The messy business of worms can be turned into a wealthy one, according to a senior lecturer at Strathmore Business School.
Dr Freddie Acosta, a lecturer in Technology and Innovation Management has a passion for organic farming and has been studying vermiculture. He breeds worms at the backyard of his home located near Wilson’s airport.
To begin the study, Acosta bought a kilogramme of worms at Sh2,500 from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
His aim was to educate potential organic farmers on how to go about the venture and make money while at it.
“I culture Red Wigglers at home- in my backyard. Each is about 2-3 inches long,” he said.
Earthworms are hermaphrodites which means that they contain both male and female sex organs and can all reproduce. They thrive in decomposed organic material.
“They multiply in 30-45 days and double in number, you can tell that they are sexually active when you see rings around their bodies,” Acosta said adding that a kilogramme of earthworms (approx. 1,500 worms) fed very well and given the right moisture and protection from predators at the beginning of January, can multiply and increase their number to approximately 4,000 kilogramme by December.
The lecturer who hails from Philippines says he feeds them with rabbit’s manure mixed with decomposed substances like vegetables, fruits, grass and wood chips.
Composted manure and other substrates are digested by the earthworms resulting in a dark, rich, smelly fertiliser readily available for plants. Kenya imports 22,000 tonnes of synthetic fertiliser annually to boost food production in the region.
Rearing worms is a cheap way of earning income and according to the lecturer, the worms’ vermicus can be easily harvested.
This is made easy by the worm’s nature of migrating once food is depleted, they move to the next region where the food has been stored. They leave behind their droppings which can then be collected and mixed with water to make liquid fertiliser or put directly in the soil.
“Earthworms do not like exposure to direct sunlight, so once food is depleted they burrow and hide from the sunlight leaving their droppings at the top,”he said.
Vermiculture is known to farmers for its rich nutrients to plans as well as its ability to keep off soil-borne diseases. Due to their nature, a 1,000kg of worms can produce 1,000kg of vermiculture every day, and with a stable access to market, one is able to rake a good earning through this venture. One kilogramme of vermiculture goes for Sh50.
“With a stable access to market you can make up to Sh50,000 a day and Sh1.3 million every month,” he says.
Acosta occasionally hosts public lectures at Strathmore Business school to train interested participants on organic farming.