As many gardeners and farmers know, fertilizer is a crucial component in the soil to help their plants or crops grow abundantly. But in urban areas like Metro Manila, soil isn’t always a readily available resource, and finding the ideal additives to enrich its composition sometimes comes with chemicals.
On the other hand, Metro Manila is abundant in food waste. According to the Department of Science and Technology Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), 1,717 metric tons of food are wasted daily in the Philippines.
Few people know that their food waste can be the gateway to acquiring natural fertilizer to boost plant health because it’s a primary factor in vermicomposting.
Vermicomposting, also known as vermiculture, is a practice that uses composting worms to speed up the breakdown of organic matter. It is easier, quicker, and more space-efficient compared to traditional composting. Many find its byproduct a superior fertilizer that reduces a household’s food waste.
Marco Adriano, 22, realized the potential of vermicompost as early as 13. He now promotes the practice through Urban Vermicomposting PH, an online platform and small garden space in San Juan, Metro Manila, that aims to provide information, tips, and tricks for the beginner vermicomposter.
As the founder, Adriano is a one-man team at the forefront of encouraging urban residents to venture into the world of vermicomposting–as he did in 2013.
“I read in a book that you can turn food scraps into fertilizer, and I found it pretty interesting,” he told Manila Standard Agriculture.
Eventually, he turned to YouTube videos to learn more about vermicomposting and began offering his products to raise awareness about the practice’s benefits. It surprised him how only a few knew about vermicomposting and some of the prejudice it faced because it involved worms.
When he began, Adriano admitted to using YouTube videos and other reference materials from the United States because there weren’t many sources in the Philippines yet.
“At some point, we put up our website so people can learn about vermicomposting in the Philippines kasi, in the US, it’s hot, or they use a different type of worm. It [the website] is solving the problem I used to face about maintaining the worm bins in a Philippine setting,” he said.
The ideal worm breed for vermicomposting in the Philippines is African Nightcrawlers. Aside from being able to adapt to the country’s climate and environment, these also make good food sources and are efficient in breaking down natural materials, making it easier for them to decompose faster.
However, vermicomposters must create the ideal environ-ment for their worms using bedding, containers, and food to maintain their compost bin. They must keep themselves from overfeeding the worms and provide holes for breathability and proper drainage.
Some examples of worm feed include leaves, coffee grounds, and other food waste like scraps, fruit peels, and pieces of vegetables.
As for the bedding, some suitable items are newspapers, cardboard, and coco peat, which Urban Vermicomposting PH offers in their vermicomposting bins.
Urban Vermicomposting PH offers starter kits to help beginner vermicomposters start their journey. It comes with composting worms, bedding, and a compact container. Consumers only need to supply the worms with food scraps for sustenance.
Even though not many people are keen on touching or utilizing worms, Adriano shared that their potential to reduce food waste and provide plants with a natural fertilizer are the unique selling points that capture consumers’ interest.
“Not everyone needs to make fertilizer. What people are more interested in now is turning waste into something valuable. That’s what we always try to highlight,” he said.
Adriano also uses the website to provide support and insights to customers who need some guidance. Seeing his customers maximize their vermicompost bins’ potential and utilizing their benefits gives Adriano much satisfaction because it gives society a new perspective on worms that highlights their relevance in a sustainable ecosystem.
With more people in the metro discovering the advantages of vermicomposting, they’re contributing to lessening the amount of food waste in the environment, reducing their carbon footprint, and aiding plant growth. Now that’s a can–or box–of worms worth opening.
Learn more about vermicomposting at www.urbanvermicomposting.com.