Commercial Vermicomposting Technologies

A Summary of Commercial Adoption of Vermicomposting Technologies

Professor Clive A. Edwards
Soil Ecology Laboratory
The Ohio State University
Columbus , Ohio , USA

The vermiculture technology was developed at Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Herts , U.K. and the Agricultural Engineering Institute, Silsoe, Beds, U.K. by a team led by Dr. Clive Edwards. The research was initiated by the Chief Scientist's Group, Ministry of Agriculture, and the Agriculture and Food Research Council (AFRC), U.K. in 1981. Major funding was provided to Dr. Edwards by the British Government, and the technology, which had been developed by about 15 full-time scientists and about 35 collaborators at: Experiment Stations, Universities and interested commercial organizations, was commercialized in 1982. The commercial development was through a new company, ‘British Earthworm Technology', which operated twelve automated vermicomposting reactor systems situated in Southeast England for more than 3 years, sponsored and partially funded by the U.K. Agriculture and Food Research Council (AFRC)

The vermiculture research, which originally aimed at producing protein from earthworms for fish farming, was extremely successful, but the cost of production of the earthworm protein could not undercut the cost of other forms of protein that could be used. Hence, the aims of the technology changed to producing vermicomposts for growing greenhouse and field crops and to be used as soil amendments. The research progressed rapidly, and in 1983, the project was awarded the U.K. Pollution Abatement Technology Award from the Confederation of British Industry, U.K. Department of the Environment, and the U.K. Royal Society of Arts.

In 1984, British Earthworm Technology, with the collaboration of Dr. Edwards organized a large Symposium on “The Use of Earthworms in Waste and Environmental Management” at Queen's College Cambridge which was attended by more than 400 international participants. The Proceedings, edited by Dr. Edwards and Dr. E.F. Neuhauser ( USA ) were published under the same name in 1988 by a Dutch publishing company.

The original research focused on processing animal wastes such as cattle, pig, turkey, duck and chicken wastes with earthworms, but expanded rapidly into processing organic wastes, from the brewery, mushroom, paper waste, and food industries, into valuable plant growth media and soil amendments.

In 1985, Dr. Edwards was awarded a £600,000 grant from the European Economic Community to expand the research into Europe, but had to reject the offer since he moved to The Ohio State University, Columbus , Ohio , USA , as a Department Chair in 1985. He still works at OSU and directs The Soil Ecology Laboratory which leads the world in research into vermiculture and vermicomposting technologies. Other research programs into vermiculture and vermicomposting include: The University of Vigo in Spain,, led by Dr. Jorge Dominguez; the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, led by Dr. Radha Kale; the Instituto de Ecologia, Mexico, led by Dr. Isabelle Barois and Dr. Aranda, and in the Philippines led by Dr. Rafael Guerrero.

Sunburst Technologies, Ltd.

Hong Kong and Adelaide , Australia

Managing Director: David Ellery

This company has been composting and vermicomposting large amounts of urban organic wastes in Australia , using for nearly ten years, automated continuous flow automated reactor systems which they improved from the original design. They are now handling food wastes from a range of restaurants and sources in Hong Kong .

O.R.M. Waste Management

Canterbury , U.K.

Managing Director: Stephen Muggleton

This is one of the largest waste management companies in the U.K. and vermicomposting is its major activity, producing vermicomposts from cattle manures in a network of centers, and marketing them all over the U.K. They won a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show U.K. in 2006 for their vermicompost production and use.

Sansai International, Inc.

Cleveland , U.S.

Managing Director: Jamie Melvin

This company, formed in 2005, owns an 8-hectare ex-automobile parts factory in Cleveland that produces and markets vermicomposts and composts produced from food wastes from local organic markets, restaurants, and supermarkets, and also from paper wastes. Its production is expanding rapidly.

Oregon Soil Corporation

Oregon City , Oregon , U.S.

Managing Director: Dan Holcombe

This company has been collecting food wastes from a range of supermarkets in the Portland area, to produce vermicomposts in high technology automated vermicomposting reactor systems, since 1991 in Portland , Oregon . The vermicomposts are packaged and marketed through centers in the same supermarket chain for home and garden uses.

R.T. Solutions LL.C,

Geneseo , New York State

Managing Director: Tom Herlihy

This company, formed in 2004, operates a large specifically-designed and built facility in New York State , close to cattle farms and major highways. It processes large quantities of cattle wastes into vermicomposts in a range of automated continuous flow vermicomposting reactor systems. The vermicomposts are marketed by the company as plant growth amendments particularly for the grape and grass industries.

New Horizon Organics

Springfield , Illinois , USA

Managing Director: Chad Hurley

This company, which has been operating for more than six years, produces vermicomposts from food wastes and cattle wastes in indoor facilities. It markets the vermicomposts as soil amendments for crop production and also as materials for bioremediation of soils polluted by organic contaminants such as those produced by the oil industry. It has supervised a number of bioremediation projects.

RalliGold

Bangalore , India

Managing Director: Rallis India

This is a 35-hectare operation producing 50 kg. bags of vermicomposts under cover from urban wastes (termed biofertilizers) and marketed all over India . The technology used differs from that developed by Dr. Edwards for climatic reasons but uses many of the same principles.

Sovadec Recycling

Managing Director: Sovadec Industries

This project set up in Southern France in the late 1990s disposes of all the wastes from a town of 40,000 people. It involves hand-sorting, separation of glass, metals, and plastic materials, followed by large-scale thermophilic composting and finally vermicomposting. Twenty-six percent of the town's total waste stream ends up as vermicompost.

Ecogro

Eldorado , Ohio , U.S.A.

Managing Director: David Flory

This company, founded in 2002, produces and markets vermicomposts and composts from cattle manure in a large indoor facility.

Sonoma Valley Earthworm Farm

Sonoma Valley , California

Managing Director: Jack Chambers

This company, founded in 2000, produces vermicomposts from cattle wastes for the Sonoma & Napa Valley grape industry. He operates four continuous flow vermicompost systems and markets both vermicomposts and vermicompost teas.

Green-Pik Ecoproducts Corporation

Vladimir , Russia

Managing Director: Igor Titov

This company, formed in 2002, is producing extremely large quantities of vermicomposts and vermicompost teas. They do the vermicomposting in three very large ex-cattle rearing buildings, each 16,000 m 2 . They use the wedge vermicomposting system designed by Professor Edwards. They organized major International Conferences in 2004 and 2007 attended by several hundred participants.

Forterra Environmental Corporation

Toronto , Canada

Managing Director: Gary Gould

This company, which was founded recently, produces vermicomposts in a 25,000 square foot indoor facility and markets them for soil enrichment of golf courses, lawns, vineyards, and greenhouse soils and general soil fertility improvements.

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