During my studies, I worked part-time for a start-up named albfertil GmbH whose business model was to transform organic production residues from food manufacturers into organic fertilizer through vermicomposting. The food manufacturers could dispose of their organic wastes without cost in this business model.
There were many challenges and roadblocks but also opportunities to overcome them that the young company struggeled with:
- storing the base materials: food manufacturers often operate seasonally due to the availability of the fruit/vegetable to be transformed. This means that at certain times of the year, many wastes to be processed came in and other times there was no material to feed the worms. While storing the material, precautions had to be taken that the high-quality organics wastes do not start rotting, or worse, molding.
- finding the right mix - inputs: worms cannot feed over weeks on one type of material, lets say beet shells. So we had to come up with somthing to enhance their diet: horse manure. Besides, we found out that the matieral has to be preprocessed for the worms, mainly in terms of size. We used a small-scale composting machine for the "pre-rotting". The benefit was, that in this way the material was hygenized and could also be stored longer.
- finding the right mix - outputs: depending on the type of fertilizer to be produced, a certain relationship between the nutrients had to be achieved. Givent the differnt input materials (from the different production companies), it was very difficult to achieve a stable product. At certain times, other organic products such as biochar or guano (chicken manure) was added.
- weather conditions: on hot summer days, the worms needed to be watered in order not to dry out, and in the winter they had to be kept at an acceptable temperature so they don't freeze.
- worm population: there was no efficient means for us to count and evaluate the worm population because the worms tend to hide themselves deep down within the wastes/humus.
- non-price sensitive product: we wanted to market the fertilizer in a funny and hip way, highlighting the circularity aspect of the product and making worm-fertilizer "cool". The name "Wormanizer" was chosen for this reason. The product was packaged in small bins, the size of a Ben & Jerry's ice cream. However, this was difficult, as our selling volume was too low to compete with the large sizes being sold at gardeing stores.
The website of the company and the product is down nowadays - perhaps a sign that there were too many roadblocks for this idea. The interested reader can consult more (German) information here: https://www.ideenwerkbw.de/wormanizer-rosen-moegen-pferdemist/