Saturday, July 13News That Matters

Vermicomposting in the Philippines as Business

Vermicomposting in the Philippines is a highly profitable business to start with, and people who are exploring starting a gari business should look into vermiculture.

The Philippines, being a tropical country, is rich in biodiversity and has lots of agricultural resources that can turn into profitable business ventures. One of these is vermiculture – turning biodegradable wastes into high-quality organic fertilizer using African Night Crawler (Eudrilus eugeniae). As of this writing, one sack or 50 kilos of vermicompost costs P800 to P1,000, depending on which part of the country you are in, and worms cost P1,000 to P1,200 per kilo.

Vermicomposting in the Philippines| The African Nightcrawler Worm 

Eudrilus eugeniae, also called the “African Nightcrawler,” is an earthworm species native to tropical West Africa that is now widespread in warm regions under vermicompost. It is an excellent source of protein and has great pharmaceutical potential.

The African Nightcrawler can multiply in number in just a few weeks. A single worm produces approximately 2-3 cocoons per week, with 2-3 babies per cocoon, averaging about 6-7 worms per week.

composting-worms
Vermicomposting worms

Our Story on Vermicomposting in the Philippines

From 2012 to 2017, we operated an auto-repair and painting business in Batangas. Because we painted daily, we used many old newspapers, and disposing of used newspapers contaminated with paint was always a problem.

A customer from Bay, Laguna, who happened to have a vermicomposting farm, asked me if he could collect garbage and feed it to his worms. Because it was far for him to collect the paper garbage, I asked him if I could buy a kilo of worms from him. I purchased 1 kilo of Nightcrawler worth P450 (2012 price) and managed to grow my worms.

The worms ate everything, and the disposal of biodegradable trash was never a problem. The first worm bed I created was 1,500cm x 80cm with a depth of 25cm. It was filled with vermicompost in just 65 days. I had to harvest all the worms and transfer them to the three new beds of the same size. I was able to collect 3.5 sacks of pure vermicompost. Two months later, I had a total of 10 sacks, which I sold to a local vegetable farmer for P4,000. I also sold 2 kilos of worms worth P1,000. 

Feeding the Nightcrawler

I collected a lot of cow manure in the nearby cemetery and also from Taal Lake around the Balete area, but the majority of their food consists of a mixture of old and used newspapers, cow manure, and chopped banana trunks. My worm beds were under the roof, so the vermicast was half dry. I did not collect the syrup because it needs special bedding to collect the liquids, which is not possible if the worm bed is on the ground. 

Aside from cow dang, used papers, and banana trunks, anything organic like grass can also be given to the worms as long as the grass is chopped. 

The Current Status of  Vermicomposting in the Philippines Industry

As we can see online and on social media, many people sell worm castings, vermicomposts, other worm byproducts, and even live worms. The price skyrocketed within five years. Composting worms in some other places can cost as high as P1,500 per kilo, and vermicast, especially pure and high-quality vermicast, can also cost P1,200 per sack. Pure vermicast is characterized by the whole worm dang, which are granular like small rice grains and black. 

Vermicomposting can be done on both small scales and large scales. If you have a backyard garden, composting kits are being sold online where you can put your kitchen scraps together with the worms. This type of composting, however, does not provide dry vermicast.

Many people are already exploring this type of business in rural areas, especially since crops can sometimes be unpredictable. Vermicomposting has little to no risk if you have enough food sources for your worms. Vermicomposting could be a great business if you are near a school with a large amount of paper garbage. 

Vermicompost Market

People are always looking for cheap fertilizer, and vermicast is arguably the best pure organic fertilizer (better than bat manure). Demand is always high for vermicast, while the supply is very low. Plant nurseries spend tens of thousands of pesos on vermicast alone, and sometimes, they have to travel to another province just to buy vermicompost. 

Is Vermicomposting for You?

If you only think of the profit without considering the amount of work involved, then vermicomposting might not be the right business for you. Raising and farming composting worms sometimes involve mixing things that might not be pleasant for your stomach, like mixing manures. That’s why only people passionate about doing such things become successful.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Vermicomposting in the Philippines

Is a nightcrawler the same as an earthworm?

Nightcrawlers are considered a species of earthworms but different from common earthworms. Nightcrawlers have a segmented body, regular earthworms have an unsegmented body: Nightcrawlers are segmented, meaning they have different sections to their bodies. On the other hand, Earthworms do not have a segmented body and instead just one long part with no divisions between each area of the worm’s body.

Can you eat nightcrawler worm?

Nightcrawlers are edible, but they need to be cooked before being eaten raw because they might contain parasites or bacteria like salmonella.

What are nightcrawlers good for?

Nightcrawlers are beneficial earthworms that provide natural aeration of the soil. They allow water and oxygen to penetrate more easily into the ground. Their feeding and excrement help recycle nutrients and fertilize the soil.

Do nightcrawlers bite humans?

The African nightcrawler worms don’t bite or sting. They are cold-blooded animals, which means they don’t maintain their own body heat but instead assume the temperature of their surroundings.

How much does the vermicomposting kit cost?

Though there are large-scale vermicomposting operations, the things you need to start a worm bin in your home should only cost just over P1,500 for a bin: a half kilo of worms, a plastic bin, and an old newspaper.

Is vermicomposting in the Philippines a profitable business venture?

A growing number of individuals and institutions are taking an interest in producing vermicompost utilizing earthworm activity. As the operational cost of production of this compost works out to less than P100/kg and can sell up to P1,500/kg of worms. A big part of the profit comes from vermicast, though.

Which earthworms are grown in the Philippines?

The “African Nightcrawler” (Eudrilus eugeniae) is an earthworm species suitable for growing in the Philippines for vermicomposting.

What are the disadvantages of vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting requires more space than regular composting. Eventually, you will need several bins to get the same compost yield as you would from one traditional composting bin. Vermicomposting requires greater care than regular composting methods.

How long does it take to make a vermicompost?

The compost will be ready in 60 to 90 days, and the material will become moderately loose and crumbly, dark brown in color. It will be black, granular, lightweight, and humus-rich. The presence of earthworm castings (vermicompost) on the top of the bed is also an indicator, and vermicompost can be harvested.

Can I use regular earthworms for composting?

Earthworms are burrowers that bring their food deeper into the soil. That characteristic means they are not good composters because they are generally found at the bottom of the compost bin, and you would need to turn the compost continuously as they do not work near the surface. Nightcrawlers are called “nightcrawlers” because they surface and eat their food during nighttime.

Do composting worms eat banana peels?

Bananas are a great and inexpensive snack for both us and our worms. Those peels are desirable for composting worms no matter their shape. They’ll make short work of what otherwise would have taken up space in your trash.

How many worms do you need for vermicomposting?

How many worms are needed to vermicompost? A good rule of thumb is a half kilo of worms per square foot of the bin. If you have a big worm bed, don’t fill it with manure or other crap. Feed the worms gradually so they will leave the finished foods when they are done and move to fresh food. This will allow you to harvest the vermicast easily.

How long do composting worms live?

Worms can live for about one year in the worm bin. You probably will not notice if a worm dies in your bin. Since the worm’s body is about 90% water, it will shrivel and become part of the compost quickly.

Where to buy African Nightcrawler composting worms in the Philippines?

Search Facebook Groups for composting worms, and you may find many people selling online or discover someone near your area.

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