Freund Farms has found a way to make the most out of its mounds of poop: cow pots. The company mixes composting bovine waste with other materials and then molds it into earthy-smelling biodegradable planting containers. The product can survive for weeks in a greenhouse and then dissolves when planted into the ground, making it a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic containers.
Brothers Ben and Matt Freund run a 250-cow diary farm, which their father started in 1949. The cow pots idea emerged nine years ago from a desire to find a revenue stream in all of the excess cow dung. There was little money for development, however. "We felt we had a good idea but couldn't afford to get there," says Matt Freund. Then they got a Small Business Innovation Research award through the Department of Agriculture, which had previously given them a rural development grant. "It really allowed us to move forward before someone grabbed it from us," he adds.
The latest SBIR funds will allow them to hire three or four new workers and pay for additional research to refine the manufacturing of the products. "If this thing can take off, it's going to make what comes out of the back of the cows as important as what comes out beneath the cows," Ben Freund explains. - Herman Wong