Florence, Italy, 8-9 November 2023

by Anna de la Vega

The international annual gathering for vermiculturists has found a new home in Italy after more than two decades of being held at North Carolina State University, USA. As Rhonda Sherman announced her retirement at the beginning of the year the baton has been handed to Lisa Forehand of Stonepine Consulenza who made the first International Vermiculture Symposium in Florence a huge success with attendees spanning 41 countries and 6 continents with speakers from New Zealand, Mexico, Belgium, Italy, Holland, USA and the UK.

The global rock stars of vermicomposting

Rhonda led The International Vermiculture Conference for 21 years running at the university where she worked as an Extension Specialist. Rhonda’s commitment and contribution to the industry is far reaching and we are forever grateful for her knowledge and work. The world of vermiculture would not be what it is today without Rhonda, or more to the point The Urban Worm would not be what it is today without Rhonda.

Michael Quintern, My Noke, New Zealand

To be invited to speak and share our journey was a huge honor, and a wonderful opportunity to connect and learn from leaders in the industry. We are grateful for the support from the Royal Horticultural Society’s Coke Bursary Award who made our attendance possible. Support from the RHS provides an invaluable platform to share knowledge for the advancement of vermiculture in the UK.

Whilst wermiculture in the UK remains a novel and niche practice in contrast to the industrial operations in action overseas, since we launched into the worm world 10 years ago progress has certainly been made, even if we don’t say so ourselves. Hearing from speakers across the world share their stories was nothing short of inspirational and provides hope for the future.

Soil Scientist Michael Quintern is heading New Zealand’s My Noke (My Worm) that is currently the largest operation in the world processing a noteworthy 1.6 million tonnes of organic waste every year. Waste from abattoirs, paper mills, food processing plants and municipal biosolids are mixed with organic material and distributed into 10 hectare windrows for worms to do their work, the ultimate low tech solution. From 4000 m³ of waste per 10 hectare My Noke are seeing an 80 % reduction in volume, producing 750 tonnes of vermicompost per windrow. It is deeply comforting to know that nutritionally rich earth is being produced on scale, and that businesses are seeking and investing in this technology.

Francisco Niembro from Aldea Verde (Green Village), a family run business in Mexico is facilitating the widespread adoption of onsite vermiculture by providing the design and construction of bespoke systems for the domestic and commercial market. With an impressive international portfolio of 180 designs Aldea Verde have installed more than 50 commercial systems ranging from a hotel with 4000 rooms (Moon Palace, Cancun) to producers of tequila processing 100 tons of agave a day. Aldea Verde produce and supply all of the worms for their projects. To learn of the growing commercial interest across sectors from the hospitality industry to sugar mill factories gives great promise for vermiculture to provide true ecological solutions for onsite organic waste management and agriculture.

Francisco Niembro, Aldea Verde, Mexico

With the relocation of The International Vermiculture Symposium a little closer to home we trust that interest and engagement will begin to flourish on British soil. It was encouraging to see six participants from the UK attend this year, and amongst them farmers with a desire to embrace this technology. We will persist in our mission to share knowledge to support a nationwide understanding of the benefits of vermiculture.



Worms & Peace