Last week, Susan wrote in to inquire about starting her own worm business. I knew I had to answer this one on the blog since this is a topic a lot of people want to learn about, and something I haven’t really talked about all that much.
As a few of my readers know, I was actually hired to co-author a worm farming manual last year (along with a newsletter – something I’ll be doing again this year). I’ve read a LOT about the worm farming industry over the years, but the project provided me with the opportunity to really dive in and learn a lot more about the ‘business of worm farming’. I’ll certainly be writing more about ALL of that before too long, but for now let’s get to Susan’s question:
Hello! I have had a small worm bin in my kitchen for a few months and i have really enjoyed watching my produce scraps turn into fertile soil. I am thinking about turning vermicomposting into a side business, selling the worms and castings. Do you know if this is profitable? I can tell that the worms have no problem doubling in size, so I don’t worry about that, but I am wondering if it can be a viable source of income. Any suggestions you have would be great
Thanks for the question! As mentioned above, this is definitely something a lot of people want to learn about. This isn’t too surprising really – once you witness the beauty (and power) of a thriving worm bin, it is only natural to start thinking about expansion.
I’m certainly not going to get into all the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of starting your own worm farming business, but let’s see if I can at least provide you with reasonable overview, including some of the key pieces of advice I would give anyone thinking of heading that route.
For starters, I loved the fact that you used the adjective “side” in front of “business”. One of the things I always highly recommend for hobby vermicomposters thinking about starting a worm business is to take their time, and ease themselves into it. There are so many advantages to taking this route. Here are just some of them:
- Your start-up costs will be next to nothing (so you won’t put your own finances on the line). You can start at home and literally take things one worm bin at a time
- It will allow you time to research the industry and chart out a gameplan
- By the time you’re ready for large-scale production you will have a lot more experience with worms
- You’ll likely have a lot more fun (and far less stress) building it from the ground up
Again, these are just some of the advantages of the slow and steady approach.
Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly advantages to starting big and hitting the ground running, but you MUST put in the time and effort to fully research the industry, and put together a proper business plan before investing large sums of money in worms/equipment etc. One of the mistakes a lot of people seem to make is assuming that if they have lots and lots of worms and/or castings the world will suddenly beat a path to their doors to buy them. This is not the case at all.
Some of you may wonder about ‘turn-key’ and ‘contract’ opportunities. In all honesty, I don’t recommend taking that approach in most cases. This is something I’ll likely talk about in another post at some point since it definitely should be covered in more detail than I can provide here.
In response to your question about the profit-potential of a worm business…I hate to say it, but…it depends!
I realize that sounds like a lazy answer, but let me explain…
It really depends on the amount of work YOU are willing to put into it, and the expectations you have. Starting out the way I suggested above, it certainly won’t be hard to reach profitability (especially if you don’t consider your own time as a cost), assuming you can find a market for your worms etc. That is really the key – sales and marketing. Breeding worms and producing castings is really the easy part. It is developing a demand for your products that can be the real challenge, and something a lot of would-be worm farmers seem to want to sweep under the carpet.
Bottomline, yes a worm business can be a profitable venture, but it still needs to be treated like a real business, and will require a lot of hard work and dedication in order to truly succeed. Thankfully, with the World Wide Web at our fingertips now, the possibilities for inexpensive promotion of your business are vast (yet another topic I want to talk more about)!
Anyway Susan, I hope that helps a little. Thanks again for the question. As mentioned, I will definitely be revisiting this topic again before too long!
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It seems like a bit of a gamble, the worm business. I just had a die-off after an amazing first few months. Bentley, think you are correct when you suggest that people start with a side business. It is very possible that one small problem could result in terrible financial loss. Also, mainstream people do not seem to understand vermicompost. In my area, they would not be willing to pay very much of their money for worms or for vermicompost for their gardens.
I am just doing this for fun and to help process kitchen waste, but if I were trying to make a living, I would be in trouble. I still love to care for worms, but have no ambitions for money.
To everyone looking to start a vermi-business, good luck. I hope things go well. Hey, maybe I will buy a pound or two of worms from ya. I think the next best thing (in terms of buisness) will be new products helping home composters to care for their worms and to harvest the castings. But, what do I know?…(man, I am chatty tonight..sorry).
You are right, starting a worm business IS definitely a gamble (although the same can be said for starting any business really).
There seem to be two main schools of thought when it comes to improving your chances of success with a worm business. As I suggest, you can start small and take your time, thus limiting your risk and providing you with plenty of time to learn the ropes. OR, as some others might suggest, you can throw a ton of money into the endeavour, do all the necessary research and planning etc, and get started quickly and effectively. There are certainly arguments to be made for both sides.
I’m really sorry to hear about your worms, Kami!! What happened? Hopefully it wasn’t due to advice I’ve provided on the site!
No, not your fault at all. I am not really sure what happened. It could have been too much food or too much heat. I lost some worms, but still have many strong, happy worms. I could not bear to pull all of the worms out of the bedding and start over, so many worms were doing fine and I did not want to stress them. Also, I could not imagine throwing the old bedding away. As a result, I am still losing a couple of worms, but I think the loss would have been greater if I had tried to pull the worms out (also, I would have lost a large number of cocoons).
It is really stressful to see some of the worms die. I want to do something huge to save their lives, but a huge change would probably kill more worms.
Wow Kami – sounds rough!
You are absolutely right about trying to do something drastic to help save the situation (often ends up backfiring) – this is often a mistake that newcomers make whenever they see something going wrong with the bin.
Really sorry to hear about the worms – it would definitely be tough to see them dying and know there isn’t all that much you can do to help!
Anyway, hopefully the remaining population (of tough worms) bounces back in a big way and you get back on track before too long!
I received 4 lbs of European night crawlers four days ago. I placed them in mostiened Canadian Surphan peat moss. I moistened egg laying crumble down the center of the plastic tote on top of the dirt. The tote I have them in until my 5 tray worm farm arrives is just a plastic tote with air holes. It has been 4 days since I received my worms and they don’t seem to be eating much. If I touch the top of the soil its like a tidal wave of movement. My concern is if I sniff about 6 inches from the dirt I smell a sour smell but I have to stick my nose this close to smell anything. My ph level says 7. However, I do see worms balled up in places plastered to the outside of the plastic clear tote. I investigated and all were alive. I have only found approximatelly 10 dead since arrival. Am I doing anything wrong? Should I be concerned about them not eating much? trying to escape rate on the 4 lbs. is maybe 4 worms everymorning on the sides. I keep the lights on and lid off during the day and put the lid on and turn lights off at night. Any advice is welcome.
Hi Linda – really sorry for the delay responding to this.
The first few days (sometimes as much as a week or more), the worms will most likely not be consuming wastes at their normal rate. They need time to adjust to their new surroundings.
Clear containers aren’t the best ones to use for worm bins since worms really don’t like light – it can actually harm them (especially outdoor light).
I haven’t used the “egg laying crumble” myself so I’m not sure what it contains, but I would definitely be cautious with a material like that in a normal (enclosed plastic) worm bin.
All in all, it doesn’t sound like you are having major issues. I would leave them be for a few days and see if they settle down a bit.
Have you heard or know about worms used for cosmetic testing?
I live in the UK and I’m very interested in opening a worming farm using Vermic equipments and suppliers.
I’ve also heard about football ground are always in need of worms and fertislising compose “is this true”?
Hope you could have some answers for me as I’ve been doing alot of research but can’t find nothing!
i am a finance student completed my P.G in finance, i want to start a business like worm farming professionally, i want to know how pragmatic my decision is and who are the people which actually requires this product i mean i actually want to see the demand..
Bit of a tough question to answer in a comment.
It will, of course, be up to you to decide if the start-up of some form a vermicomposting business is a wise choice for you.
Interestingly, your wording actually uncovered one of the potential limitations of this field – I’m not sure I would say there is ANYONE who really “requires” these products. That being said, there ARE plenty of people who are interested in starting their own vermicomposting systems and/or interested in using vermicompost (aka “worm castings”) as an all-natural plant growth promoter and soil amendment. The market for the latter product likely offers the greatest potential for revenue generation, but it’s certainly not without its challenges (much “easier” to get started with a small “worm business” in my humble opinion). If you are looking for a very successful vermicomposting business, be sure to check out “Worm Power” – they are castings specialists and own/operate what may very well be the largest vermicomposting facility in the world.
Hope this helps a little.
what will be the initial investment in vermicomposting and i want to know about demand of this product, who are the people who actually require this product,,
Your initial investment will TOTALLY depend on the particular business model and approach-in-general you take. You could start up some form of worm business quite easily for $100’s – but depending on how serious you want to get, you could easily end up spending 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of dollars. There definitely isn’t any sort of “x dollars invested = vermicomposting business” formula to refer to.
It’s safe to say that you could get going for less than $10000 (assuming you have some land/space already).
As I pointed out already, there isn’t anyone who “requires” composting worms or worm castings – there are lots of people who want these products, but compared to a lot of markets that number is still fairly small (since plenty of people aren’t familiar with vermicomposting).
I don’t have any vermicomposting product demand stats for you unfortunately. I highly recommend you learn as much about Worm Power as you can – there is certainly a LOT of demand for their products!
I have two can-o-worm with healthy red worm .I put up two bin made of used tire and i compare now that the red worm on tire are must bigger maybe healthier than the one which are matured already.I don’t have money to buy the hungry bin.I used my worm farm only for my small garden,and my plan is to expand later ,I give worm free just for friendship,and for business.thanks for the info i read or comments Friend,
My husband saw an advertisement for a set up that costs $2500 to start. They will buy worms from you to the tune of a possible $30,000 a year. this sounds to good to be true to me. What do you think