Monday, January 5, 2015

Converting Organic Waste into VermiCompost With Worms

I learned about vermiculture backwards. I visited a coffee processing plant in Palmichal, near Tabarcia, in Costa Rica, and witnessed a large industrial vermiculture operation. They were composting their waste coffee hulls with more redworms than I even imagined could exist. They were using a windrowing system that is now the standard of the large-scale industry. They had learned most of what they were doing from a scientist from Pinar del Rio, in Cuba. I hope you have time to watch the slide show. My aroused curiosity started a search that seemed to always end up at very large or very small systems. There seemed to be a need for a medium-sized system.

I have provided a link to NCSU, where Rhonda Sherman has established an international resource for large-scale vermiculture, as practiced throughout the world.

You can't go wrong by reading the book "Worms Eat My Garbage", by the late Mary Appelhof, if you want a small system. I bought my first pound of Eisenia fetida from her.

What I have developed is a medium-sized system.

A VermiChester system is a simple arrangement of stackable bakery trays on a raised base. The trays are completely filled with composting worms and screened composted organic waste.

Water is added until the system drips dissolved worm castings into a pail. The percolation of the castings exposes the slower decomposing materials to a longer period of digestion. The drippings are siphoned to remove large sediment, bottled and labeled VermiJuice for sale at Farmer's Markets, etc. Scroll down for a post about "Compost Tea" The liquid can be diluted as much as 8 times for plant feeding and irrigation. Some users have seen a remarkable reduction in plant pests as well as increased growth of healthy plants.
 In time, the contents become VermiCompost.
Rotation of the trays allows the bottom tray to be removed for harvesting. It has been there the longest.
Remove each tray from the stack, and stack it on the last tray removed.
Set the bottom tray aside.
Re-stack the trays.  The tray that was next to the bottom is now the bottom tray. Stirring of the contents during the rotation loosens the contents to ensure full trays and more even access by the worms.
Water the stack until it drips, again. Do not wet the tray that was on the bottom.
Place the old bottom tray on the top of the stack to dry. Typically, since worms prefer fresh worm food to living in their own excrement, there won't be a lot of worms in this tray. Those will gravitate to the lower wet trays, and you will have very few adult worms in this tray.
If you are not in a hurry, put some fresh "Food Balls" on the top tray. There are cocoons that will hatch and the baby worms may have time to crawl up into them. You can put those new worms in your farm.

Now is the time to read about the labor-saving VermiHarvester.

While it would appear that the purpose is to restore humus to depleted soils, the big picture involves eliminating organic waste from landfills, etc.
In Costa Rica, small farmers with 6, or more, pigs, collect the manure in a modified septic tank with a plastic "bladder" cover. The manure produces methane which is piped into the kitchen for cooking. The digester drains out of the bottom. Vermicomposting the spent effluent would increase the value at least 8 times. The potential application for CAFOs in the USA should be obvious. That would require a much larger system.


Jack Miner said...


I hope no one trashes your Blogg

el grillo said...

If the trash is organic I won't mind.

gardenstacey said...


Thank you for the great information! This is very helpful!

Coach Smith said...

I just ordered your book because i want to set up a verni system like this. Where can I get the bread trays, recycled, used, or free? Any suggestions?

Scott in Minneapolis

el grillo said...

I bought my trays from a manufacturer (seconds) but since then I've seen quite a few that were used to import bulbs from the Netherlands. Large greenhouses near here give them away.
The book has formulas that will allow you to build to any size tray, but the important features are that the holes allow for the free vertical travel of the worms.

Otto Weaver said...

Composting is a great way to recycling your current biodegradable waste materials. Rather than losing your current kitchen waste in addition to backyard waste materials for being sent to the landfill exactly where it will advantage nobody, you may input it in the can that you just designed with
worm composting bin plans in addition to make it possible for our mother earth be able to work on creating your personal free of charge fertilizer. Obviously, this is often a good big bucks saver for the devoted garden enthusiast.

Samadhan Agrotech said...

Great article with excellent idea! I appreciate your post.
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GG Neff said...

I am in Costa Rica right now and want to start worm composting. Can you tell me if the coffee processor you mentioned in Tabarcia might sell me some redworms? Or can you tell me where to get them here. I am south of San Jose in Santiago de Puriscal.
Thank you for your informative blog!

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