Worms for Profit

Commercial Prospects

Worm farming is entering a boom phase, which will continue for many years to come.. The opportunities listed below are not the only commercial uses for earthworms and this book will give you ideas of your own for exploitation.

Most people, when they think of worm farming as a business, think of fishing worms, bulk worms, compost worms and the production of worm castings. These aspects of the industry are covered in detail in later chapters, but other areas of opportunity are continually coming to light as both research and practical thinking continue.

Waterless Toilets

Developed by the Bhawaikar Earthworm Research Institute of Pune, India, the watcrlcss worm-driven toilet provides a practical solution to human waste disposal

This is a good example of solving a problem by simply not creating is In our western system we add water to our waste and flush it along an extensive system of piping to a large and very expensive treatment plant, which must not only handle the problem of disposal of the solids but also the.. polluted water.

Disposal of the water is a bigger problem than that of the solids.

The Bhawalkar toilet it simplicity itself. it odourlessly and hygienically converts human waste into valuable pathogen-free castings which can be put to good use. The worms derive their moisture from the urine and the faeces and the volume reduction is to the order of 90 per cent. A worm-driven waterless toilet usually requires emptying once every three years and even then it is worm castings that are removed. A creeper is often grown over the worm chamber, which help to keep it cool and improves its appearance. A worm-driven waterless toilet will bc available soon. For details contact Earthworm Systems, Maryborough, Victoria.

Sewage Treatment

Large scale or small, worms can handle the job. Again from the Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute come Vermifilters• Using these, the Institute claims to produce drinking-quality water from raw sewage. It is a continuous process, is 100 per cent worm-driven, and provides both primary and secondary treatment. That is to say, it successfully disposes of the solids by converting them to castings and also purifies the- waste water,

The system works by simply trickle feeding the raw sewage across a succession of specially designed worm beds by means of a rotating boom, after first grinding the solids to fine particles. The solids stick to existing castings which arc the filter medium and are eaten by the worms, forming more castings. The longer the system is in use, the more efficient it becomes

Blue Green Algae

One of the reasons for the spread of blue green algae is that treated sewage from towns and cities is discharged into our inland waterways. If this discharge or whole process of sewage treatment were to be performed by earthworms, then this source of pollution would be removed.

In many of the areas from which this polluting discharge originates are cattle feedlots and a big problem with feedlots is the disposal of manure. It seems likely that both these problems could be solved in areas of predictably low rainfall by introducing the Israeli system, which will also produce large quantities of vermicast which can be used to restructure degraded agricultural /and, often common to these areas.

The principles need to be investigated and small scale trials carried out before any of these systems can be installed. If a system works successfully overseas it is a good indicator, but there i5 no ironclad guarantee that it will work here. However, the concept provides one possible solution to the problem and certainly warrants investigation.

Supplying sufficient worms and castings to provide secondary or total) treatment for all the sewage produced by our inland towns and cities would at present be beyond the capabilities of the worm farmers cif Australia. It could grow into a business opportunity worth millions of dollars as well as offering a worthwhile contribution to preserving and improving our environment. The biology has been proven. It is the method of application under Australian conditions which needs further investigation.

 

Vermifiltration of waste water. (illustration: courtesy Dr Li day Bhawalkar)