Thirty years ago, New Scientist magazine (Vol. 103: No. 1415, 1984) published an article about earthworm composting or vermicomposting technology entitled “Engineers Lap Up a Diet of Worms” reported by Michael Cross in column technology. At the same year in Summer 1984, British Earthworm Technology in collaboration with Dr. Clive Edwards, one of the pioneers in vermiculture of the Rothamsted Experimental Station UK organized a symposium on “The Use of Earthworms in Waste and Environmental Management” at Queen’s College Cambridge which was attended by more than 200 international participants.
Since then, the most efficient and feasible technology of a medium – large scale vermicomposting for food wastes, agriculture/farm wastes and manufacturing organic wastes (e.g. brewery wastes) using automated continuous-flow composter and worm harvester technology for vermiculture have been developing in Europe, North America and East Asia. The growth of earthworms in organic wastes has been termed vermiculture and the processing of wastes with earthworms to produce a high quality of compost is known as vermicomposting. For the specification of the automated continuous-flow composter with the size of 8 X 5 X 3 feet, it can process about 75 pounds of waste per day in favorable conditions with the worms density of about one pound per foot square area.
The principles of vermicomposting technology are relatively simple. The compost worms or red wigglers and beneficial soil microbes, in which live under aerobic conditions, take over both the role of conventional composting by turning over or ploughing the waste and maintaining it in aerobic conditions; so, it will reduce the expensive cost for engineering. Regularly, by feeding worms with organic wastes in a thin layer and harvesting the worm castings or vermicompost from the bottom can be done automatically using a feeding gantry at the top of the composter and breaking bar at the bottom to agitate the mature vermicompost prior for harvesting.
For the basic vermiculture, the population growth of red wigglers are fast. They can double their population through the production of cocoons (compound eggs) within 2-3 months under the optimum conditions. Red wigglers have a wide temperature tolerance (0-35⁰C) with the optimum temperature at 25⁰C and they can live in organic waste with a range of moisture content (70-90%) with the optimum moisture of 80%. The initial worm density can be started from 5-10 pounds per square meter for the intensive vermicomposting using automated continuous-flow composter.
I was working with professor Clive Edwards to develop the vermiculture and vermicomposting technology at his Soil Ecology Laboratory at the Ohio State University from 1998 – 2002. It’s also a pleasure to contribute a book chapter in his edited with colleagues; a monumental book “Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management” (2011, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis group, UK).
Please contact www.burnabyredwigglers.com for the consultation and to set-up the technology of vermicomposting and vermiculture to support the Zero Waste program, resource-waste management, organic farming and bioremediation in your areas. The bottom photo is courtesy of Jack Chambers, Sonoma Valley Worm Farm. Bintoro Gunadi