Whether you’re new to composting or already have a large-scale operation, it’s important to understand how the windrow turning process works. There are two different processes: “windrow composting” and “composting in-windrow.” The first is when composting is done entirely within the windrow, usually outdoors. On the other hand, the second term refers to composting that takes place in a vessel or an enclosed aerated static pile, typically indoors.So, let’s dive into the basics of windrow turning equipment, discuss the pros and cons of each type of windrow turner, and figure out which machine you should use in different situations.

The basics of compost turners

These machines work by turning windrows face-on. Some can turn the pile in a single run, while others take several to turn a windrow fully. Compost turners are categorized according to several factors, including their power source, how they move compost, and how they travel.

Power source

Compost turners are available in three main power sources: PTO-driven, hydraulic-powered, and self-propelled.
  • PTO or Power Take-Off is a method of using the power produced by a machine’s engine. In this case, the compost turner is connected to a tractor that provides power through its external socket.
  • Hydraulic-powered turners are powered by hydraulic systems. This system uses fluid pressure to power a drive motor.
  • Self-propelled compost turners come with their own engine and transmission, making them the most expensive option. Because they can work independently, they do not require a tractor or any other power source, which often makes them a better option in the long run.

Methods of turning compost

There are several techniques that compost turners employ to process and hasten the composting process. here are just three of the most common.
  1. Flipping: In this method, the compost turner flips the entire compost pile upside down, ensuring the material at the bottom of the pile is moved to the top. This technique is effective in evenly distributing heat and moisture throughout the compost pile.
  2. Rolling: Some compost turners roll the compost pile, causing the materials to mix thoroughly. This method promotes an even decomposition process and prevents the formation of anaerobic zones.
  3. Aerating: Compost turners can also aerate the compost by inserting rods or spikes into the pile. This method allows air to penetrate deeply into the compost, ensuring aerobic bacteria can thrive, and speeding up the decomposition process.

Types of compost turners

One of the most important parts of an efficient composting project is having the right turner for the job. The following are the most common types of composting machines on the market today.

Straddle type turners

This is the most common type of composting machine. Straddle turners are self-propelled, powered by either belts or hydraulics, and cover the entirety of a windrow, turning it in a single pass. However, the windrow’s width must match the turner’s size for this to work properly. In other words, you need to conform your operations to match the machine. A horizontal rotor, or drum, is used to turn the material.  Some straddle-type turners can be pulled by a loader or tractor, moving alongside the windrow. However, keep in mind that non-self-propelled straddle types need a space for the tractor to move through. This empty area is not producing, so it is ultimately less efficient than self-propelled models. Straddle-type turners can move a variety of windrow sizes depending on how much power and room is available. To turn large piles, you will need a larger machine. Some manufacturing companies will create custom machines made just for your operation. Be sure to do some research before buying a pre-made machine to see if this is a good option for you.

Auger compost turners

The auger type uses paddles to lift and move windrows. Auger turners are typically pulled by a skid-steer loader or wheel loader. They employ various techniques by using a shaft and helical-pattern paddles. As the auger moves down the windrow, it moves the material from one side to the other. So, unlike straddles, you don’t need ample space between the windrows most of the time.

Elevating face turners

This type of composting machine is a backwards-sloping conveyor with teeth that turn up and over. The teeth break up items, but they do not reduce particle size. These are especially useful if you need to place the compost in a certain location. You can have both tractor and self-propelled elevating face turners.

Trapezoid type turners

The trapezoid-type compost turner sits on the slope side of a large windrow and uses rotors on an inclined axis to remove vertical layers of materials and form new windrows. The movement can be compared to slowly using one windrow to form another. These compost turners can be customized to break up the windrow particles in different sizes. Trapezoid types are both self-propelled and tractor-pulled. You can also use these to move windrows into ideal locations, rather than just turning the compost.

Latest improvements in compost turners

Recent improvements to compost turners have resulted in a wide variety of machines that can fulfill a multitude of roles. You are no longer limited to a handful of models. There are dozens of options with different configurations that can best serve your needs. Modern turners can deal with windrows that are both small and large. You can purchase tractor, loader, and self-propelled models for indoor and outdoor operations.  Operators enjoy greater comforts with modern compost turners as well. For example, self-propelled turners often have air conditioning and heating in the cabs. Many incorporate air filtration systems, as well as seats and controls with ergonomic features. Many modern turners can even compost different materials. Some have paddles made to introduce more oxygen, reduce wear, exchange contents in different ways, pulverize feedstock, and use less power. Others have improved operator controls and an increased turn radius. Most compost turners optimize space and can adjust the height at which they work, giving you more flexibility in your operations. Finally, maintenance has been simplified. These machines are subjected to harsh conditions that put a strain on their operational capacity. Many improvements have been devoted to reducing wear and simplifying maintenance. For example, paddles have been strengthened, and the design has been simplified, which allows for quicker replacement.

Improved versatility

Modern turners can perform multiple roles, not just turning compost. Many allow you to introduce water through a spray nozzle or hose. The watering system can be used to suppress dust and add inoculates. Also, compost turners can now move windrows to other areas, allowing you to improve efficiency and reduce costs. If you have multiple sites, some models are compact and ideal for transportation, allowing you to save money by using your turner at multiple sites.

Talk to the experts about your next compost turner

You have many options when it comes to choosing your next compost turner. At SCARAB International, we understand the need for efficient operations and machines. We specialize in creating high-quality, modern compost turners for all your composting needs and can handle large, medium, and small projects. If you need something that you can’t find on the market, we can develop a custom compost turner for your unique operation.  To learn more About Us and our Products call us at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us through email today. We have New, Used, and Refurbished machines, as well as Leasing Options available.