The soil on Mathew’s dairy farm, as on many, has become excessively enriched in phosphorus, thanks to the repeated application of manure. To reduce the phosphorus loading, and the potential for pollution it presents, he conceived the idea of molding the manure, or compost made from it, into planting pots, which he could then sell. Mathew’s SARE project involved experimenting with various sorts of molds and manufacturing techniques, and testing the final product by using it to grow peppers in a greenhouse.
Mathew and his brother Benjamin did succeed in building a workable mold. They found that, for a raw material, composted manure served better than undigested manure. Pots made from their mold held their shape, but proved to be bulky, and require considerable storage space. Mathew and Benjamin report, however that their major drawback is the expense per unit item, because of which they are not competitive with pots made from plastic or peat, at least not for now.