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Got Dirt? Need Dirt? Soil Connect Can Help

Tue July 03, 2018 - National Edition
CEG


Got dirt? Need dirt? There's a new way to move it now, due to Soil Connect.

Recently launched, the Soil Connect app and website provide building professionals with a platform to communicate when they have excess soil available and when they need soil for their job site.

Like any great idea, the Soil Connect concept aims to solve a problem — a traditionally time-consuming problem pervasive in the excavation, drainage and earthmoving industries.

Cliff Fetner, a long-time Long Island developer and builder and president of Jaco Builders, based in Plainview, N.Y., his son, Daniel and daughter, Perri, set out to significantly improve the communication channels among building professionals who find themselves having to get rid of excess soil from their projects or having to locate additional soil for their projects.

“In my personal experience,” Cliff Fetner said, “excavators wind up with too much soil and need to get rid of it about 50 percent of the time. The other 50 percent of the time, they wind up with too little and require more to complete their job.”

Fetner added that because the industry is so fragmented, local excavators spend an inordinate amount of time texting, calling and e-mailing their own personal network, to see who needs excess soil or who has it.

“We held a few focus groups with builders, landscapers, as well as paving excavating and pool contractors several months ago before we started building the app. Many of them had literally hundreds of contacts in their phones categorized as 'dump sites,'” Fetner said. “This issue is so pervasive that we were told contractors have been known to actually call the local municipalities they are working in, just to find out who has projects going on in the area. Armed with this information they begin cold calling in order to address this issue.”

The customer experience in the app and on the website is genius in its simplicity and time-saving features.

“The concept is so simple, and the first in this industry,” said Fetner. “I'm a third-generation builder and developer, and I have memories of my own dad calling contractors and truckers at night, trying to figure what he was going to do with the soil. Here we are 35 years later and very little has changed — we're basically doing the exact same thing. We pick up the phone and make calls, send texts and emails trying to address this issue. It's a huge waste of valuable time.”

“What we decided to do was to begin building a platform that would connect the supply and the demand,” Daniel said. “My dad [Cliff] came to me and my sister with this idea and we put our heads together to figure out the model that would make the most sense for the platform, as well as the industry.”

“When we started playing around with names we wanted to make sure the message was clear and straightforward,” added Perri Fetner. “Our goal is to not only connect building professionals who are looking to buy and sell soil, but also to build a community and promote the sharing of ideas.”

Here is how the Soil Connect experience works:

As soon as there is a need to get rid of or find more soil, go on the Soil Connect app or website and search the live posts to see if someone is already offering what you're looking for. If not, you can click “Post” to create your own by entering the following information:

1. Job site location

2. Quantity (in yards) of how much soil you have or need

3. Type of soil

4. Scheduling preferences of approximately when the soil would be moved

5. Optional photo(s) of the soil

Once that information has been posted, it's now visible on the platform, so that other users can see this post.”

At this point, a nearby user who is on Soil Connect can view the post and if the information matches their current needs, two users can use the apps message function to chat directly. After connecting, they can finalize the transaction by connecting offline.

“Another key feature of the platform,” Fetner said, “is that if a user already has a live post with their current soil needs, and a week later, another post is added with those same specifications, the user will receive a notification via text or e-mail with this new information.”

After a deal has been finalized both the buyer and seller are able to rate the other user on a scale of one to five before the post is removed. There are four aspects of the rating system: Quantity Accuracy, Soil Type Accuracy, Communication and Reliability.

Soil Connect is currently free for all users.

“Right now, we are focused on making the app as frictionless as possible, so that users can get on, connect and move on to their next job.”

“The Soil Connect concept was very well received when we presented it at our focus groups and we're excited to take this forward and see where it all goes,” said Cliff Fetner.

The free Soil Connect app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

For more information, visit www.soilconnect.com.