The Story of Docupots

From shredded paper to seedling pots. Why did Roger need to create a biodegradable seedling cup? How a supposed easy idea come to be a  challenging endeavor? What future awaits this environmentally green product that actually works?

Shredded to Seedling Cups

It was suggested I give some history on this endeavor. So here it goes. A few years ago my wife bought a plant in one of those biodegradable peat pots. Well, the plant didn’t do anything so the next year she dug up the plant and there was the pot, completely intact. My primary business is shredding paper and I knew paper is biodegradable so I started working on a way to make seed pots from shredded paper.

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Picture of a docupot with a plant in it

From Melting Pulp to Water Resistance Starting Pots

My first round of pots were only paper. I took some to the local nursery and was asked how they stood up in water. I did not know. The cup fell apart (actually it pretty much melted back to paper pulp) after I put water in a cookie sheet and the cup into the water.

So I started working on ways to make the pots water resistant. I should explain the process here. I mixed water and paper in a household blender and pressed the pulp into plastic cups then put them outside to dry ( this was during 100° days in August).

I started working with the Small Business Development Center and got a marketing grant through Logan County Economic Development Corporation. University of Northern Colorado Bizhub developed a marketing plan and through that I met a chemist with an environmental firm who let me work with chemical combinations to make a water resistant formula.

Potting mix after 2 months in a Docupot.

Recycled Shredded Paper after almost 2 Months

The success of Docupots is in the natural ingredients that slow down the degrade process. This image shows a plant with potting mix was in Docupots seeding cups for about 2 months.

The Mass Packaging Challenge

The machine has been a challenge. It took a couple years to find a company. The one I found was in China.

The first email didn’t get a response. I emailed again and got a generic reply. I was told about Google translate and met an exchange student from China. The business relationship began after I sent a message in Chinese and got a reply in English.

After another year, I got funding and ordered the machine. It arrived at the end of June (including falling off the truck). The bigger challenges began after getting the generator a week later. Got the gas line (the generator runs on natural gas), after 2 tries. Then it was changes to the 480v in the back but not in the breaker nor software update. Those got fixed.

An electrical inspector came out and still has not approved the installation. The wires are all connected now and we are down to making the motors spin in the correct direction.

The heart of the DocuPots process: Shredded paper goes into the round green tank at left, is mixed with water and pumped onto the blue bins in the center for pulping and water removal, and the pulp is injected into the form at right. (Jeff Rice / Journal-Advocate)