A low-impact tool to make composting easy
Charlie Ambrose needed to solve a composting problem. He always seemed to end up with dry compost—with little to no moisture to support the bacterial life necessary to fuel the composting process. He knew due to the hot and dry climate in his home city of Tucson, AZ, he needed to be extra careful about mixing his “wet” compost (food scraps, etc.) and “dry” compost (yard waste, etc.). But his bad back made that difficult. He needed something to make turning his compost pile easier, but he couldn’t find anything in stores.
So he got to work and designed a unique tool he called the Compost Crank®, which makes it easy to mix the wet and dry compost materials together so that the whole pile becomes evenly moist. The Crank also aerates the pile to add oxygen—another key element of the composting process.
Soon thereafter, his sister-in-law Vicky saw this odd metal object leaning against a tree in his backyard, and after asking Ambrose what it was for, tried it out. She then informed him that it worked so well, she bet other composters would want to use it. So Ambrose’s wife, Sharon, who was a stay-at-home mom at the time, started a small company part-time to try selling the Compost Crank to others. She started out by asking the Tucson Organic Gardeners group to test the tool, and Vicky was right—the Crank was a hit. Lotech Products placed its first advertisement in the back of Organic Gardening magazine, and the rest is history.
Thanks to Ambrose’s self-described “dorky” sense of humor, they settled on the name Lotech Products, LLC m —for “low-technology products”—which aims to “take the chore out of composting by making it as easy, effective, and fun as can be,” says Ambrose. Today, Lotech Products is still based in Tucson and is owned and operated by the Ambrose family—Charlie, Sharon, and their two sons Brendan and Brian.
“Our family bends and crafts each tool ourselves,” says Ambrose. “We are the makers, designers, printers, advertisers, students, and testers, so our customers support us directly.”
Currently, Lotech Products sells three handcrafted compost aerating tools, which they build with care on machines Charlie made himself from recycled parts: the original Compost Crank and two variations.
The original corkscrew compost aerator, the Compost Crank, mixes your dry and wet organic matter, allowing you to hasten the composting process without bending or heavy shoveling. You crank the corkscrew-like tool into the compost clockwise and lift without turning. The compost at the bottom will then pull up to the top, mixing your pile.
The Special Long Compost Crank looks and operates similarly to the original, but is seven inches longer. At 52 inches long, it’s designed to aerate composting toilets and taller bins.
And the Compost Crank Twist has the same working length as the original tool, 29 inches, but with a different handle, if you prefer a smaller, cane- shaped handle to the original’s
The Ambrose family uses stainless steel to make the tools, which is infinitely recyclable and corrosion- resistant without requiring additional protective coating. The handles are molded in Tucson, supporting the local economy, and are made from recycled glass-filled nylon, which is naturally UV stable.
“They are high-quality, built to last, and made-in-America compost tools that make composting easy—and easy on your back,” says Ambrose.
The family strives to source materials locally and uses a minimal-packaging approach to shipping— compostable tape, recycled packaging material, and recycled paper shipping products.
They look forward to designing new products for gardening and composting. They have several ideas for bins, beds, and hand tools. Some will be multi-use, some just more efficient, and all of them will help reduce waste in the environment, says Ambrose.
“Clearly, composting is becoming a bigger part of our world, and [part of] a conscious effort towards sustainable living,” says Ambrose. “We are very happy to be helping more and more people.”