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GaryD

Designing a Vermiponics System

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Hi,

One of my blog visitors asked me a question about Vermiponics and it got me thinking about how I might go about designing a worm-powered growing system.

In its simplest form, a vermiponics unit comprises flood and drain grow beds.....and a worm bio-reactor - somewhere for the worms to mineralise animal manure - and plant and kitchen wastes. The nutrients are then transported to the grow bed - through the flood and drain process.

For practical purposes, the worm bio-reactor need be nothing more than another flood and drain grow bed......so the whole deal might consist of a couple of grow beds.....one for worms and one for plants and a sump tank into which the water would drain during the drain cycle.

On each flood cycle, the worm bed would fill to just below the feed level (dissolving castings that had been created by the worms) and when it drained it would transport the nutrients into the sump tank. On each flood cycle, the water would also fill the flood and drain grow bed and supply water and nutrients to the plants.

I'd also put an air stone or two into the sump tank - just to keep things nice and aerobic.

You could probably dispense with the sump tank if you included a pump chamber in the worm bio-reactor.

How would you approach it?

Gary

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I've thought about building a vermiponics system and I'm surprised more APers haven't already.

I agree with you on the need to keep things aerobic with lots of aeration. I would also add that you need to have a bio-filter. Now this can be your growbed as mentioned, or it can be separate, but it is needed. I read a detailed study on using "vermiliquer" in hydroponic systems. Apparently the vermiliquer has a high pH and there was concern about nutrient lock-out. However, an experienced APer will tell you that (a) the on-going nitrogen cycle will depress your pH over time and (b) the complex biological make-up of a mature system will help facilitate nutrient transfer to plants even in elevated pHs that typically don't work for hydroponic systems.

I also would likely not regularly flood the worm area. I would try to build it like a regular vermicomposter with the drippings going into the sump tank. That way you could still produce quality worm castings for other uses. Maybe you could have a diverter valve of some kind to add a little extra water if needed. By not saturating the casting in water your less likely to get solids in your growbed and more likely to keep the system aerobic. You might not be maximizing your vegetable growth potential, but the system should operate more smoothly.

A series of screens and compartments that can be individually exposed to light will make worm and casting harvesting easier.

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What about having a separate worm farm all together?...Collecting and filtering the worm tea and using it as a foliar spray for your aquaponics system...You can also add the fish solids to the top of the worms farm and have the worms process that for you...I would steer away from adding warm blooded animal manures to the worm farm as I would steer away from adding meat, citrus scraps, garlic and herbs and onion varieties to the worm farm...I have never added Warm blooded animal manure to my farm at all but have heard bad reports from people doing it...But I can personally attest that the worms do not like citrus etc and do not touch it....

Cheers.

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The lady down the road from me where I got the pound of worms for my bin sells castings. Her setup is rabbit cages on a long rolling stand over two long shallow worm bins the same length. It was about 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. She would roll the rabbit cages two feet over to alternate between worm bins.

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The lady down the road from me where I got the pound of worms for my bin sells castings. Her setup is rabbit cages on a long rolling stand over two long shallow worm bins the same length. It was about 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. She would roll the rabbit cages two feet over to alternate between worm bins.

Yeah? And they work OK do they? cool, fair enough.... I've found the meat takes longer to break down and goes off before the worms can process it.....But hey, if it works for others it's all good...

Cheers.

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Hi BD,

Yeah? And they work OK do they? cool, fair enough.... I've found the meat takes longer to break down and goes off before the worms can process it.....But hey, if it works for others it's all good...

Where does the meat issue creep in. The worms are living on rabbit poop and piddle......Right?

Gary

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Hi BD,

Where does the meat issue creep in. The worms are living on rabbit poop and piddle......Right?

Gary

Hi Gary,

No, In my case the worms are living on kitchen scraps, bar the ones I have previously mentioned...Vege scraps, salad scraps and even shredded newspaper when you do not develope enough scraps to feed your worms....I love them worms are fantastic little critters....Oh and there's nothing wrong...in fact I can many benefits of adding fish poop to the farm... and a touch of water on the carpet sometimes an ice cream contain full, every night to keep the castings moist...every now and then I completely flood the worms but not every night...

Years ago, when I was looking into purchasing compost worm farms the supplier said not not introduce meat scraps...I tried it to check out what he was saying and from my experience it is not a good idea...Having said that and someone else finds it's OK then that's OK...I haven't tried warm blooded animal manures, but also when I was checking them out they did advocate using worms to compose dog droppings...a couple of years later they were advising against it...saying it didn't work right...but again if others are having success with it that is all good....The only issue I can see with adding things is if the worms don't touch them....If they don't compost fully the scraps then the farm goes Off....Like I say, though if the worms eat things up then why not add it...

Cheers.

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Yes, in her case the rabbits poo through the bottom of the cages. Sorry I did not make that clear.

Hi BD,

Where does the meat issue creep in. The worms are living on rabbit poop and piddle......Right?

Gary

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Hi Pseudoreality,

I read a detailed study on using "vermiliquer" in hydroponic systems. Apparently the vermiliquer has a high pH and there was concern about nutrient lock-out. However, an experienced APer will tell you that (a) the on-going nitrogen cycle will depress your pH over time and (b) the complex biological make-up of a mature system will help facilitate nutrient transfer to plants even in elevated pHs that typically don't work for hydroponic systems.

Worm systems (that are functioning properly) seem to be more stable - in pH terms - than aquaculture systems. The microbiology is very different, too. The waste from fish needs to be oxidised before it can be most effectively used by plants. Vermicast, by contrast, is a complete plant food as it leaves the worm. Fish production tends to drive pH down (to the point where calcium/potassium hydroxide is need to maintain it at a fixed level) where high concentrations of worms have a buffering effect on the pH.

Some of the enhanced nutrient availability that is said to occur in mature backyard AP systems is probably due to the mineralising impact of worms.

In my view, a vermiponics system would require very little in the way of pH adjustment.......and, if it did, calcium carbonate would be required. Calcium hydroxide (the first choice of aquaculturists) is toxic to worms.

Gary

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Hi Pseudoreality,

Worm systems (that are functioning properly) seem to be more stable - in pH terms - than aquaculture systems. The microbiology is very different, too. The waste from fish needs to be oxidised before it can be most effectively used by plants. Vermicast, by contrast, is a complete plant food as it leaves the worm. Fish production tends to drive pH down (to the point where calcium/potassium hydroxide is need to maintain it at a fixed level) where high concentrations of worms have a buffering effect on the pH.

Some of the enhanced nutrient availability that is said to occur in mature backyard AP systems is probably due to the mineralising impact of worms.

In my view, a vermiponics system would require very little in the way of pH adjustment.......and, if it did, calcium carbonate would be required. Calcium hydroxide (the first choice of aquaculturists) is toxic to worms.

Gary

Yes I would agree with what you are saying Gary...I found the Ph needs very little adjusting on the worm farms, as they stand now, and If I do adjust it, a bit of dolomite sand onto the scraps and its OK...

Is Dolomite calcium carbonate?

Cheers.

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Is worm casting tea considered organic? If so could worm casting tea be used exclusively as the plant food of a certified organic hydroponic system? How would worm tea compare in price to standard hydroponic fertilizer?

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Is worm casting tea considered organic? If so could worm casting tea be used exclusively as the plant food of a certified organic hydroponic system? How would worm tea compare in price to standard hydroponic fertilizer?

Providing It met with the certified organic standards and or requirements, and you continually complied with the appropriate processes.

I would say if you were to buy it commercially, the worm castings/and or tea would be more expensive...But I have not priced any up for a long time and have since completely forgotten...I reckon for hydroponics you are best to stick with the commercially available special hydroponic nutrients...That way you get all your trace elements at the correct dosage all the time...And do not run into a great deal of trouble...

Cheers.

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Hi Jeff,

Is worm casting tea considered organic?

It's certainly organic in terms of how it comes about......however, when it comes to organic certification, you may need to demonstrate that the worm bedding (food) was also organic.

If so could worm casting tea be used exclusively as the plant food of a certified organic hydroponic system?

The challenge would be to find a certifying agency that would be prepared to sign off on a hydroponic system. Oregon Tilth did it for Friendly Aquaponics but such agencies have typically been a bit leery of hydroponics.....preferring soil-based systems.

Blue Smart Farms appears to have organic certification and my guess is that, because they start their seedlings in compost (prior to growing them out in NFT troughs) they've got by on a technicality.

For my money, the "standards" associated with organic certification seem to be pretty haphazard - and come down to interpretation by the certifying agency. There have already been some high profile scandals arising out of the antics of some of them.

How would worm tea compare in price to standard hydroponic fertilizer?

That depends on what you are comparing with what? Brewed worm tea is different to ordinary worm tea. Hydro nutrients vary widely in content and price (and associated hoop-la).

You can ensure that worm tea contains everything that it needs to (in the correct proportions) by adding compost and various other organic additives and brewing it all together.

Gary

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Hi,

Following the harvest of the deep litter from my quail pen, I'm looking for a way to optimise its use.

It's too hot to put directly into worm beds and just composting it would be a waste of a premium nutrient supply. One of the ideas that I'm contemplating is a quail-powered Vermiponics system.

Gary

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It's too hot to put directly into worm beds and just composting it would be a waste of a premium nutrient supply. One of the ideas that I'm contemplating is a quail-powered Vermiponics system.

After our conversation in another thread Gary, I've been contemplating how to integrate worms better quite a bit. In conjunction with our topic of wicking beds, I believe I have a path in mind at the moment...

I am currently thinking of a square water proof worm bed with a bottom that comes to a point that is a few feet deep. The first foot or so is gravel and then it is covered with a cloth or thin metal mesh to prevent worms from moving through too readily. On the bottom in the gravel, we position a water pumps and multiple aerators. On top of the gravel, we seed the bed with some manure/dirt/existing compost for worms along with our starter worms. On top of this we add any items we need to compost. We keep the bed filled to the top of the gravel at all times at the very least. When we want to make worm tea, we will flood the bed to about 2 inches under the top level and stop the worm bed drain. While the bed is being flooded, the aerators will be turned on in addition to the water pump in the bed. The pump's job will be to mix the water that has made it through to the gravel back through-- as such; it will pump the water back to the top and spray across the top of the worm bed.

Additionally, my thought was that in the above system-- one could also maintain BSFL (along with inclines for harvesting and/or breeding). It seems the main reason to not keep BSFL and worms together is BSFL produce a fair amount of heat as they work and they produce enzymes that worms do not overly like. With appropriate flooding on a regular basis, the heat and enzymes would be taken care of. If the heat or the enzymes became too great an issue-- one could keep water in the bed and add a mister. BSFL and worms can both survive in a water environment at least part of the time assuming it is oxygenated.

In any case, the above would take care of the vermiponics and the quail along with integrating some BSFL. :)

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Good day sir GaryD! I am a student and I want to try making a Vermiponics System. I would like to ask if you can help me with this matter. I'm new with this one so I know nothing but I am very interested.

Edited by Hadde (see edit history)

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Hi Haddie and welcome...

 

Worm farms can be as simple or complicated as you want to make them...

 

The basic worm farm can be started on the ground...

have a pile of organic material for you base...Coir is a good start

Add your composting worms

Add some food scraps on top to maybe 50mm or 2 inches thick

Place some old carpet or the like on top

 add water until everything is nice and moist not to sloppy though

 

There you have it a basic worm farm...

 

To go a step up (IMO) you can transfer all of that in the same order into a container and on we go...

 

Cheers.

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bigdaddy, do you place old carpet over the pile in a container? My worms are setup in a container, and I cover it with moist cardboard. The idea of something more permanent over that is appealing since it seems that it would help keep fruit flies down.


"Place some old carpet or the like on top...To go a step up (IMO) you can transfer all of that in the same order into a container and on we go...

 

Cheers."

Edited by edmolina (see edit history)

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Hi Eddie,

 

Cardboard is fine......hessian (burlap) is even better.  I'm a bit wary of carpet since people tend to use all manner of deodorants and cleaners on carpets - not to mention the nylon and other stuff that will end up in your bed as the carpet breaks down.

 

Gary

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Hi Eddie and Gary,

 

Hessian sounds good...Very good actually....It's been my experience over the years that carpet works fine and when it looks a bit manky it's not hard to change...I'd just check for deodorants and the like as Gary suggests...I've also used, news paper, cardboard from the boxes you get from the supermarkets/fruit shop or packaging the dies in them don't seem a problem...The problem I have found(if you could call it a problem) is the worms can work their way up and start to eat the cardboard...Yes you place it on top, even over your old and tatty cardboard if you want or throw away the cardboard...Try the Hessian, see how that works...

 

Cheers.

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They'll eventually eat the hessian, too......or (more accurately) the micro-organisms that cause the hessian to break down.  Just keep piling on the cardboard.  Worms love the stuff.....particularly the glue that is used in its manufacture.

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True enough - the cardboard does disappear readily. I used to have some burlap on them, but I didn't like how it came apart and looked ragged, whereas cardboard gets degraded much quicker. I think that I'll stick to cardboard/newspaper only; these have worked well and are easily available. The carpet would require efforts to pickup scraps, and Gary, you bring up a good point about what may be in it.

 

Thanks gents.

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