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New York Mulch Manufacturer Isn’t Horsing Around

Mon October 22, 2012 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

The first Komatsu D61PX-23 delivered to an end user in North America arrived at Sweet Peet of New York on Aug. 21, 2012.
The first Komatsu D61PX-23 delivered to an end user in North America arrived at Sweet Peet of New York on Aug. 21, 2012.
The first Komatsu D61PX-23 delivered to an end user in North America arrived at Sweet Peet of New York on Aug. 21, 2012. Jim Boniface (L) of Pine Bush Equipment gives Michael Divitto an explanation of the improvements made in the Komatsu D61PX-23 undercarriage. Sweet Peet’s older model D61PX. Several piles of Sweet Peet mulch are nearing the completion of the aging process. Newly delivered manure and bedding that has not yet started the aging process. Michael Divitto puts his new Komatsu dozer through its paces. Jim Boniface (L) of Pine Bush Equipment reviews the new Komatsu cooling system with Michael Divitto. (L-R) are Joseph Yankowich, Sweet Peet of New York; Michael Divitto, Sweet Peet of New York; Jim Boniface of Pine Bush Equipment; and Greg Fiori of Komatsu.

Not far from the crowded city streets in New York, in the suburbs surrounding the metropolitan area, horsepower doesn’t refer to engine power, but actual horses. And unlike the buses and cabs that fill the city streets, the waste left behind doesn’t come in the form of gas and fumes, but solid droppings that need to be properly disposed of.

Strict zoning regulations and limited acreage makes disposal of the manure a burden on the animal owners. In many cases, the owners have to pay to get rid of it.

Enter Sweet Peet of New York, manufacturers of 100 percent organic mulch that is made from horse manure and the bedding from horse stalls. Sweet Peet sends out trucks all across the region to collect horse manure, which is brought to its facility in Pawling, N.Y., where it is stockpiled, turned and aged until it turns into high-quality mulch material.

Michael Divitto and Joseph Yankowich own Sweet Peet of New York, which gives them the manufacturing rights and distribution rights for Sweet Peet in New York State and the New York Metropolitan area. Sweet Peet mulch is sold nationwide.

Piled High

On the Pawling, N.Y., site, several 50-ft. (15 m) tall or larger stacks of material represent piles of Sweet Peet mulch in various stages of aging and composting.

When materials first arrive at the facility, the horse manure and related straw or sawdust is put into the first stack and is occasionally bulldozed or turned to enhance the aging process. Much like fine wine, the older the product gets, the better it gets, the darker it gets and the less offensive it smells, according to Divitto and Yankowich.

When the product reaches a given level of aging it is moved to a new pile where fluids that drained off the pile during the aging process are collected and reapplied to the pile. This gives the future mulch its own natural coloring, which is very resistant to fading, unlike wood chip mulches that are artificially dyed and fade over time.

Moving the Mulch

Because the manufacturing of Sweet Peet mulch is very equipment and labor intensive, Divitto and Yankowich own a large fleet of equipment, including several stacking/conveying systems, screening plants, soil shredders and quite a number of pieces of Komatsu equipment that they have purchased from Pine Bush Equipment.

Over the years Divitto and Yankowich have developed a strong working relationship with Pine Bush Equipment.

“We really appreciate the entire package of support that we receive from Pine Bush Equipment,” said Divitto. “Their pricing is fair, their service is excellent and the support that we receive from our Pine Bush Equipment representatives is unequalled.

“Believe it or not, the job that we ask from our equipment at times is under extreme conditions. The entire process that we do generates a tremendous amount of heat. In the summer time these machines are working in the hot summer sun and moving a material whose temperatures can exceed 200 degrees. On top of that, in the early phases of production, before the product has started to age, it is a very dusty, dirty atmosphere with fine particles that get inhaled into all parts of the equipment.

“The operations are particularly severe for the dozers. The entire unit is running across the surface of these extreme temperatures. The product is light in its early phases and when being pushed oftentimes the pile exceeds the height of the blade. As the material tumbles back over the top of the blade, the material falls towards the engine compartment on the dozer. The radiator in particular very quickly gets loaded up with dusty, dirty material that clogs everything, which will over time affect the operation of the dozer and create all kinds of difficulties. The combination of dirt and heat is very rough on our machines.

“Our equipment is moving every day and we cannot afford downtime. One extreme example of Pine Bush’s service is that we had one particular circumstance where two dozers failed simultaneously. Pine Bush was able to get both machines up and running for us on the same day.”

Upgrading Equipment

Two years ago Pine Bush Equipment approached Sweet Peet about a new dozer design being released by Komatsu, the model D61PX-23. The machine was being marketed as having many new and exciting features, the core of which was the new Tier IV engines.

The feature that really had Divitto and Yankowich excited was that the cooling system, including the radiator and fans, was being moved from the front of the engine compartment to behind the cab of the tractor. This meant that the problem of dirt being pushed up over the blade of the tractor and being sucked up into the cooling system on the previous model was now largely eliminated.

Additionally, sensors had been put into the fans and radiator area, which detect when dirt and dust accumulations have become heavy and the cooling system is not operating properly. When this occurs the fans reverse themselves, effectively blowing out and cleaning the entire radiator area.

This feature alone was so exciting for Sweet Peet that the decision was made that they needed to own one. Little did they know that they would end up waiting two years to receive the machine.

What no one at Pine Bush Equipment or Komatsu could control was that at about the time they made their decision to buy, the entire construction equipment industry was in the throws of a tremendous slow down. Sales of construction equipment in North America and worldwide had softened so dramatically that all of the major equipment manufacturers had halted or severely slowed down production levels; and the introduction of the Komatsu D61PX-23 was delayed. However, the new cooling system was exciting enough to Divitto and Yankowich, and based on a host of other new features that the new machine was going to include, they made the decision to wait out buying a new dozer until the new Komatsu was available.

Komatsu D61PX-23

Some new features include:

• A new, efficient HST transmission, which features larger displacement pumps that gives the D61PX-23 an improvement of up to 20 percent fuel mileage

• A dramatically redesigned body, which slants the nose of the engine compartment and moves the positioning of the exhaust stack. The end result is improved visibility

• Improvements in the ROPS cab design, which include a quieter cab, a higher capacity seat, a standard rearview camera monitoring system with a 7 in. panel, and standard rear hydraulics

• Undercarriage improvements, which include a longer track frame, longer wear life and a significant decrease in maintenance cost

• Improved operator blade control, which places control for the power angle tilt to a button that is mounted to the joystick that is thumb operated

“Many of these additional improvements to the dozer were very important to us,” Divitto said. “Our operators spend 1,500 hours a year in these machines and many of the improvements made relate to operator comfort and visibility. Improved heating and cooling systems are greatly appreciated by our operators. The dramatically improved visibility makes their day far less stressful. The repositioning of the power angle tilt controls improves the ease of operation. Certainly, cutting our fuel costs by 20 percent per year is nothing to sneeze at, but primarily the improvements in the cooling system assure us a longer life expectancy from the machine we are purchasing.”

On Aug. 21, 2012, the wait was over and the very first Komatsu D61PX-23 delivered in the United States was delivered to Sweet Peet of New York. Jim Boniface with Pine Bush Equipment and Greg Fiori, factory representative of Komatsu, were on hand to review all of the features and benefits of the machine with Divitto and Yankowich. After a lengthy walk around Divitto put the machine through its paces and came back all smiles, convinced that the decision to wait had been the right one.

About Sweet Peet Mulch

According to the manufacturer’s Web site, Sweet Peet contains virgin wood shavings and a blend of composted agricultural manure. Sweet Peet buffers both acid and alkaline (low and high pH, and trace minerals) soils by helping to maintain the desired gardening sweet spot. When tilled in at the end of each season, Sweet Peet enriches the soil, releases nutrients into the root system, aids in the restoration of all plantings, improves tilth, encourages beneficial earthworms, loosens hardpan and clay soils and replenishes microbes that are often destroyed by harsh chemicals and acid rain.

The all-natural, organic ingredients of Sweet Peet allows air and water movement through the soil. It aids in releasing plant nutrients and increases humus, natures natural plant food. Sweet Peet absorbs and retains water and slowly releases water to the root zone during dry weather conditions and gives structural support for plants, while providing a medium for root growth and soil organisms.

Sweet Peet is 100 percent “organic green.” It has no artificial ingredients and contains no chemicals or dyes. Sweet Peet does not need to be removed at year’s end season like other mulches, it transforms itself into humus.

About Pine Bush Equipment

Pine Bush Equipment is a Komatsu distributor with locations in Hartford, Conn.; Holmes, N.Y.; and Pine Bush, N.Y.

For more information, visit

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