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Soil erosion is a major problem from both agricultural and environmental standpoints. The loss of topsoil -- the most fertile part of the soil structure – can ruin farmland in just a few years. If the process continues unchecked, disasters like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s can eventually occur.

Robert Arello Jr., CEO of Hydrograss Technologies Inc., deploys specifically engineered products that stop soil erosion. “We originally concentrated, as the business name indicates, on technologies for the hydraulic application of turf seeds, but as the business matured, we gravitated into the sciences of soils and storm water management,” he said in a recent interview. “And from that point on, we have been branching out into more and more specialty products based on ingenuity and innovation, made possible by relationships we’ve forged with some prominent agricultural chemical companies.”

Many of Hydrograss's more recent products use blends of negatively charged polymers and specialized crosslinking chemicals to hold soil in place. "These EPA-approved synthetic organics take micron-size clay particulates and, based on their electromagnetic chemical charge, create a particle agglomeration that prevents them from migrating off sites during heavy rain events,” Arello explained.

Businesses such as landfills, mines and construction projects are particularly concerned with soil erosion because they are required to comply with U.S. clean water legislation. "In the last 20 years, that's become extremely important," Arello said. “Any activity related to denuding soil or exposing ground where the runoff of soils or glacial tills could possibly contaminate the environment downstream, needs to be treated. Heavy metals like mercury or lead are easily transported because they are known to be piggybacked on soils. So, if you open up a site, whether it's half an acre or 20 acres, you need to protect it using products and processes that are extremely effective.”

A sampling of Hydrograss’s projects in recent years shows just how diverse their efforts are. They've used helicopters for hydroseeding in Colorado, targeting 2000 acres damaged in the Hayman Fire, and they’ve engaged with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to rejuvenate 480 acres of the Everglades in Florida. Abroad, they’ve tackled everything from the Fire Golf Course in Dubai to toxic sludge runoff from tar ponds in Nova Scotia.

Hydrograss has reacted to the economic downturn by diversifying and aggressively pursuing opportunities. "Being proactive, marketing, and making sure you're out front of people all the time -- that's very important,” Arello said. “With the economy so slow, you get a lot of competition pursuing the same projects." But he also believes that the recession has a positive Darwinian effect on small businesses. "When you get these big buildups like we've seen through the early 2000s followed by a sudden colossal drop off, it weeds out a lot of the companies that might not belong in this business," he said. "We know that everything you do is significant when times get difficult. That means the service has to be exceptionally impeccable, and the product line's got to be outstanding."

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