Lonely Planet Writer

It may sound like a pile of poo, but an Italian farmer is successfully turning cowpats into crockery

Right, we know that this one may sound like a pile of poo, but an Italian farmer is successfully turning cowpats into crockery. He has also created a whole museum around the subject of excrement called the Museo della Merda.

Gianantonio Locatelli has come up with the idea of turning the mountains of excrement from the cows at his farm in Castelbosco in Piacenza into useful, everyday objects. He has “dung” so very successfully, in conjunction with his colleagues Luca Cipelletti, Gaspare Luigi Marcone and Massimo Valsecchi.

Locatelli’s farm makes milk for Grana Padano cheese, and its 3500 cows produce around 50,000 litres of milk daily. They also produce 150,000 kilos of dung per day, which is a whole load of poo to deal with. The farmer decided to transform it into a futuristic ecological, productive and cultural project, and the products and the Museo della Merda were born.

Using highly innovative systems, electrical energy is produced from the manure by storing it in giant vats where bacteria transforms it into methane. Three megawatts-per-hour of energy is produced, which is sold by the farm and used to heat its buildings and offices. Part of the dung left over is used as fertiliser, and the “Merdame” brand will be on sale soon.

However, the Merdacotta line of tableware and everyday objects created out of the left-over faeces has been the most surprising piece of success. The dung is mixed with other materials, including Tuscan clay, to make bricks, tiles, crockery, flowerpots and jars. The Merdacotta products won first prize in the Milano Design Award in 2016.

There is also the museum, Museo della Merda, which gathers artefacts and stories around excrement in the modern world and throughout history. It is located on the ground floor of the company’s premises, within the medieval castle of Castelbosco. With constant innovation and new commissions, it brings together testimonies of aesthetic, scientific, human and animal experiences in which excrement is a useful and living material.

Designed with the architect Luca Cipelletti, the museum also has artworks, including paintings in liquid excrement. It aims to rehabilitate the prevailing opinions on excrement, and show that the objects that can be created from it redesign the cycle of nature in a positive circle, by being transformed into essential elements for contemporary living.

For further information on Museum della Merda and the Merdacotta range, please see here.

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