CowPots - The Invention of Necessity
CowPots were invented by Connecticut brothers Matt and Ben Freund, second generation dairy farmers raising 250 cows on 650 acres located on the Blackberry River in the northwest hills of Connecticut.
In the dairy industry, one of the most challenging jobs is to manage the nutrient stream in an environmentally sound manner. Eugene Freund started a farm in 1949. He was always on the cutting edge of new technologies, especially in areas related to efficient nutrient management. As a matter of fact, his was one of the first farms in the state to store manure to apply later to optimize crop nutrient uptake.
The Freund brothers tried very hard to follow in their father’s footsteps, and they continue to look for maximum benefit from new technologies. In 1997, they began continuously running a methane digester – a practice carried out by only a few farms across the country. During this process, raw manure is heated and stored in a large tank. The methane gas is collected and burned. At the end of the process, the solids are separated from the liquid. The liquid goes back to the field to grow the crops for next year’s cow feed. The solids continue composting. This composted manure is weed-seed free, and is used to mold their invention -- CowPots.
How It All Began
Several years ago, the Freund’s were thinking of ways to reduce the nutrient load on their farm and began looking at manure in a different way. The brothers knew that farmers and gardeners have always considered cow manure a wholesome, organic soil amendment; however, the challenge has been to find a new and better way to get manure that was a value to consumers. Matt began experimenting with ideas to make a durable but biodegradable pot. He realized two things – this was a really good idea, and he needed to find financial support to adequately develop the pot to meet commercial standards.
Matt contacted the Natural Resources Conservation Service and received enthusiastic support. He applied for a number of grant programs. Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program they were able to obtain funding for waste storage facilities, methane digester, roof runoff management, waste transfer, and other waste handling components on the farm – all of which are an integral part of making their endeavor (which has gone both national and international) so successful.
Matt then went back to the kitchen and began experimenting with the manure fibers … drying the pots in a toaster oven. After many trials, the brothers found a process that allowed them to mass produce pots of limitless sizes and shapes at an economical cost.
CowPots are now a patented, environmentally-friendly product that can withstand months in a greenhouse; but within four weeks of being planted dissolve and continue to feed plants. The benefits in the production and use of CowPots are twofold – they help farmers reduce the nutrient load on their farm – which directly contributes to a better and cleaner environment; and they have been proven to grow bigger, better plants for consumers who now have no plastic to discharge –meaning less overload in landfills. The partnership between NRCS and the Freund’s is an example of how our agency is working to preserve our natural resources and maintain sustainable farms in creative ways.