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The Innovation of Elephant Gardening

  • Patrick Seely
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What is the title of your invention or innovation? PachyPoo: Composted Elephant Manure

In 250 words or less, tell us what problem your invention/innovation is trying to solve. There are several problems that our innovation is solving. The first and arguably most important one is increasing organic food production by providing a high quality, nutrient dense, bio-active, and clean soil amendment/fertilizer product. The second problem we are solving is diverting a major waste stream from polluting Florida’ ecology and over-burdened landfills. Manure in landfills is a known producer of the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, methane (CH4) gas. We are decreasing methane pollution. The third problem we are solving is contributing to the support, awareness, and conservation of the Elephantidae species. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) has officially declared 2015 as the “International Year of the Soil,” and its instructions are both simple and imperative: We need to focus all of our energy on improving the soil quality of our planet, so that we may sustain life on this planet. Using Elephant Compost to improve soil is not only innovative, but it is in line with UNFAO’s instructions. In summary, the three main areas our innovation positively impacts are food production and landscaping, ecology/climatology/environmentalism, and animal education and welfare.

In 250 words or less, tell us how your invention/innovation solves the problem better than existing alternatives. Our innovation solves the primary problem of organic food production/urban landscaping better than existing alternatives for two main reasons: cleanliness and nutrient profile. Existing manure based compost products in the marketplace are often byproducts of industrialized processes. These processes are largely unregulated by state or federal guidelines. Existing alternatives can be contaminated with everything from synthetic hormones, persistent pesticides, antibiotics, and slaughterhouse wastes. The ethics of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) aside, cleaning chemicals, solvents, and even carcass parts may find their way to the manure pile that is then bagged up and sold at your local Big Box or garden stores. In addition, the diet of these animals in many cases are not natural. For example, cattle are often not eating grass, they are eating Genetically Modified corn. The main point to consider, however, is the fact that most cows are diseased animals. The self proclaimed ‘National Dairy Farm Magazine’ admits that ‘most dairy herds are affected by bovine leukemia virus, (Hoard’s Dairyman, Volume 147, number 4). Composted Elephant Manure has few, if any, of these above issues. The elephants are not routinely drugged and they are never given growth hormones. The elephants that we source our manure from are not diseased. They eat a natural, locally sourced, vegan diet. The quality of their treatment is reflected in the cleanliness of their dung. When compost finds its way to the local farm, community or school garden, or urban landscape, it is always best to use clean soil amendments! The second reason why our innovation solves the problems of world hunger and food production better is the superior nutrient content of Composted Elephant Manure: 10% Nitrogen, 2% Phosphorus, and 2% Potassium (NPK) with added bio-active micronutrients. Our biggest competitor does not come close to this nutrient profile: 0.5-.0.5-.05 (NPK).

Does a prototype of your invention/innovation exist? Is there experimental data? We have a prototype. We also have experimental data for both the effectiveness of this compost in the garden and in the marketplace. Our product sold out at the most recent Institute of Food and Sciences (IFAS) plant sale, giving us invaluable data on product packaging. Our compost is currently available nationwide through Amazon.com (public reviews are posted) and locally at Garden Gate Nursery. We also collect data and metrics through our on-line questionnaires at both of our websites: pachypoo.com (retail) and elephantmanure.com (wholesale). We have done trials with both local farmers and the Alachua Country Master Gardeners, as well as with trusted associates. We have recently established relationships with 2 micro-green and sprout growers to determine the efficacy of our compost with these specific types of crops. We have tons of anecdotal data to process, and as we move forward into greater growth, our metrics will become more and more scientific.

Who are your competitors? Our main regional competitors of manure based compost are Black Kow and Black Hen. These companies have their bagged products in many Big Box garden retail stores in the South East. We have no competitors when it comes to Elephant Compost itself in this region, if not the world. This is what makes us innovative. The zoos in Seattle Washington and New Zealand have been selling this type of product for years, at a premium. Florida is the elephant capital of the nation, having more Elephantidae then any other state by far. We are very lucky to have this natural resource, and we are making this superior soil amendment available to the public. Help us scale up to broaden our reach beyond Alachua County!

Has a patent been filed for, or granted, for your idea? No. This is something that the Cade Museum Prize funds would go towards if it became necessary.

How will your invention/innovation make money? We are already cash flow positive with no debt. We hope to increase revenue by scaling up and reaching a broader consumer base through better packaging & distribution channels. This high Nitrogen, bio-active raw material is not only at our disposal for free, but it is a renewable & natural resource. Our overhead and operational costs are at a minimum, as we take pride in our ‘low-tech’ approach. We focus on quality first, producing our Elephant Compost in small batches, ensuring the compost reaches the appropriate temperatures for the proper duration. Every bag produced is inspected thoroughly and processed by hand. We look to expand our financial demographics by developing additional product lines. For example, we are working on creating specialty blends for roses, orchids, citrus, olive, and camellias. This is where the Cade Museum Prize funds would be very beneficial: we could expand and enroll the assistance of botanists and horticulturalists to do experiments and trials on our new crop specific blends. Also, one challenge that we do have at our open-air facility is fly pests. In keeping with our natural and organic ethos, we use fly predators to combat pests, not synthetic chemicals. As a secondary product line we could begin to colonize the predators and then sell our surplus. There is a huge market in our area for this type of product because of the large horse population our area enjoys. We can also expand our product line into vermiculture, compost tea (liquid fertilizer), and urban garden landscape design and set up. How will our innovation make money? It is currently making money on a small scale with only a few basic product lines. With better packaging and expanded retail distribution networks, we are confident that our existing Proof of Concept will make money while holding true to our core values: clean food production and landscaping, ecology, & Elephantidae awareness.

What is the financial runway for your invention/innovation? The financial runway for the Elephant Compost project is in its scale. First, we need to better balance our output to our input by expanding our distribution network via retail establishments. Next, we expand our product line to appeal to gardeners of specialty crops. We could even design a blend specifically for lawns and turfs, expanding our consumer base dramatically! Then we will engage the Center for Elephant Conservation to tap into their massive resources and raw materials. Acting locally but thinking globally, we could eventually reproduce our model and assist other States and countries with large elephant populations in converting their waste stream into a product that will enrich the soil -enabling them to grow more nutrient rich food. Since this is the ‘International Year of Soil,’ the timing has never been better to launch this project off the runway into orbit.

Describe funding, if any, you have received to date. This includes monies from founders, angel investors, and loans. We have received no funding from founders, angel investors, or loans. Our expenses are mainly transportation and packaging costs. We pay for these expenses with the money earned from selling the compost locally. We sell the compost by the bag and by the cubic yard (bulk) delivery service.

Describe how the Cade Museum Prize funds would advance your invention/innovation and how the money be used? We have two primary goals. The first one is to educate people on the effectiveness of Elephant Compost in the landscape. This goal has the added benefits of improving Florida’s ecology and raising awareness about elephants. Every farmer and backyard gardener knows about cow and chicken manure as a soil amendment. Because Elephant Compost has never been available commercially, most people are unaware of how amazing and effective it is! The second goal is to make this compost available and convenient for people to purchase for their various needs. The Cade Museum Prize money would advance our innovation by helping us scale. We have several low-tech, one-time investments on the agenda: a concrete slab, storage shed, and a self-dumping trailer. Recurring expenses might include product line development and testing/experimenting/trials, vehicle maintenance & transportation costs, marketing, product liability insurance, Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet, and possibly Intellectual Property services.

If advanced to the Sweet 16 round, would you agree to make a member of your team available to speak about your invention/innovation to middle/high school audiences during the 2015-2016 school year? Yes, we agree. We have never met a youth who did not like elephants. The innovation of ‘Elephant Gardening’ is sure to inspire and interest students. If gardening, horticulture, botany, landscaping, or farming does not interest a youngster, then surely one of our secondary initiatives will: animal welfare (future veterinarians?), environmentalism, ecology, waste management, or climatology. We would be particularly interested in interacting at the Creativity Lab!

If you have YouTube or Vimeo video about your invention/innovation, please paste the URL in the corresponding box below.

YouTube Video URL http://youtu.be/tiuzhxdKFaM

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