In 1985, Maharashtra Agricultural Bioteks was formed and established a small plant to manufacture vermicompost from agricultural waste. Those involved believed that a successful commercial venture based on regenerative principles might convince others to adapt sustainable practices.
The organization currently produces 5,000 tons of vermicompost annually. Its real achievement, however, has been in raising awareness among farmers, researchers and policy makers in India about regenerative food production methods. The group is directly responsible for 2,000 farmers and horticulturists adopting vermicomposting. These converts have begun secondary dissemination of the principles they were taught.
In 1991-92, Maharashtra Bioteks and the India Department of Science and Technology promoted the adoption of vermicompost technology in 13 states in India. The group has also established a vermicompost unit with Chitrakoot Gramodaya University, Madhya Pradesh which produces five tons of vermicompost per month.
The organization has devised methods to convert biodegradable industrial waste like pulp waste from paper mills and filter cake and liquid effluent from sugar factories into vermicompost. These wastes are commonly regarded as pollutants, but three facilities are already producing thirty tons of vermicompost each month from this waste.
The organization has also created a program which trains housewives and home gardeners to produce their own vermicompost from household and garden waste. The aim of this work is to increase awareness about regenerative practices. To this end, vermicompost kits have been developed and distributed and in one year 100 housewives were trained to use the kits.
Through its programs with farmers, institutions and at the government level, Maharashtra Agricultural Bioteks is convincing people that vermicompost presents a healthy alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Dr. Henamgee Jambhekar Maharashtra Agricultural Bioteks B/9 Shivai Housing Society Near Sane Guruji Smarak Pune, 411 030, INDIA Fax: 91-212-431983
Earthworms are divided into two groups: humus formers and humus feeders. The first group dwell on the surface and feed on nearly 90% fresh organic materials and 10% soil. They are generally red in color, have a flat tail and are also called epegic or detritivorous worms. It is these worms that are harnessed for vermicomposting. The second group, the humus feeders, are deep burrowing worms that are useful in making the soil porous and mixing and distributing humus through the soil.
Sieving and shredding- Decomposition can be accelerated by shredding raw materials into small pieces.
After about a month the compost is ready. It will be black, granular, lightweight and humus-rich. To facilitate separating the worms from the compost, stop watering two to three days before emptying the beds. This will force about 80% of the worms to the bottom of the bed. The rest of the worms can be removed by hand. The vermicompost is then ready for application.