Mont Handley invented his peat moss substitute, called Pit Moss, way back in 1994. He recognized the problem with over harvesting peat bogs to obtain peat moss for gardening and decided to do something about it. Peat moss bogs trap about 30% of the carbon in the earth's atmosphere, so over harvesting, or losing them altogether, would be catastrophic to the earth's atmosphere and climate.
Most folks use peat moss in their gardens to amend soil, but commercial growers use much more. Anytime you buy pansies or tomato plants at a garden center, you're buying a product that was seeded and grown in peat moss. Tens of millions of tons of peat moss are sold every year in the US alone and it's starting to have an impact on peat lands world-wide. Handley's Pit Moss aims to change that.
Mr. Handley will surely bring up the environmental benefits of Pit Moss when he pitches his business to the Sharks in episode 627. Using Pit Moss not only protects peat bogs from over harvest, it also helps the recycling stream. Pit Moss is made from recycled paper that's been recovered from landfills. It's turned into a mulch-like substance with Handley's “proprietary additives.” The idea behind Pit Moss is it can replace traditional peat moss without negative effects on the environment.
Handley's spent the better part of 20 years testing Pit Moss to make sure it's an adequate replacement. Applying for and getting patents took a lot of time too. He admits in the episode 627 promo that “sales aren't that good,” maybe it's because he's spent so much time testing and developing the product. Pit Moss costs about the same as a comparable amount of peat moss, but it retains 50% more water, has better porosity, and a longer shelf life. Handley has the product available to commercial growers east of the Mississippi, but it isn't available to consumers…..yet.
My Take on the Peat Moss Substitute
Like any homeowner with a garden, I've purchased my fair share of peat moss bales at the garden center over the years. Most potting soils contain peat moss as well. There are other substitutes available, but Pit Moss is different. Coconut fibers, paper pulp (a primary ingredient in Pit Moss), composted manure, and other products are available, but Pit Moss is the greenest I've seen and Handley has a patent for his product.
If the price is comparable, I could see many gardeners giving Pit Moss a try. If it works as advertised, Mr. Handley could have a multi-million dollar business on his hands. Sales to commercial growers alone could propel the company forward and even a small slice of the $500 million dollar US peat moss market would mean big dollars for Pit Moss.
The only question I have is why did it take Handley 20+ years to get the business going. I understand the need for testing, but he invented Pit Moss 4 years before Google was founded and nobody's ever heard of it! If I see Pit Moss on the shelf at my local garden center when I go to do my spring planting, I'll try it. If it works, Handley has a customer for life.
Will Sharks get in the Pit?
The Sharks would have to be brain-dead not to see the benefit of Pit Moss, the question for them will be is it a good business or just another good idea? They'll likely have the same question I did: why did it take 20 years to start selling this stuff?
Even though the episode promo makes a point of Handley defending himself on that point, it could just be a diversion. Earlier in season six, Lori invested in Earth Log, a prefabricated fire log made from recycled paper. The precedent for investing in a green business that serves a basic need is there, but Handley needs to show the potential of his business.
While I'm not sure which Shark invests, I have a strong suspicion that Handley gets a deal. Pit Moss is being shipped to wholesale growers and he recently purchased a machine that will increase his production capacity ten-fold. Such a capital investment, timed with a Shark Tank appearance, has all the indications of a Shark in the moss.