A Recipe for Cash: Engineered and Structured Soils


In our last article, How to Hit Pay Dirt in the Soil Blending Business, we discussed how you can get started in the soil blending business. There is another profitable opportunity that is similar: engineered and structured soils. Let’s talk about what they are and how to get into business making them.

What Are Engineered and Structured Soils?

Engineered and structured soils are particular mixes of soil types and other ingredients to create a product capable of handling issues such as water runoff.

Engineered Soils

Engineered soils are a mix of sand, silt, clay, and other organic ingredients – like compost. These soils are typically used to handle water issues in landscaping and construction. For example, to reduce stormwater runoff from a drainage area. They may be used in rooftop and rain gardens. Generally, engineered soils are used wherever water flow control is needed, such as parking lot infiltration islands.

Structured Soils

Structured soils are used to deal with the problem of soil compaction. This is particularly relevant in urban planning where compacted soil is needed to handle the weight of people and traffic but is a detriment to tree growth. In essence, structured soils replace naturally aerated soils to allow a tree’s roots to thrive and grow. There are several types of structured soils, including sand-based (SBSS) and gravel-based (GBSS). Biochar, a charcoal-like substance made from burning organic waste, is another type of material being used in structured soil.

Getting Started in Engineered and Structured Soils

Getting started in the engineered and structured soils business involves education and planning.

The Language of Engineered and Structured Soils

You’ll want to understand the basics of engineered and structured soils. Learn the language of these types of soils so you can speak intelligently to prospective customers. There are several sources online. Take advantage of local, state, and federal government resources. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an excellent publication, Stormwater to Street Trees, to get you started.

How to Create Engineered and Structured Soils

Ultimately, customers will provide you with specific “recipes.” They will tell you what comprises the soil they need, and you will prove to them, via third party testing, that you have met their requirements.

Machines to Mix Engineered and Structured Soils

There is one machine that is fast, cheap, offers high capacity, and can be readily adapted to handle custom blends: The Terra XTREME by Murphy Products. This one machine, available in several models, does it all. You can stockpile your client’s recipe in a single pile, scoop it up with the loader of your choice from that one pile, and process it.

One Worker, One Pass

One worker, one loader, and one pass through the Terra XTREME machine pulverizes, aerates, and blends. The end result is a homogenous, blended product completed to your client’s exact specifications.

Terra XTREME Models

There are several Terra XTREME models available. Murphy Products can assist you in selecting the right machine for your needs.

Terra XTREME 3125

The smallest and lightest of the Terra Xtreme lineup, the 3125 is a highly mobile soil pulverizer.  The 3215 features a loading height of only 6’8”, comfortably within the range of a bob cat or skid steer loader.  It processes on average 100 cubic yards of soil per hour.

Terra XTREME 4240

The 4240 is designed to handle a wide range of materials, including those with a higher moisture content.  This Terra XTREME model features an enlarged mill head that allows it to pulverize up to 240 cubic yards of soil per hour.  The 4240 is the largest, and highest capacity model offered by Murphy Products.

Terra XTREME Environmental

Equipped with both a hydraulic baffle and spray system attachment, this unit is purpose built for use within the remediation industry.  True to form for all Terra XTREME models, the Environmental is highly mobile and simple to operate.

Planning for the Engineered and Structured Soils Business

There are many sources available to help you write a business plan. But you’ll need to answer some basic questions, including:

Initial Investment

How much is the initial investment? This will include equipment and overhead expenses. However, if you are already in business, just consider what is needed to expand into the engineered and structured soils space. You are already paying for overhead – like office space, insurance, and the like. You will need to have funds to perform third-party soils testing – something you probably are not doing now.


If you need financing, where will you get it? There are several avenues for financing beyond a bank. You may be able to get a loan from the SBA.


Is there a need for engineered and structured soils in your area? Unlike the soil blending business, engineered and structured soils are more complex. You are less likely to provide “off the shelf” mixtures. You will need to market to other businesses – landscapers, builders, general contractors, etc.

Materials Sourcing

It is very likely that a general contractor or earth mover already has access to raw materials, and to the end purchaser. However, it is worth researching where to purchase materials so that you can be a resource to your customers.


Getting started in engineered and structured soils is a bit more challenging than expanding into blended soils. But it can be a lucrative business. Like any other business you are interested in starting, research is key. Take the time to research your competition and potential customers. Take advantage of free resources like the SBA. Murphy Products manufactures and sells the Terra XTREME, but they also can answer your questions about how to cash in on engineered and structured soils.

What are engineered and structured soils?

Engineered soils are a mix of sand, silt, clay, and organic ingredients used for water control, while structured soils address soil compaction, allowing tree roots to thrive; both serve specific landscaping and construction needs.

How can I get started in the engineered and structured soils business?

To start, educate yourself on soil types, use government resources, understand the language, invest in the right machinery like the Terra XTREME, and create a business plan covering aspects like initial investment, financing, marketing, and materials sourcing.

Email [email protected] or call 866-221-3219 to speak with Murphy Products directly.