Raising earthworms for business can be lucrative if you know how to do it and sell it. We look at earthworms as despicable creatures but they are helpful to the environment because they turn decomposing materials into organic fertilizers. The breeding of worms and converting organic materials into compost is called vermiculture. African Night crawlers are the most common type of earthworms raised by breeders here in the Philippines.
If you are planning to start breeding earthworms, it is critical to have a steady supply of substrate (a substance that is acted upon, especially by an enzyme) in a biochemical reaction, if you want to try vermicomposting. Animal manure is an excellent source of substrate, but African Night crawlers eat their own weight in substrates dally and thrive in soil with 80 percent moisture.
A kilogram of worms-roughly 1,000 crawlers-need a kilogram of substrates a day, so that in a month’s time your kilogram of worms will have consumed 30 kilograms of substrate. As they multiply they will require more food-each worm will produce three to five capsules of young each week that will mature in 30 days-and the quality of your substrates will determine the quality of your worms and the compost they’ll produce. In the Philippines, vermi casting can be a good source of income.
You can use grass clippings, madre de cacao leaves, sawdust or coconut dust and animal manure. Avoid using kitchen scrap (its nutritional value is very low) or market waste (these may have been exposed to chemicals) to feed your worms because you will only produce low quality compost. Also pay attention to where you’ll put your worms. The recommended dimension for each of your worm beds or windrows is at least 12 ft by 12 ft by 1 foot, which can hold at least two kilograms of worms and up to 60 kilograms of substrate.
You may use concrete, bamboo, screen or hollow block walls and soil flooring for your windrows. Under ideal conditions (enough food and moisture) 1,000 crawlers will multiply to 30,000 and up to 120,000 in six months. You may start with 10 kilograms of worms and at least 1,000 square meters of space for producing substrates. The key to successful worm growing is following the correct formulation for substrates.
You can also use one part untreated sawdust or coconut dust and one part animal manure for breeding and composting. To produce high quality vermicast, your substrate must be composed of 25 percent nitrogen (mardre de cacao and ipil-ipil are rich in this nutrient) and 75 percent carbon (grass clippings or leaves). And remember that your substrates should be nearly decomposed before your feed them to the worms.
You may house your worms in wooden or plastic boxes that are at least 12 inches deep, but you must place them in windrows once they began multiplying. You must have good drainage to keep the worms from drowning and ensure the windrows have enough moisture all the time. You may harvest worm castings weekly but take care you don’t kill young worms and capsules. You must air-dry your compost for three days before using it. This can be a lucrative business as you can sell the compost at 500 pesos per sack.