Vermigen: Composting with BIG Worms

University of Lake Berryessa Funds Genetic Engineering Start-Up

Vermicomposting is the process of utilizing various species of earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture worm castings (or worm manure), which is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by the earthworm. Containing water-soluble nutrients, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.

Local Lake Berryessa genetic engineering start-up, Vermigen Corporation, has taken the process a “big” step forward by successfully growing genetically-altered “superworms” which are six feet long and three feet in diameter (pictured below next to a full-sized dog for comparison).

These worms were developed by University of Lake Berryessa geneticists and efficiently allow large-scale “flow-through” vermicomposting systems. Here the worms begin feeding at the end of a three foot high row of  ground green waste (grass, shredded plant clipping and household wet garbage). As the worms slowly consume this “worm chow” a two-foot high row of worm castings, ready for bagging, is harvested from behind.

The flow-through system eliminates the present need to separate worms from the castings before packaging. Flow-through systems are also well suited to indoor facilities, making them the preferred choice for operations in colder climates.

An additional benefit is that the worms, at the end of their useful lives, can be processed into solid “worm steaks” for export to the Japanese specialty food market. Alternatively they can be sliced into small strips to be sold at local stores as bait.

Koda & worm sticker                       © Peter Kilkus 2020