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According to a story in The New York Times, Jane Slupecki with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, took a group of dairy farmers to a brainstorming dinner. She had a small grant to try to find possible solutions to a big, stinky problem: cow manure, tons of it.

Cow poop is cow poop,” said Slupecki, who was feeling some frustration at the paucity of workable suggestions. Half in jest, she blurted, “Can’t you guys do something with this stuff — make a flowerpot or something?”

Those were fateful words for brothers Ben and Matthew Freund, second-generation dairy farmers who at the time maintained a herd of 225 Holsteins in East Canaan.

Each cow produces 120 pounds of manure daily. Why not grow flowers and tomatoes from cow flops?

It took eight years’ development, a $72,000 federal grant secured through Connecticut’s Agricultural Businesses Cluster, and countless grim experiments.

Now their manure-based CowPots — biodegradable seed-starting containers — are being made on the farm and sold to commercial and backyard growers who prefer their advantages over plastic pots.

Molded of dried, deodorized manure fibers, CowPots hold water well, last for months in a greenhouse and can then be planted directly into the ground, sparing the seedling transplant shock and letting tender new roots penetrate easily. As the pots decompose, they continue to fertilize the plant and attract beneficial worms.

The Freunds have green dreams far beyond CowPots, though most are too proprietary to divulge. Just one? “Think about golf tees made of composted manure that fertilize greens when discarded.”

Photo by NY Times.

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Originally posted by Rich Whittle on August 9, 2010 in Inventions.

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