In recent decades, the public has become increasingly aware of the need to treat nature and its limited resources with care. Not least because of this, a completely new industrial sector emerged at the beginning of the nineties: “environmental technology”. One of the pioneers in this field is the Austrian company Komptech in Frohnleiten. It was founded in 1992 – the year in which the Austrian state Styria became one of the first regions in Europe to introduce the separate collection of organic waste. Komptech dedicated itself to composting technology and launched its first product, the “Topturn” compost turner, onto the market.
The aim of composting is to convert organic substances into plant-friendly humus as quickly and odorlessly as possible. In order to cope with the large quantities of organic waste that have accumulated since then, many local authorities rely on so-called windrow composting, in which the material is piled up in windrows several meters wide. In order to achieve a short, effective composting time and the lowest possible odor development, the windrows must be regularly turned – i.e. aerated and, if necessary, watered. This is a task that is still performed by machines such as the Topturn.
New generation with optimized technology
However, the current Topturns look different to the first models. In 2011, a completely new generation of compost turners was developed to meet today’s requirements. Komptech’s focus here was on maintaining its high quality standards throughout. High quality is one of the principles of the company, which has developed into a full-service provider in the field of waste treatment over the past decades. The Styrian technology company has become a global player for environmental technology machines with over 50 different machine types that cover all the key process steps in modern waste treatment. The company continued to grow in 2022 and achieved a turnover of 205 million euros.
The Topturn, of which around 50 are built each year at the subsidiary Farmtech in Ljutomer (Slovenia), continues to be one of the most successful products. Thanks to the company’s quality strategy, it has been able to convince a wide variety of users worldwide. The focus of the Topturn’s new design was on redesigning the driver’s cab. Among other things, the focus here was on the seat and the two joysticks with which the operators control the vehicle and the application.
The German foundation company elobau from Leutkirch emerged as the winner in the selection of the joystick supplier.
Sits comfortably in the hand and is easy to use
One big plus that Komptech immediately noticed was the ergonomic shape of the elobau joysticks, which are slightly curved to suit the left and right hand. The material is pleasant to the touch, which is very comfortable for operators who may be working with it day in, day out.
The functional design of the elobau joysticks makes the Topturn easy to operate. The one on the right-hand side is used for driving control, while the one on the left controls the devices. The right-hand joystick is configured so that the direction of travel – i.e. forwards, backwards and turning – can be controlled. The single-axis tilting movement is used for speed control. In addition, elobau has also integrated a friction brake that holds the joystick in the last position after it is released, in other words it acts as a kind of cruise control. Safety is also taken care of. A button is integrated for this purpose, which the driver must press at definable intervals. Otherwise, the machine stops and switches off all functions.
Flexibly assignable function elements
Flexibility in terms of button assignment was also an important decision criterion for Komptech. The right joystick – for driving control – is single-axis; the left joystick – for machine control – is multiaxial. Each of the two contains two thumbwheels and several buttons, which Komptech was able to equip with any number of functions. Even the choice of color was left to the Komptech technicians.
The left joystick is used to switch on the roller, which ultimately turns the compost, and to control its speed. It can also be used to adjust the two blades that push the compost towards the roller. Other functions relate to the height adjustment of the machine, either diagonally forwards, diagonally backwards or evenly upwards. The irrigation of the windrow can also be switched on if it is very dry or is required for the rotting process.
Sustainability as a unifying element
The successful cooperation between Komptech and elobau is based on working together as equals. Sustainability is also a top priority for both companies. Both elobau and Komptech produce climate-neutrally and pursue a long-term sustainability strategy. As a technology specialist and solution provider for the processing of mixed material flows and biomass, Komptech sees great potential in the recycling of waste – true to the motto: “Where there is waste, there is opportunity”. Komptech’s machines and systems are used worldwide to take secondary raw materials for material or energy recovery. The company therefore sees itself as part of a functioning circular economy. In order to meet its responsibility to society and the environment, Komptech has also launched its own sustainability program: FAIR is based on the UN’s 17 SDGs and the core areas of “People”, “Planet” and “Prosperity” and is committed to a responsible approach to the environment, society and employees as well as sustainable corporate development.
For elobau, too, the vision of a circular economy is always at the heart of its business activities: only as much should be taken out of the ecological, social, and economic cycle as can be returned to it elsewhere. In this way, nature and resources can be protected and the future of future generations secured. elobau combines economic success with high ethical standards. The focus is on people – whether customers, suppliers, or employees. Since 2010, the company has been producing climate-neutrally out of conviction and is considered a pioneer in the field of sustainability beyond the industry. elobau has already received numerous awards for its commitment, such as the 2020 Environmental Award for Companies from the state of Baden-Württemberg. In 2022 and 2023, elobau was also named the most sustainable medium-sized company in Germany by WirtschaftsWoche in a study of 4,000 medium-sized companies.
Sustainability also plays a fundamental role for elobau in product development. Wherever possible, available resources should be used in such a way that sustainability is already implemented in the core of the product. For example, elobau’s material study of an eco-design armrest – which is designed according to the principles of the circular economy in terms of the design, development, and manufacturing process – provides a glimpse of future, more sustainable products that focus on a more responsible use of resources and the environment. There will certainly be further important points of contact here in the future to further expand and deepen the partnership between elobau and Komptech.
From organic waste to compost
Composting consists of a process chain that looks like this: first, the material to be composted is processed by shredding, mixing and, if necessary, sieving to create an initial mixture that is as free of impurities as possible and optimized for the rotting process. This decomposition and conversion process, which is carried out by microorganisms, is controlled externally by aeration, mixing and watering. In windrow composting, this is usually carried out by a compost turner such as the Topturn. This process is generally completed after six to twelve weeks. This is followed by post-treatment, in which sieving and wind sifting guarantee a compost with a homogeneous particle size and free of impurities.
Komptech GmbH, Frohnleiten (Styria), is part of the Austrian Orasis Industries, an industrial company with more than 150 years of history. It consists of several companies that are innovation and technology leaders in their markets. Komptech GmbH covers the environmental technology sector. It develops and produces machines and systems for the mechanical and biological treatment of solid waste and for the processing of woody biomass as a renewable energy source. The product range comprises more than 50 types of machines that cover all the main process steps in waste treatment. The Komptech Group employs 800 people and serves more than 3000 customers in almost 80 countries worldwide. It also has sites in Oelde in Germany and Ljutomer in Slovenia, where the subsidiary Farmtech produces, among other things, the Topturn compost turners developed in Austria.
The foundation company elobau is a global manufacturer of non-contact sensor technology, level measurement and operating elements for machine and plant construction as well as mobile machinery. Based in Leutkirch in the Allgäu region and employing around 1,200 people worldwide, the company has made it its mission to offer sustainable solutions. elobau’s products are characterized by a high level of vertical integration and are manufactured in Germany in a climate-neutral manner.
Tel.: +43 3126 505 – 0
Fax: +43 3126 505 – 505
elobau Austria GmbH
5301 Eugendorf / Salzburg
Tel.: +43 6225 205440
Fax: +43 6225 205446
elobau GmbH & Co. KG (Headquarter)
Tel.: +49 (0) 7561 970-0
Fax: +49 (0) 7561 970-100