Cardboard Chips as a Farm Input

Project Overview

FNE21-994
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2021: $14,484.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Coonamessett Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Ronald Smolowitz
Coonamessett Farm

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Animal Production: housing
  • Pest Management: mulches - general
  • Soil Management: composting

    Proposal summary:

    Coonamessett Farm is a 20-acre vegetable and berry farm that also raises livestock. We have five greenhouses, two high tunnels, six barns, a farm store and restaurant, and an on-farm composting operation. Basically we conduct a wide range of farming activities and require a large amount of inputs for production. Some of these typical farm inputs include mulch for weed control, potting mixes for planting, bedding for animal housing, and feed stock for our composting operation. We have noticed that cardboard boxes have become a major component of our waste stream and are costly to dispose of properly. A review of the literature shows that cardboard can be used as mulch, animal bedding, a compost component, and possibly a potting mix component. We spend thousands of dollars buying potting mix for transplants and wood shavings for animal bedding. It seems like a potential win/win; utilize the cardboard to cut the cost of crop inputs and our trash bill at the same time. We researched the machine options available to small farms that can convert cardboard to usable products; wood chippers, cardboard shredders, and perforating machines. Our research located an Italian-made cardboard chipping machine that it is gaining popularity in England for making animal bedding. We are in the process of purchasing one of these machines at our own expense. We propose that SARE fund our research effort to demonstrate and document the use of the cardboard chips produced for the uses we have described. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to document the economics of using cardboard chips as a replacement for wood shavings as an animal bedding. We will quantify the quantity and type of cardboard used, the time it takes to remove tape and staples, and the time it takes to produce a certain volume of product. We will utilize the cardboard bedding, alongside of our traditional bedding, in stalls with poultry, goats, sheep, donkeys, and alpacas. We will evaluate the bedding regarding odor control, wetness, ease in stall cleaning, handling, and storage. We will evaluate the time it takes to breakdown in our composting operation. The question to be answered is it better and more cost effective than wood shavings.

    This project also seeks to demonstrate cardboard chips as a mulch; either used alone or blended with wood chips. We will evaluate the productions costs, as stated above, and its effectiveness as a mulch. We will evaluate weed and pest control; does it control slugs, does it blow away,  and what weeds are controlled. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.