How to Start an Earthworm Business

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Raising earthworms for fishing, gardening and vermi-composting is a fun, inexpensive and low-maintenance hobby. With a little business know-how, a small earthworm farm can be abundant with financial opportunities. Earthworms and their fertilizer-rich castings are highly beneficial and marketable.

Things You'll Need

  • 8' x 4' sheet of plywood
  • 8 foot or longer measuring tape
  • Chalk line
  • Circular saw
  • Nails and hammer (optional)
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • 12 plastic soda bottle caps
  • 2 plastic trays about 24” x 36”
  • Newspaper paper
  • Starter worms
  • Food scraps and/or grass clippings
  • Soil
  • Computer with Internet access

Build Propagation Boxes

Mark the plywood sheet into 10 sections. Consult the Worm Bed Layout Guide in the References section below this article to see the placement of cutting lines on an 8' x 4' sheet that provides for two earthworm propagation boxes. Texas A&M University's horticulture department recommends "a small box or bin, approximately one foot high, two feet deep and three feet wide."

Cut the plywood sheet into 10 sections along cutting lines.

Nail or screw side sections to the end sections. This creates the frame of the earthworm bed. Overlap the board ends at a square angle, hold in place to nail or screw the boards in place. You now have an “L” shape. Place another board at the end of the “L” to create a “U” shape and secure the wood with a nail or screw. Repeat the process to create a rectangle shape from the boards.

Nail or screw the bottom section to the frame. Rest the bottom section on top of the frame, and screw or nail through the bottom board into the sides of the frame.

Drill holes through the bottom of the box. About eight small holes equally spaced is sufficient for drainage of moisture from the box.

Drill starter screw holes through the center of twelve plastic soda bottle caps. The bottle caps are the feet for the earthworm propagation box to better allow for drainage.

Mark feet placement locations on the bottom of each earthworm box with a pencil. Turn the box, bottom side up. Mark a point that is about two to three inches diagonal from the corner of each box. Measure three to four inches from the center of the longest width of the box.

Screw six bottle caps to the bottom of each earthworm propagation box.

Turn the boxes over and set on plastic trays. You now have two boxes for your earthworms with proper drainage.

Set Up Worm Beds

Shred newspaper into strips. The paper creates a bedding layer for the earthworms. Use newspaper or computer paper with only black ink; colored inks can be harmful. Dampen the paper so it is moist but not soggy.

Scatter a layer of food scraps and/or grass clippings over the paper strips. Grass clippings and leaves are great food for earthworms if you don't use pesticides in the yard. Any food waste that does not contain onions, cabbage, hot peppers or meat works great. Good choices include coffee and tea grounds with the filters, egg shells, vegetables trimmings, bread, noodles, and orange peels.

Scatter a layer of soil. A small amount of dirt covering the food scraps reduces odors and provides the grit earthworms need for proper digestion.

Walk away. Let the earthworm bed set for a few days. The website for Texas A&M University's horticulture department states, “Prepare moistened bedding at least 2 days prior to adding worms, as it may heat initially and harm the worms.”

Add Starter Earthworms

Decide on your market for selling your worms to determine the best worm to farm. Red wigglers or red worms are best for vermi-composting if your target market is the for home composting or gardeners. For selling to fishermen or as live food for birds and reptiles, the European Nightcrawler is the better option. With the two worm beds, you have the option of raising both breeds. The castings (waste) produced by either type of worm provides revenue from the gardening market.

Place an order for a minimum of 100 worms.

Empty the container of earthworms into propagation beds. The worms will work their way down under the soil to the layers of food.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you prefer not to build the earthworm beds, gather wooden boxes, crates or drawers that are not stained or finished on the interior. Plastic boxes are suitable for earthworm beds. Drill drainage holes into the bottom of boxes.
  • A successful earthworm business requires planning; it doesn't just happen. Learn everything you can about the care of earthworms and how to operate and market products as a small business. Free resources are available from the Small Business Administration and SCORE, a nonprofit organization that assists small businesses and startups.
  • For worm beds kept outdoors, do not set the boxes directly on the ground (you want to protect the worms from ants). Set the beds on bricks in a disposable pie pan filled with water to prevent ants from entering the earthworm beds.
  • Keep the worm beds in an area that is not overexposed to sunlight or heat or freezing temperatures.

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