© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Carla Morgan, director of N.Viropotter, holds up plant pots made out of newsprint with the P.E.I. invention during a seed swap and sale at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown recently. A growing green market has breathed new life into the patented product, which was first created in 1998.
Biodegradable starter plant pots benefit from green friendly marketplace
It was a P.E.I. invention ahead of its time.
But director Carla Morgan says the N.Viropotter is picking up momentum in an increasingly organic and environmentally friendly market.
She envisions turning the small tool, which creates biodegradable starter plant pots, into a household object that’s as essential as the rolling pin or potato peeler.
“We’ll all know it came from Prince Edward Island, the rest of the world will think it’s always been around,” said Morgan during an interview with The Guardian. “Once they know it, they’ll remember it.”
The product, a cylinder-shaped solid wood mould, has already been around longer than many would realize.
The now-patented tool and folding technique was developed by Montague resident Rhondalynn Clements in 1998.
Clements, who was Morgan’s neighbour, came up with the idea when she ran out of peat pots while starting her garden.
“She’s an inventive sort of person,” said Morgan. “It took her only 15 minutes, she sat down and figured out a tool and way of making them. She made three of them and gave one each to my friend and I.”
The tool looks basic but offers an easy way to make durable pots out of old newspaper or newsprint, which are strong enough for initial planting and biodegrade after being transplanted into the ground.
There is no tape or glue required with the folding technique, while speciality papers can also be used to make more durable pots for special decorations or candy dishes.
A day after making the first prototype, Morgan was again approached by Clements.
“She said to hide them,” said Morgan. “ 'It’s a great invention and I’m going to patent it.' ”
Morgan says there has been a growing awareness in recent years around food security and being environmentally friendly.
“She was ahead of her time. In 1998, people didn’t really care as much about growing their food back then. People are getting more and more interested about where their food is grown.”
The changing attitude was evident when Morgan exhibited the product at an expo in Halifax earlier this year, as well as during a seed swap and sale at the Farm Centre last month in Charlottetown.
That mix of old ideas and new technologies came alive during the Charlottetown swap.
Organizer Mike Cameron said the event was an excellent opportunity for gardeners of all levels to learn more on starting seeds and planning gardens.
It also included a number of seminars, with funds going towards hiring a gardener this year for the Legacy Garden.
"It was an amazing experience, people of all ages were asking questions. I actually didn't quite expect that volume, I had to grab a glass of water to continue,” said Cameron. “My one wish is that more young people had come out. The average age was probably 50 and there was lots of younger kids, but there was really no in-between.”
Morgan is also hoping for a success with N.Viropotter when she travels with a group from the Montague area to a Saltscapes expo next month in Halifax.
She said the simple idea has grown into a community identity, with a number of locals being involved in developing, producing and marketing the product.
It’s an identity she’s hoping to spread outside of P.E.I.
“We’re going certainly for an all-Island made product,” said Morgan. “Part of the goal was that we wanted to learn about starting and running a business. It’s been a long but worthwhile process.”
N.Viropotter is a P.E.I. invention created in 1998 and is now patented in the U.S.A. and Canada. It is owned by Atlantic Innovative Enterprises.
The cylinder shaped mould creates durable paper pots for starting plants. It is environmentally friendly and decomposes after being transplanted
While some of the supplies previously came from another province, all hardwood now comes from Royalty Hardwoods in Montague, while the branding and packaging is also done locally. The product is manufactured by Tom Haan of Dundas Designs