Jackson Emery trades the court for compost

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By Madeleine Brown

Former BYU basketball guard Jackson Emery, three graduate students and a professor are testing combinations of compost at an Orem golf course.

Emery is working for EcoScraps, a company that turns leftover fruits and vegetables into nutritious and organic soil. They collect the waste from grocery stores and wholesale food distributors and then process them at their plant.

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(From left) BYU professor Bryan Hopkins, former BYU basketball guard Jackson Emery, Jay Van Tassell, James Cotner and Scott Herzog have been working on an experiment with fertilzers on grass at Sleepy Ridge Golf Course in Orem.

Emery approached Bryan Hopkins, a professor of plant and wildlife sciences, about doing a research project on the compost generated by EcoScraps. Three students in Hopkins’ turf grass science class volunteered to participate. Hopkins runs tests on the compost and is confident it will help the soil at Sleepy Ridge golf course in Orem.

“I’ve already tested the material and found it to be a good product,” Hopkins said. “It has good nutritional value and it adds organic matter to the soil.”

The research team is going to compare EcoScraps’ compost to a regular fertilizer program. They are testing different combinations of microbes and minerals at the golf course.

Even though the compost was used for the first time a few weeks ago, Hopkins said he expects to see results soon. Emery said it could take several months or years for full results, but is hoping to see  a difference next spring.

According to Emery, the project has two purposes.

“The intention of the plan is to obviously help out Sleepy Ridge first, with their soil needs and with their grass,” Emery said. “It’s also a pilot program for proving that our product works on golf courses and that, in the long run, it will be beneficial for them to use it.”

Emery’s friend Daniel Blake started EcoScraps as a way to use material that would be wasted anyway and turn it into something useful. One of EcoScraps’ clients is Costco. Emery said one Costco store throws out about 2,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables every day. This is just a small part of produce waste.

“There’s enough food waste thrown out [in America] every year to fill LaVell Edwards Stadium once every three days,” Emery said.

Because fruits and vegetables are the ingredients of the compost, it is nutritional and organic.

James Cotner, Scotty Herzog and Jay Van Tassell are the graduate students working on the project.

Van Tassell is studying landscape management and became involved with the project through his turf science class. He said they have a few plots on the golf course.

“The first week we went out and marked off the plots we were going to study, and then we applied different treatments to different sections of the plots, using the compost and a control,” he said. “We’ve been letting it sit and letting it work because compost takes a little bit longer to disintegrate.”

The team will start taking data samples next week.