January 30, 2006 | General

Worm Breeder Advances To Large Scale Composting

BioCycle January 2006, Vol. 47, No. 1, p. 36
Anecdotal report from Winnipeg, Canada composter offers personal experiences on worms and composting.
Terrill Rankin

OUR BUSINESS, Wriggler Wranch, promotes the indoor breeding of worms for composting and fishing. The major purpose of our project is to divert food residuals and yard trimmings from landfilling. Here in Winnipeg, Canada, the Brady Landfill has given Wriggler Wranch a vermicomposting spot at the disposal site where 1,000 metric tons of organics can be composted instead of buried. Using fruit and vegetable residuals along with yard trimmings, the feedstocks will be combined to produce a proper C:N ratio. Winnipeg collects yard trimmings every fall as part of the “Leave It” program, and a good percentage will be delivered to our site beginning the first week of September.
For the warmer months, I will be windrow composting – “lasagna style.” I lay landscaping fabric on the ground, then worms and castings, precomposted organics and leaves. I keep layering until it is about two feet tall. For winter, I have a few different plans for composting in trailers using solar power. For homeowners, the cost for using the dropoff site will be $25/year. The cost for pick up service for organics will be $35/year for households. Pick up service for commercial – offices and businesses – will be available, and the response has been good. We have heard all the way from one-person apartments to a 700-person office complex.
Wriggler Wranch has been raising worms since 1997. It started as an outgrowth of my raising rabbits and the growing of my herb gardens when I produced my own massage oils. Not satisfied with only rabbit droppings and seeking a better quality fertilizer, worms became the next project. Not using any chemicals or pesticides on my gardens, the research for better methods was always ongoing. The worms would eat the rabbit manure, which did not have to be precomposted since it does not heat up and can be applied directly. Earthworm castings are 1.5 to 2.2 percent N, 1.6 to 2.2 percent P, and 1.5 to 2 percent K.
After moving and selling my rabbit herd, the worms became even more important. Composting shifted from only rabbit manure to a full range of organics. Moving into Winnipeg around 2002, I started collecting compostables for the worms, which were multiplying. I collected waste from grocery stores and restaurants to feed and build my supply of worms, which steadily became salable to persons interested in urban composting.
Over the last few years, we have introduced many worm kits to homeowners, apartment dwellers, schools and government facilities to set up vermicomposting. A kit consists of approximately 1,000 worms that can compost between 3.5 and 7 pounds of kitchen scraps per week. With schools, I became involved with classroom workshops and science fairs. Last year, I had eight science student groups from grades 3 to 10.
To take care of future production, I contacted the Winnipeg Waste and Water Department, asking if they had space for a large-scale composting project. After submitting a proposal which was accepted, the space at the Brady Landfill was allocated to Wriggler Wranch.
At this time, my worms are housed in a heated facility in the country. I breed two species of worms – the red wriggler and the European night crawler which are a good fishing worm but overran my space. Since then, half of my composting worms have been moved to the landfill where they will have the chance to grow. With the other half, the worms will be marketed for next fishing season.
Terrill Rankin can be reached at or

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