By: Amile Wilson
When Dane DeWeese decided he needed a side-hustle, he had no idea that it would turn into a national business with employees traveling across the country, all while living in Cleveland.
“I still don’t quite know how it happened,” DeWeese says.
Much to his own surprise, DeWeese has slowly and steadily built AgTank Solutions into a company with twelve employees and clients stretching from the Mississippi Delta to Georgia to Kansas and Indiana.
“We clean mini bulk and bulk containers used as Agriculture Chemical Tanks,” DeWeese explains. “Retailers across the country ship mini bulk to our facility in Cleveland to be cleaned for reuse. We dispatch teams to go clean on site for bulk containers. We also dispose of chemical tanks based on the guidelines of Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, and Ag Container Recycling Council.”
Originally from Philadelphia, MS, DeWeese did not expect to make his career in agriculture or in the Mississippi Delta.
“I thought I was supposed to play golf the rest of my life,” he says. “I knew nothing about row crop agriculture and my first trip to the Mississippi Delta was when I was twelve. The next was when I was eighteen.”
While attending Mississippi State University, DeWeese majored in turf management and expected to go to work for a golf course or country club. Jobs in that field generally require unusual hours, however, and DeWeese was not enthusiastic about having to work holidays. A friend suggested he instead pursue agriculture and DeWeese quickly became interested in soil conservation.
Just as DeWeese was about to start graduate school, he was offered a job in the Jimmy Sanders Company office in Yazoo City. With his new wife MK by his side, DeWeese left Starkville for Yazoo City. They were not there long, however, before he was offered a job in the corporate office in Cleveland, exactly what DeWeese wanted to be doing.
When the family owned Jimmy Sanders was purchased by an out of state corporation, DeWeese’s job was cut and he went into Agricultural sales. While he excelled at his new sales position, the work was seasonal and DeWeese began looking for something to do during his six month off-season.
“I decided I would clean tanks every year,” says DeWeese. “I just needed to clean ten tanks per year to keep myself busy, pay off my startup costs and make my income goals.”
DeWeese purchased the necessary equipment and started looking for work in tank cleaning and almost immediately the sales job fell through.
“My wife was pregnant with our second child and I didn’t have a job,” he says. “It was scary with a new family.”
DeWeese started interviewing for jobs but continued to find work cleaning tanks.
“Every day I’d wake up and think, ‘well, I’ve got enough work for today so I don’t need another job today,” he says. “The one day I woke up and had enough work for a week. Then a month.”
That was three and a half years ago. As one man with cleaning equipment transitioned into a legitimate business with an office and employees, AgTank Solutions was born and business has doubled every year.
“We’re just really thankful we have the opportunity to serve so many people,” DeWeese says, crediting his experience in jobs such as ag warehouse management to his business’ success. “I know what goes on with my customers’ locations and am able to relate. All my guys have to know how and why our customers do what they do in order to serve them.”
With over half of his clients from out of state, AgTank Solutions is a net importer of goods, money, and jobs, for Bolivar County.
In addition to providing a service to their customers, AgTank Solutions is also providing a net good for the environment by cleaning and recycling products when available and properly disposing of plastic and chemical products when necessary. They are also providing cost saving services to farmers and vendors by enabling reuse of consumer plastics.
The cleaning process can be labor and equipment intensive, and while small tanks can easily be disposed of, mini bulk and bulk containers are more of an asset for farmers who want to be able to service and reuse products. These containers are triple rinsed to minimize risks of reuse. Plastics that cannot be effectively rinsed and reused are thoroughly cleaned, reduced in size, and prepared for recycling.
“When we divert containers from landfills, that takes on a label of ‘recycled ag plastic,” he explains.
Recycled ag plastic can only be sold in domestic markets to ensure the maximum adherence to reuse safety regulations and that only certified end use products are made. Normally recycled ag plastic is used to manufacture drain tile for use by farmers in irrigation.
So far, AgTank Solutions has been responsible for recycling over thirty tons of ag container plastics.
In addition to bulk and mini bulk containers, AgTank Solutions cleans Diesel tanks on farms.
“Old tractors you could fill with dirt and it was okay, but the new technology is so sensitive to impurities,” he says. “Algae and other impurities make their way into these tanks, rust can accumulate, and you don’t want to transfer that into a $500,000 piece of equipment.”
AgTank Solutions also has a fertilizer tank cleaning division offering on-site cleaning via two and three-man crews.
“Our first year we cleaned three, this year we will have cleaned forty or fifty,” he says.
Fertilizer tanks are a highly regulated commodity that have to be inspected every five years. Inside these enormous 100 foot diameter and thirty-two foot tall metal structures, crews from AgTank Solutions use hydroblasters to remove debris for American Petroleum Inspections.
“We clean them in a uniform manner for the API so that every inspector has the same access and standards,” he says. “Those are long hard days sweating inside those tanks. Our hydroblasters are operating at 10-15,000 PSI to remove debris. For perspective, 7,000 PSI can cut a 2×4 in half and 10,000 PSI cuts concrete.”
AgTank continues to grow and on January 1st, DeWeese rolled out a strategic partnership with USC to sell and service seed treating equipment.
“We’ll sell the machines to retailers and provide service, cleaning, maintenance, and support,” DeWeese says.
This new division is a great example of growth for the company which already built a niche cleaning seed treatment containers.
“Seed treatment product is designed to dry fast,” DeWeese says. “If you saw it in the container you’d think it was paint. As soon as it’s exposed to air it starts to dry. We figured out a way to remove the stain and residue and to reuse the containers.”
Companies now are able to save thousands of dollars by having used seed treatment containers sent to AgTank for cleaning rather than shipped to the Midwest for proper disposal.
“It costs about $145 to dispose of a container, and only $35 to clean one,” DeWeese says.
Now with multiple divisions, DeWeese is looking into new options to grow the company even more.
“I never imagined having a business and having full time employees,” DeWeese says. “We’re focused on making the right steps to stay in business. We’ve grown every year and never experienced a time looking for something to do – we always find something because we listen to our customers and do what they ask. We want to head toward sustainability.”
At thirty-two years of age, DeWeese says he is still just figuring out how to run his business, with such significant growth and a new division that opened this month, it certainly looks like he knows exactly what his customers need!