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January 31, 2024

The Elements of Success: The Keg River Chemical Story (Part 2)

Part 2: Creating a Better Bentonite Sulfur Fertilizer

By the time Keg River Chemical opened its doors in 1998 with a focus on getting back into the bentonite sulfur fertilizer game, its leading competitor (a former branch of the family business) had a sizeable head start and a well-established North American customer base.

But Daryl Schuster had something else. Something new and unique.

Years prior, when Daryl worked for his father, a customer in New Zealand wanted them to make an elemental sulfur fertilizer pastille with a higher clay content. The goal was to break down the degradable sulfur into an even finer particle size than was possible with the traditional 90% product for enhanced performance.

Daryl Schuster with his mother, Dorothy, and sister Debbie, who sold him the Edmonton manufacturing plant in 1993.

When Daryl launched Keg River, he knew an 85% product was the ace up his sleeve. He understood it would offer several advantages over a standard 90% fertilizer, including:

  • Longer shelf life
  • Consistently better degradability
  • Greater efficacy

And he realized this could all be achieved with a minimal impact on the retail price per ton.

Keg River launched into the North American market, starting with California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and Western Canada. In addition to Keg85S and Keg90S, it would offer organic versions of each, along with a product that combined 50% Keg90S with 50% AMS (the ‘canola blend’).

Origins of the Keg River Name

Before he decided to focus on elemental sulfur fertilizer, Daryl Schuster ran a calcium chloride business. Their product came from concentrated brine wells near Slave Lake, Alberta, and was extracted from the Keg River formation.

An Uncompromising Approach to Quality

From day one, Keg River was committed to being a different kind of company.

Daryl knew that if he was going to compete, he could turn quality into his key area of differentiation.

Keg River quickly made it their mission to become the leading authority on clay quality. They searched North America for a clay supplier that could deliver a consistent supply of premium clay manufactured to their impeccably high standard.

The other key point of differentiation has been Keg River’s attention to providing the safest and easiest handling products on the market. No manufacturer has worked harder to improve dust control measures.

Yet, it is not just Keg River’s products that set it apart.

“The focus has always been on offering fair value for our clients. We don’t believe in cutting corners or gouging. It’s always been about consistently superior quality and dependability,” Schuster explains.

“Most people know us to be honest and transparent. We’ve been rewarded for this.”

Keg River today

As the business grew, Keg River initiated a major equipment upgrade and expansion of the Edmonton plant in 2008. This allowed them to double production to 400 metric tons/day.

In 2010, the company began expanding shipments by rail. Today, Keg River operates a fleet of 15 cars. This has allowed it to move into new markets, including Florida. A warehouse facility was built in 2020 to help the company meet peak season demand.

Daryl continues to run the company alongside his wife, Sherry. His two sons, Scott and Joel, are actively involved, following in the family’s entrepreneurial footsteps. They’ve built a loyal team of long-term employees and customers (representing both line and independent retailers) who are integral to Keg River’s growth and ongoing success.

Congratulations to Keg River on your 25th anniversary. As a present, we share the following quote as a tribute to the little company that could…

“Clay can be dirt in the wrong hands, but clay can be art in the right hands.”

Lupita Nyong’o, Actress 

See how it’s made

Take a video tour of Keg River’s manufacturing plant.

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