The following is all about starting a vermicompost business.
Introduction to Vermicompost Business
Preparation of beneficial soil used for agri-business is a managed process by letting earthworms digest organic matter and transforming the material into an organic fertilizer is known as vermicomposting. In nature, the organic matter breaks down and decomposed by worms, bacteria, and fungi. The earthworms have a big appetite and consume biodegradable matter and the excreta or vermin-castings are a rich source of nutrients that improve the soil structure and enhance the growth of plants. Vermicomposting increases the nutrient and water holding capacities of the soil. Vermicomposting production is a fast growing business and many individuals and entrepreneurs are taking interest in this segment of agriculture based product. Some of the young entrepreneurs ventured into commercial production by availing bank loans. This is an income generation product as the cost of production of this natural organic manure works out to about less than Rs 1.90 / Kg. This is a profitable business as the vermin-compost product in the market can be sold at Rs. 3.50 to 4.50 / Kg.
The vermicompost manure is a nutrient-rich substance which contains two-fold of macro and micro-nutrients than garden compost. It contains high amounts of Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, and Calcium. Depending on climate, earthworm types, and raw organic matter used; the preparation of vermicomposting is done in a period of 45 to 60 days.
Materials for Vermicompost Business
Biodegradable organic wastes will be used as the basic ingredient in vermicompost making business. A decomposable matter such as farmyard manure, kitchen waste, sewage sludge, farm residues is some of the common materials used. Shredded newspaper, carton boxes, paper mill sludge are also some of the materials used in commercial composting. A chopped mixture of leguminous and non-leguminous crop residue enhances the quality of vermicompost. Selection of organic materials is the important factor to a successful vermicompost making business. Worms speed up the process as they are voracious eaters and generate excreta giving a rich organic soil. Good bedding materials are important for the growth and reproduction of worms, under favorable conditions they reproduce and convert the organic matter into the beneficial soil. Some of the materials that can be used for the preparation of compost bedding are excreta of cattle, poultry, sheep, goat, rabbit, and pigs. Apart from this fresh food scraps such as food prep waste, food processing wastes, peels of vegetable and fruits, seaweeds, animal carcasses, and legume hays.
Earth Worms in Vermicompost Business
In India, there are about 350 different species of earthworms. Perionyx excavates (Composting worm), Eiseniafetida (Red worm), Eudriluseugeneniae (African earthworm) are preferred for their high reproduction rate and converts organic wastes into manure within 45 to 60 days. A good entrepreneur uses the combination of different species such as epigeic, anecic, and endogeic in the bedding. Epigeic species live on the surface with no burrows. Anecic species create vertical burrows from the surface. And, endogeic live in the deeper layers. The right combination of these species will decompose the organic matter in the bedding thoroughly in all the layers. Earthworm reaches maturity and starts reproducing from 50 to 55 days old and lay one egg capsule every 7 to 10 days with each capsule containing seven embryos. The lifespan of an earthworm is two years and thus they multiply at a fast rate under optimum growth conditions.
Methods of Vermicompost Business
Vermicomposting is carried in different methods depending on the resources and the requirement. For commercial production, bed and pit methods are commonly practiced.
Bed Method of Vermicompost Business: In this method of composting, raw organic materials are prepared in beds of sizes as required. Most farmers prepare the bed sizes in six feet in length, two to three feet width, and a height of about 2 feet on a kachcha floor or cement floor. Each bed of organic matter would be looking like a rectangular heap. Bed method of processing vermicompost is easy to maintain and must be carried under a shade.
Pit Method of Vermicompost Business: In this method, farmers either dig a large pit or prepare cemented pits with a roof for shade. In kachcha pits, farmers must use a good lining such as canvas feed bags to prevent worms escaping into the surrounding soil. Organic matter is dumped into the pit in layers and in each layer worms are spread out uniformly. Worms are added a week after laying of organic waste in the pit. Maintain the moisture by daily sprinkling water on the bed. The worms make burrows and start the process of converting the material into vermicompost. In cemented pits, farmers must take care of proper aeration by turning the bedding gently at regular intervals without injuring the worms.
Components in Vermicompost Business
Commercial units of vermicompost making can be undertaken in rural areas, suburbs, and at places where the agriculture by-products and natural resources are in close proximity. Regions that are nearby to fruit, vegetable, floriculture, or a large concentration of cattle population will provide cheap raw materials thereby no need to import or transport, as this will cut down your production cost.A right balance of Carbon and Nitrogen ratios along with proper aeration (proper oxygen levels inside the heap) will generate compost at an optimum shortest period. The duration of converting organic matter to compost depends on the following factors as mentioned below:
Site Selection in Vermicompost Business: Production of vermicompost commercially requires a site that is shaded and well-drained. The site must have enough water supply and under shade, the temperature must be in the range 25° C to 29° C. An open working space is required for drying and packing.
Tools and Materials in Vermicompost Business: Tools and materials required in vermicomposting business are: Gloves (gardening), Strainer, Spading Fork, Shovel, Earthworms, organic food waste, dry twigs and leaves, animal manure, vegetable peels, mechanical shredder, and vermi beds.
Nutrients in Vermicompost Business: In the composting process, nutrients needed by micro-organisms are Carbon and Nitrogen. An ideal ratio of C: N must be between 25:1 to 30:1; carbon provides growth and energy while nitrogen is used for reproduction and protein.
Moisture in Vermicompost Business: A 40 % to 50 % is recommended which helps and supports micro-organisms metabolic process and move around. Moisture levels that are less than 40% slow down microbial activity and get cease completely when below 15% and when it exceeds 60% will slow down decomposition and leading to anaerobic conditions.
Oxygen: Oxygen is an important ingredient in composting. Oxygen is consumed in large quantity in the process of composting. When oxygen levels are down the process of composting slows down and odors may result. Usually, an amount of oxygen content of about 16 to 18 % is ideal and anything less than 6 % will lead to odor. To maintain the right oxygen levels, the pile or heap must be uniformly turned or by blowers, aeration can be maintained. For proper and uniform composting and for the healthy growth of the worms excess moisture, frequent mixing and turning of the pile must be avoided.
Compost pH Levels in Vermicompost Business: A Low oxygen level in the compost matter is the major cause of declining pH levels leading to acidic and anaerobic conditions. pH levels are measured from zero to fourteen, the low levels indicating acidic nature while the higher levels show base nature of the organic matter while level seven is termed as soil being neutral. Compost must be maintained between six to eight levels which is ideal for effective composting. Adding of lime or ashes to maintain pH levels is not recommended as these will increase ammonia losses.
Temperature in Vermicompost Business: Temperature in the pile is an indication and lets you know about composting happening. When microorganisms start working heat gets released; within few hours of forming a heap, an increase in the temperature can be observed. Temperature between 37° to 49° C is observed for several weeks inside the heap while composting process takes place. This rise in temperature and the duration of the rise of temperature depends upon the composition of organic matter and the size of the system. Upon reaching the saturation point of active composting, the temperature within the heap is maintained at room temperature or around 36° C.
Size of the Raw Material Particles in Vermicompost Business: Organic raw materials that are cut in sizes half a centimeter to five centimeters will yield good results. The organic particles that are cut to small in size have more surface area lead to more availability of nutrients and energy to microorganisms. Composting duration can take place at the earliest from 3 weeks to 36 weeks depending on the chopped size of organic matter.
Process in Vermicompost Business
Vermicomposting units and the process of vermicomposting must be carried under a cool, moist and shade sites. Well, dried farmyard manure along with dried leafy materials is mixed uniformly in a 3:1 ratio. This mixture is kept for partial decomposition for two to three weeks. Prepare separately chopped dried grasses or leaves which will be used for bedding. Spread uniformly the bedding materials up to 15 to 20 cm in the pits or beds of size 6 x 2 x 2. Over the bedding materials layer apply the partially decomposed material making a heap or pile. Each pile must be prepared with 150 to 200 kg of organic matter and the number of beds or pits can be increased depending on the availability of organic matter. About 1500 to 2000 earthworms are released uniformly on the surface of each bed followed by the sprinkling of water after the release. Beds must be maintained moist by sprinkling water on a regular basis and covered with gunny bags or polythene covers. Covering the beds will retain moisture and temperature inside the heap allowing the healthy growth of microorganisms. Aeration is either supplied by blowers or turning of the piles regularly once after 30 days. Proper oxygen levels will lead to decomposition and early harvest. A proper decomposed pile at the time of harvesting will be the 3/4thweight of the actual organic matter used. Each bed must be free from pesticides, herbicides, and any other inorganic matter.
Harvesting in Vermicompost Business
The simple mantra for harvesting worm castings is, take care of the worms by creating favorable living conditions and they eat tirelessly to produce vermicompost from organic matter. After each pile or bed of organic raw materials undergoing thermal and the mesophilic process of decomposition, the vermicompost is ready for harvest as almost all of the organic matter is decomposed. By the time the beds reach harvesting or when the raw materials are thoroughly decomposed, the height of the pile will get reduced to 1/3rd to 1/2 the size of the pile height and reaches a 3/4th weight of the actual organic matter used and also the temperature inside the pile will be near to ambient temperature. There are several methods in for harvesting vermicompost.
Manual Harvesting in Vermicompost Business: In this method of harvesting, the vermicasts are collected by hand from the pile surface and stocked. Harvesting is done even when the pile is not fully decomposed but can be harvested as and when vermi casts appear.
Pyramid Method of Harvesting in Vermicompost Business: Earthworms are highly sensitive to sunlight or any other source of lighting. In this method of harvesting, worms can be guided to move deep or to the desired location by strategically introducing light. Organic matter is gathered and piled into a heap forming a pyramidal or cone shape on a plastic sheet or on a concrete floor. The earthworms burrow away from the surface edges to avoid light. The worms feed on the organic matter and excrete on the surface edges of the pyramid allowing for easy scraping of worm castings. After few minutes about 15 to 20 minutes break the worms will burrow again starting another process of feeding and excreting; this is a continual process till the whole vermicompost gets decomposed leaving small piles of worms and castings. The worms are either transported to another pyramid pile or fresh organic matter is refilled by piling up again. For a faster rate of harvesting and rotation of harvesting; small and several pyramids must be maintained and harvesting can be done on a daily basis by resting one and harvesting another.
Screening Method in Vermicompost Business: in this type of harvesting, vermicompost harvesting can be done any time of the day or even at night. The big advantage of this method is in separating hard un-decomposed particles and worms easily.The tool that is used is a simple mechanism. Take a wire mesh and fix it on a wooden frame firmly just like the wire mesh used by masonry workers in separating smooth sand from rough sand particles.Take several handfuls of vermicompost from the heap and transfer it on the wire mesh. Place a plastic sheet or container underneath the wire mesh screen. By shaking the screener, fine vermicompost gets collected on the plastic sheet or container while the undecomposed organic matter along with worms remains on the screener which are manually replaced to another heap.
Harvesting by Cylinder Spinning Method in Vermicompost Business: This method is almost similar to screening method while in this method of harvesting, a mechanical tool is used to separate vermicompost from the heap. This method is good for harvesting large worm compost separating worms and other undecomposed organic matter. The wire mesh or screen is in cylindrical and in inclined shape with a handle used to rotate the cylinder. Handfuls of vermicompost are placed on the top side of the cylinder and the wire mesh cylinder is rotated, this leads to separation of decomposed worm castings gets collected beneath while the undecomposed organic matter rolls down the cylinder due to the inclination and gets collected in another container while it spins.
Marketing in Vermicompost Business
For a successful vermicomposting business is to produce worm castings on a regular basis and be able to market the compost products. The market requirement varies depending on the usage by the end customers. Usually, high-quality compost will attract consistent and regular demand from the customers. A list of elements such as compost quality (odor, nutrient concentration, uniform texture, earthy color), competitive pricing, consistent supply, and product information such as compost pH, benefits, nutrient analysis and application rates. Marketing of the product can be done in bulk by identifying landscrapers, commercial growers, commercial properties, greenhouse, and other public garden contracts; and can be sold in retail outlets for home gardeners and small growers.
Economics of Vermicompost Business
Components in vermicompost business:
Land: This project estimation is from 0.5 to 1.0 Acre land. The land must have a continuous water supply or a bore well with a pump set. The land if not owned must be on a long lease preferably over 10 years.
Vermi Beds: Beds height must be 50 to 60 cm in height with a drainage provision for excess water. For easy access to the center of bed ensure the bed width must not be more than 150 cm.
Sheds: Vermi beds require shade for earthworms to be raised. Sheds provide proper shade, keeps sunlight and temperature under control. Sheds can be of the thatched roof with bamboo support.
Buildings and Furniture: As this project is purely commercial based composting, a considerable amount must be spent on buildings for raw material storage, office rooms, and storage of finished product. A little amount must be spent on office furnishing and office equipment.
Seed Stock: Worms are the important part of an investment in the early stage. Worms at about 300 to 400 worms are required per cubic meter bed space.
Machinery: Some of the important machinery and equipment that are required include, raw material shredder or cutter, shovels, dung forks, trowel, baskets, etc.
Vermicompost Business Project Cost:
Temporary Shed Costing in Vermicompost Business:
|S.No||Particulars of Items||Amount (Rs)|
|1||Roof Covering ( bamboo mats and other)||20,000|
|4||Coir Rope and Binding Wire||6,000|
Land and Building Costing in Vermicompost Business:
|1||Land and Building Lease||25,000|
|2||Land Levelling and Filling||8,500|
|4||Vermi Beds ( 8 to 10 beds/pits)||1,20,000|
Machinery and Equipment Costing in Vermicompost Business:
|1||Spades, Baskets, Trowel, Fork, Buckets, Crowbars||4,500|
|2||Shredder or Cutting Machine||26,500|
|4||Weighing Scale ( platform and 100 kg capacity)||9,500|
|5||Pouch Sealing Machine||2,250|
|6||Bag Sealing Machine||6,250|
Operational Cost for One Cycle (65 to 75 days) in Vermicompost Business
|1||Feed Stock ( agro waste @ 350 per m3)||21,000|
|2||Dry Cow Dung @ 90 kg per m3||6,500|
|3||Earthworms @ 350 per m3( 400 worms / kg)||22,500|
|5||Packing Cost including pouch cost||1,200|
|6||Salaries per harvest||16,000|
|7||Lease per Harvest||50,000|
|8||Transport Charges (raw materials)||16,000|
|9||Miscellaneous ( per harvest)|
Benefits per Harvest in Vermicompost Business:
|S.No||Particulars of Items||Amount (Rs)|
|1||Sale of Vermicompost (50 MT @ Rs.3.5 / kg)||1,75,000|
|2||Sale of Worms (5 kg / tonne @ Rs. 300 / kg)||75,000|
Cost Analysis in Vermicompost Business:
|S.No||Particulars of Items||Amount (Rs)|
|1||Total Capital Cost||3,91,000|
|2||Total Operational Cost||5,42,000|
|Total Cost per annum||9,33,000|
|1||Vermicompost Sale per Annum||7,00,000|
|2||Worms Sale per Annum||3,00,000|
|Total Sale per Annum||10,00,000|
Total benefit in the first year (Sale Benefit – Operational Cost ) = Rs. 4,58,000/- per annum.
A thorough planning with a project plan will reduce risks in vermicompost business. Start with a small scale to gain business and marketing experience with thorough research. In a year, vermicompost business can achieve four to five harvests per annum. There is a lot of potential in making profits with proper business planning and execution.
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