specific about a few
of the significant new enhancements?
One feature I really like is that you don't have
to keep adding compost cultures, or any other feed
material, as with most compost systems. The machine
retains a small amount of finished compost after
each load, so in a way it replenishes itself with
hot, fresh compost cultures. This saves a lot of
money in the long term, and is very convenient too.
Another real luxury is the reference sheet right
there on the lid of the machine. It tells you exactly
what you can compost and what you can’t. It’s
in very simple language. There is no more confusion
about greens and browns, pH and moisture. It seems
simple, but most compost systems just leave you
in the lurch.
My personal favorite feature is the self-cleaning
design. The non-stick surfaces and stainless steel
components deflect all the waste right down into
the reactor, where it composts happily away. We’ve
even given the exterior a “granite”
color treatment to hide fingerprints. It’s
enough to make a Sub-zero jealous! My old compost
tumbler, on the other hand, was so ugly I had to
hide it behind a fence.
The new control panel sounds like a
great enhancement, can you explain how it works?
The new control panel has just one button. How easy
is that! When the hopper fills up, just press the
button to transfer the compost down into the reactor,
and then you can add more waste items again. That’s
really all there is to it. There isn’t even
a clock to set. I’m really tired of having
to “operate” all the other devices around
my house, with all these beeps and dials. This is
much easier. We’ve put a lot of intelligence
into the software, so you can focus on gardening
and cooking instead of managing your compost pile.
The control panel also tells you when the compost
is mixing, so you can follow along with the process.
You can tell when the material is being transferred
from the hopper where you add the food waste, into
the reactor where the real composting happens, and
finally into the cure tray where it waits until
it’s ready to be emptied. It’s really
quite fascinating to observe composting being made,
and yet not have to do any work yourself. To me
it’s a little like watching an ice cream machine.
Except you really don’t want to eat this stuff.
In our last interview you explained
the process and how the product works. (link
to old interview) With this new design does
the unit perform the same?
The basic operation is the same: add food and paper
waste at any time, on any day; remove finished compost
roughly every two weeks. The underlying biology
hasn't changed in a few million years. It would
be very difficult for us to improve upon science.
You see, the compost cultures are doing all the
real work. We're just automating the air flow, mixing,
and moisture control to give the cultures the environment
they like so they can work as fast as possible.
You’re doing the same thing with a backyard
compost pile when you turn it to increase oxygen
flow, water it to maintain the right moisture level,
and monitor the temperature to check its progress.
We’ve merely automated the pitch fork, the
garden hose, and the thermometer.
We also provide a very substantial carbon filter
to remove the musty smells that are usually associated
with compost. This is important to me since my kitchen
table is about 4 feet away from my compost machine.
We don’t have a refreshing breeze in our house,
so odor control is an important feature.
Has anyone approached you yet to use the product in education, since it
can be placed inside of a school building?
We certainly get orders from schools, from non-profit organizations, and from gardening clubs and nurseries. They are busy people too and don't have enough hours in the day to turn their compost piles. Most compost piles are frozen solid during the winter months so it's hard to fit them into a class schedule. You can use NatureMill all year round, anywhere in the world.
What does the future look like for NatureMill?
We've had a lot of interest in a jumbo version. So we're thinking of a unit that is 3 times larger for small restaurants, cafeterias, offices, etc. We're also thinking pink - and red, and turquoise, and all those other trendy colors. Those seem to be all the rage with blenders and iPods. Compost has come a long way from the big black monsters of old!
Thanks to everyone who contributed a question. If
you would like to see future articles on the Kitchen
Composter and have a question or comment please
to us! (Don't forget to mention this article
or Kitchen Composter in your message) - For more
information make sure you check out their web site
- Happy Composting! -