“Black gold they call it,” Duncan Collins says of the robust, nutrient-rich compost that started out as food scraps and other waste from his family’s household.
His secret: worms.
Except that it isn’t exactly a secret any longer, because he and his wife Laura are now trying to get the message out about how using worms in a compost bin can make the process more efficient and less stinky, and saves money in the process.
The problem they found when starting out was that they couldn’t find anywhere to purchase the composting worms in Ireland. So they have filled that gap with their new business, Leinster Bait Farm Kilkenny.
It all started when the Paulstown couple attempted to set up a compost bin at their home. Despite following the instructions on how to set it up, they found themselves with a smelly mess, plus flies – and rats.
“After about a year, it was just stinking and it wasn’t breaking down (the food) as it should have,” Laura recalls. “That’s when we started looking into how to get it to work and what we were doing wrong. As far as we knew, the conditions were good.”
Their research suggested that they needed to introduce worms into the process – but they had to source the kilogram of worms from England, Duncan says.
But it was worth it.
“There was no smell and everything we put in was just gone,” Laura says.
It also gave them a business idea, which was something Duncan had been looking for after having worked as a construction foreman building bridges on the new motorways.
“When we saw the difficulty getting the worms, we said, ‘There has to be an interest in it from other people’,” Laura says.
They linked up with an English company that gave them information on how to get started, and then seven weeks ago they set up their worm farm on a patch of land a few miles outside Castlecomer.
It’s now complete with five “worm beds,” a total of around 300 metres in length, and the worms are flourishing.
Dug in rows about three feet wide and one foot deep, the “worm beds” are filled with peat and surrounded with landscaping fabric to create ideal conditions for the dendrobaena worms.
They are fed with a special feed, as Duncan explains. “These are commercial worms. You wouldn’t have enough out of one household to feed them.”
So far Leinster Bait Farm is supplying the worms to three fishing shops, and the worms are also available for sale for use in compost bins. They also offer a starter package with a composting bin, a kilogram of worms, the first feed for the worms and organic peat as their first bed; and they can deliver and set up the composting pack.
Composting is a way to save money on domestic waste and recycling, Duncan says, and could become increasingly so if councils begin to charge for domestic waste collection based on weight, as food is usually the heaviest domestic waste.
And, Duncan says, “with worm composting, you could stick your head in there and there’s no smell, no flies and no rats.
The biggest problem you’ll find is getting the worms.”
With Leinster Bait Farm ready to supply the worms, however, that shouldn’t be a problem any longer.
For more information on Leinster Bait Farm, contact 087 6399086 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Its website, www.leinsterbait.com, is also due to be up and running this week.