Vermiculture 101

worm bed irrigation cropped

If you’re not a worm person, you might not have even heard the word “vermiculture” before. I certainly hadn’t 12 months ago. Vermiculture is just a more scientific term for worm farming. The practice of vermiculture, rather than worm farming, usually means it is being carried out on a more commercial scale, rather than your do-it-at-home worm farm. But essentially, the theory is the same.

Vermiculture trio

Here’s a few facts and busted myths I’ve learnt along the vermiculture journey;

  1. Worm castings are worm poo.  The worm has amazing properties inside its gut, which makes its “poo” (castings) full of microbes and beneficial plant nutrients. Castings are like gold in terms of food for your plants. You only need a little bit to make a big impact. And don’t worry, castings don’t have any smell.
  1. Worm juice, (otherwise know as vermiliquor) is not worm wee. Worm beds are naturally quite damp environments. They require regular watering to keep the worms happy. The organic waste used to feed the worms also contains a lot of moisture. So, all of this makes liquid a prolific bi-product of the vermiculture system. The liquid naturally drains through the pits, and is collected at the bottom. We re-circulate this liquid back through the beds, to ensure a high microbial count.
  1. A healthy worm farm does not smell. The worms do a wonderful job of consuming all organic waste, leading to an odourless environment, providing it is managed correctly. If your worm farm at home smells, there is something wrong. Perhaps the food is too acidic, or perhaps you are overfeeding. Not sure? Come and attend one of Circular Food’s free Saturday info sessions. Contact us for more info.
  1. Worms won’t leave a happy home. We don’t contain our worms with anything more than a felt blanket over the beds, and this is for warmth not containment. Keep your worms happy by feeding them regularly, keeping them aerated, and adequately watered and they will never leave your side. They’re loyal workers.
  1. Worms will eat anything that was once living. Yes, that includes some traditional “no-no foods” like meat and citrus. In moderation, worms will eat these things too. However, its important to make sure protein levels and ph levels are kept at an optimum level. So without the facilities to test this at home, its safest to avoid these foods in your own worm farm.

wormsAnd finally, and the most important lesson of all; Worms are one of natures most valuable creations. They are industrious and largely undervalued little creatures, with imperative value for life on earth. Left to its own devices, our planet can figure out any naturally occuring issue. Its solution for organic waste is the earthworm. If we can help them do their job, they can help us reduce our landfills and regenerate our global soil health.

If you have a specific question about vermiculture, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

How did we end up here..?

Hello, I’m Chloe – communications manager, writer, and self-proclaimed vermiculture newbie.

How did I end up in this industry? Well it came about through the entrepreneurial whirl-wind that is Steve Morriss, who is the founder of Circular Food, and also happens to be my father.

We started this journey looking for a new industry. The environment sector is a major passion for our family, and recycling complex waste streams is Steve’s expertise. So, organic waste recycling seemed like a natural fit. We burrowed into the industry, and the more we found out, the more passionate we became. It turns out the issue of organic waste is one of the most important environmental issues facing our planet – in fact I would argue that it is the most important. The issue is twofold; firstly, whilst huge amounts of food are being wasted, huge numbers of people are going hungry. We have a growing population, and a declining agriculture industry. With current farming practices, retail practices and public mindsets about waste, we cannot feed ourselves for much longer.

Secondly, when food waste ends up in landfill it rots, releasing methane and CO2. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US.

The most frustrating part about these facts is that there is no need for it. Food waste has amazing properties, which are extremely beneficial for our soils. The earth is equipped to take organic material back into the soil, and rejuvenate that ‘waste’ into plant ready nutrients. How does the earth achieve this? Earthworms.

Before we started the Circular Food journey, I knew very little about worms and vermiculture. And when I say “very little,” I mean I knew worms existed and consumed organic waste. That’s about it. The learning curve has been steep.

Vermiculture is an interesting industry, flirting between science and art. The “gospel” of worms is passed through the community, based on a solid foundation of trust and experience.

The industry itself is like an earthworm; humble and understated, but wielding immense potential.

We had the passion and the drive to tap into this industry, but we didn’t have the knowledge or the trust of the people. Fortunately, our paths crossed with Dave Wyatt – a vermiculture expert and industry veteran of 17 years. Circular Food bought his existing business, Vermicrobe International, and we absorbed that business’ expertise and incorporated it into Circular Food. Dave is now Circular Food’s vermiculture manager, and thank golly for that!

As CEO, Steve plans on expanding this knowledge and existing IP by applying a healthy dose of science. We believe in our worms, but the truth is they can’t work fast enough to produce what we need. We (the human race) have left it too late for that. We’re prepared to enter into a journey of extensive R&D, to create a fertiliser based on vermiculture but “supersized” for the modern environment.

Over a period of a few short months, the Circular Food concept has evolved from its kitchen table origins into a tangible business. In April, we secured our first site in Somerton, north of Melbourne. We spent the next two and a bit months renovating and improving this factory. Now, finally, it really feels like home.


We now operate the largest urban worm farm in Australia, equipped with a retail facility and our own lab.

Watch this space. Vermiculture and agtech are about to collide, and it’s going to change the game.