Digestive Table – A Worm Bin With Style!

Digestive Table
[Image courtesy of Amy Youngs]

Even though I added a link in the sidebar quite some time ago, I have yet to write about Amy Youngs’ intriguing “Digestive Table” (I have however written about it on the EcoSherpa blog previously). It’s almost certainly the coolest idea for a worm composting system I have ever seen! It’s a piece of art, yet is completely functional as a table and kitchen waste disposal system – not to mention education tool.

Amy Youngs is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at The Ohio State University. As a bit of an aside, The Ohio State University is also the home of renowned vermicomposting researchers, Drs Clive Edwards and Norman Arancon. Coincidence? I think not! (according to her website, they actually helped to inspire the project)

Amy Youngs is also a very active artist. Here is a blurb from her bio page:

Amy M. Youngs creates mixed-media, interactive sculptures and digital media works, that explore the complex relationship between technology and our changing concept of nature and self. She has exhibited her works nationally and internationally at venues such as Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH), Pace Digital Gallery (New York, NY), the Biennale of Electronic Arts (Perth, Australia), John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, Wisconsin), Circulo de Bellas Artes (Madrid, Spain), the Visual Arts Museum (New York, NY) the Art Institute of Chicago’s Betty Rymer Gallery, Vedanta Gallery, (Chicago, IL), the San Francisco Public Library, Blasthaus, (San Francisco, CA) and Works (San Jose, CA). Her artwork has been reviewed in publications such as, The Chicago Sun Times, The Chicago Reader, San Francisco Bay Guardian, RealTime and Artweek. Youngs has published several essays, including one on genetic art in the journal Leonardo and another on art, technology and ecology in the international art publication Nouvel Objet in 2001.

The worm composting system incorporated into the table consists primarily of a funnel of landscape cloth hanging down from the underside of the tabletop. There is a small lid in the middle of the table that can be lifted so that scraps can be dropped down into the vermi-bag (a term I just made up, by the way). It is actually a very simple form of “continuous flow” system – eventually all material at the bottom will be worm compost, and most of the worms will be up near the top where all the yummy rotten food waste is. There is a worm composting system called the “Swag” that relies on a similar principle, and really there are limitless ways you could make your own funnel worm composter at home! Hmmm…this has me thinking…

If that isn’t cool enough, Amy’s system also includes a fully-integrated video system that allows you to actually watch as the worms and other creatures chow down on the food waste! Oh, and did I mention the fact that she has made available (for free) a construction diagram for this system?

I wish I was a little more of a handy-person myself – I would love to build (and own) something like this!

Some might assume having an (essentially) open worm composting system like this would create a major stink. In fact, all the extra oxygen getting in along with the activities of the worms would likely make it even more odour-free than a normal worm bin. The only thing you’d really need to watch out for is drying out of the composting mass. I suspect that water would need to be added on a regular basis.

Be sure to check out the Digestive Table website, and watch the video if you have a fast connection.

[tags]digestive table, amy youngs, dr clive edwards, dr norman arancon, vermicomposting, worm composting, worm bin, swag, ohio state university, modern art, sculpture[/tags]

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    • Brody
    • February 17, 2008

    I keep thinking about the efficiency of this design – I really like how everything simply filters downward and compost comes out the bottom. I wonder if there’s compost tea from this or if it evaporates?

    Thinking I might just build a tall wooden box in my kitchen with the trash on one side and a “worm stocking” like this on the other side. I don’t need the worm-cam. Maybe I could mount a colander on top to toss fresh matter in, and let it sit a bit before dumping it into the mix. Lots of ideas, I’ll let you know if I do anything with it.

    • Bentley
    • February 17, 2008

    Hey Brody,
    I would imagine that there wouldn’t really be any tea with a bin like this due to the extreme air flow. If anything a bin like this would need to have water added from time to time just to keep things moist enough!

    Do let us know if you go ahead with your potential plan – sounds like a great idea!

    • vernon
    • February 26, 2008

    I’m looking for some disign plans for a vertical as well as a horizontal continuous flow system. If any one have some, please email it to redwigglers@ananzi.co.za


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