Blog Category:

Vermiculture 101: How To Start A Worm Farm as a Business or a Hobby

worms used in a worm farm
So you have gone down into the rabbit (or should we say worm?) hole that is the world of worm composting and you want to take the next step and build your own worm farm. Well, you have come to the right place.

From the outside, vermiculture may appear to be a complicated topic. But once you get the hang of it, you will realize that it is simply a matter of picking the right type of worms and taking excellent care of them.

In this article, we will be discussing outdoor worm composting and how to build a worm farm as a business or full-time hobby. If you are a beginner who wants to start a simple homemade worm farm enough to cover your own food scraps, check out Uncle Jim’s guide on worm farming for beginners!

What is a Worm Farm?

First things first: before we get into “how to make a worm farm,” let us talk about what a worm farm actually is. It is an enclosed compost area in which worms consume food scraps, digest them, and produce worm compost, which the vermicomposter (that’s you) can use for themselves or sell in order to improve the health of the soil. You can also breed worms and sell them to those who want to start their own worm farm.

Starting a Worm Farm – The Basics

how to start a worm farm as a business or as a hobby

Worms

The most important element of your worm farm system are these wriggly creatures. Worms are an afterthought for most people, only seen as creepy crawlies, but they do so much more. They eat our kitchen scraps and provide us with something better in return, but not all worms thrive in worm bins. The following are Uncle Jim’s recommendations for the best worms for worm farms:

Red Wigglers

Red Wiggler Worms
Red wigglers, also known as Eisenia Fetida, are the most common and popular worms used in worm farming, growing up to 5 inches in length. These crawlers can consume their body weight in organic material in a single day, making them the quickest species to consume and produce worm castings. They also reproduce quickly, preferring a more humid and warm environment for that reason.

European Night Crawlers

super red worm
European night crawlers, also known as super red worms, are the red wigglers’ bigger brothers. They eat and reproduce more slowly than regular red worms, but they are still much faster than other species.
Super Reds can withstand a wider range of temperatures in their worm bins, making them low maintenance and an excellent choice for those just starting out with worm farming. They are also used as fishing bait and are particularly beneficial in aerating garden soil and lawns.

Unsure where to get your worms? Uncle Jim’s has earthworms for sale so you need not worry! We have partnered with FedEx to provide two-day shipping so you can start with your worm farm as soon as possible!

Worm Bin

 

Subpod worm bin

Subpod worm bin

A worm bin is the place your worms will call home for their entire lives; that is why you need to carefully choose what materials you use. Wood and plastic bins are the most commonly used because they do not have any antimicrobial properties. Bacteria and other microbes are needed for worms to thrive and start the microbial process.

There are other types of vermiculture systems that might work for you such as a stacked tray bin. It saves space by literally stacking trays and having different levels for the worms to move up to and leave their castings behind for easy collection.

You can also go the traditional route and use a rectangular bin that sits on the soil like the Subpod In-Garden Compost System. There is no need to drill holes because they are already built into the bin, allowing oxygen to reach the worms and keeping the bedding moist enough.

Worm Food

organic food scraps
It is a common misconception that all food scraps can be thrown into the worm bin, but this is not true. Certain foods, like humans, are beneficial to the worms while others may cause problems in the bin.

The worms’ normal diet consists of organic kitchen waste such as vegetables, fruits, egg shells, and coffee grounds. Shredded newspapers and tea bags are also excellent sources of food for the worms. Food scraps containing meat or dairy products should not be added because they are often too oily or difficult to digest and attract fruit flies. Acidic food scraps like that from citrus fruits are toxic to the bin because pH levels are not balanced.

Bedding

 

coconut coir

coconut coir for worm bedding

You can put all the worms you want into a worm bin; but if the worm bed conditions are not ideal, they will either die or escape. Ideal worm bedding needs to mimic the natural habitat of the worms. The following materials are what the team at Uncle Jim’s recommends for worm bin bedding:

  • Shredded paper (not bleached)
  • Wood chips
  • Peat moss
  • Coconut coir
  • Shredded brown corrugated cardboard

If you are wondering where to buy worm farming supplies from, Uncle Jim’s has got you covered! From worm bins and bedding materials, all the way to books about vermiculture, we have it!

Commercial Worm Farming

starting a worm farm
If you are wondering why and how to start a worm farm as a business, Uncle Jim’s recommends you do the following:

Find a Market

You need to determine if there is a potential market for your products. While it may seem appealing because you have the land and manpower to do it, you have to check first if there are people who are going to buy your products. Your main markets are the fishing and composting industry.

The fishing industry will always be looking for quality worms to use as bait. If you opt to sell worm castings as compost material, you are looking for farmers, greengrocers, and businesses who are on the path to sustainability.

Research About Worms

As with any business venture, you have to do your homework. Before you can answer the question “how to start a worm farm,” you must first determine why you want to do so. The first thing to do is to learn all you can about worms. Read articles, books and online resources to get your facts about worms right.

You must research the best type of worm to use in your specific climate because not all worms are suitable for all temperatures. Check that you have enough food waste to feed your worms commercially. Getting the proper pH and moisture levels is also a science that you have to learn and master.

Start Small & Do Not Rush

Worm farming is not everyone’s cup of tea; it takes a special talent (like that of Uncle Jim’s) to really grow a business like this. We recommend starting small, purchasing a worm farm kit, and seeing how it goes.

You need to see if you have both the time and money to dedicate to these wiggly creatures because doing vermiculture as a part-time hobby and as a full-time business are two very different things!

Worm Farm – Composting

Worms and worm castings are in high demand due to the organic boom and companies looking for more sustainable options. If you want to concentrate your worm farm business on producing and selling worm castings and worm tea, you should feed your worms only the best foods so their castings are top-notch.

You must establish relationships with local farmers and greengrocers in order to have a consistent source of income. Red Wigglers produce the best “worm poop” for composting and reproduce the fastest, so focus on acquiring and breeding as many of these as you can.

Worm Farm – Fishing

Worm as fishing bait
Worms, particularly nightcrawlers, are commonly used as fishing bait. According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, worm farming for fishing is a $40 billion dollar industry in the United States (FHWAR). Businesses in areas where fishing is a significant part of the local economy are starting to see why worm farming for fishing could be a profitable opportunity.

Some fishermen have even started their own worm farms to directly meet their own demands. Raising worms for fishing is not that different from raising them for composting. It is the same setup with their bedding and the same feeding schedule and types of food are used. The main difference really is that you are catering to reproduction rather than collecting the castings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I avoid when starting a worm farm?

While worm farming is relatively straightforward, there is still room for mistakes to be made. The most common mistake is overfeeding. Some composters get too excited and do not stick to the feeding schedule; this causes their worm bin to stink because the worms can not eat the food scraps fast enough.

Mistakes can also be made when the wrong type of bin is used. There is a reason some composters prefer an outdoor bin while others like an indoor compost bin. You cannot, for example, use an outdoor bin inside your home because it was not designed to keep the odor in. Indoor bins are either airtight or have special filters to keep odors at bay.

Another common blunder is having compost bedding be either too wet or too dry. It must be moist enough to allow worms to move around and breathe, but not so wet that they drown.

If you want to know what not to do, check out Uncle Jim’s list of the most common mistakes and what you can do to avoid them!

What are the best worm bins to use?

That really depends on where you plan to do your composting/farming. If you want to do it inside the house to be close to the kitchen, we recommend a stacked tray system because it saves space and is a really efficient way to feed your worms, collect castings, and control the pH and moisture levels. If you are worried about the smell, you can use a compost conditioner to help manage the acidity.

Outdoor composting offers a wide range of bins to use from commercial-grade plastic bins that you put up in rows. You can even opt to custom make your own to really maximize your space.

How to sell your worms (when you’re just starting out)?

Starting a worm farm business can be a very profitable project because all you really need are a bunch of worms, a place for them to live, and enough worm food for them to reproduce the nutrient-rich compost that everyone wants. The question is how to make money from your worm farm. Here are some ideas from the team at Uncle Jim’s on how to do just that:

  • Breed worms to sell to fishing bait shops
  • Breed worms and find local restaurants or hotels that need them for their own worm composting bin
  • Create worm tea and sell it to farmers and greengrocers to help with soil health

So what are you waiting for? You’ve read all the benefits of starting a worm farm. Follow Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm Instructions for a foolproof guide on vermiculture!

 

Other articles you may be interested in:

3 comments on “Vermiculture 101: How To Start A Worm Farm as a Business or a Hobby

  • I purchased red worms in February and I am in central Texas 3 weeks ago they were fine. This week they all died? We have had temps of over 100 are these worms able to handle the Texas heat? Very disappointed spent $100.00 waisted. I considered buying more but not if they can’t handle the heat.

    Reply
  • I understand that these worms prefer temperatures around the 80’s. They don’t do well in extreme heat. You should keep them in the shade and perhaps a breezy area during the summer. In the winter, they will slow their eating as they get cold – I keep a heat source like a light bulb (non led) on them with a towel to insulate.

    For hotter locations – I recommend checking out the soldier fly larvae. They love the heat (not the cold) and will eat much more compost and much faster. They even eat meat, unlike the worms.

    Reply
  • got a ? that just recently happened first been at it for 2 years got the bug problem fix in the beginning none in 18 months so have added ground up corn cobs before but with this batch the other day it had a coat of what looked like butter around the inside on the one bucket today i wen in and both buckets contained this buttery substance the on bucket worms were at the top the other buck were lower in the substrate any help with this would be appreciated can add pics if needed

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>