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Billions of Red Worms Get Green Jobs on Coffee Farms

Rogers Family Company uses worms to clean up coffee industry and restore habitatsBillions of California red wriggly worms are hard at work cleaning up the coffee industry.  Yes, worms.  Coffee industry leader Rogers Family Company has been using the worms to combat water contamination caused by mounds of rotting coffee pulp.  Using the only tool at their disposal —  their “prodigious digestive talents” — the worms convert waste pulp into organic fertilizer.

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The fertilizer in turn helps replenish nutrients in depleted soil, which in turn helps to restore ecosystems that support organic coffee farms that double as nature habitats.  As an extra green bonus, the worms can also produce biogas — just like biogas from cow manure, only without the hooves and such-all.

The Problem with Coffee Farms

Some non-sustainable features of coffee farms are well known, like the use of pesticides and the destruction of habitats.  Organic growing methods can resolve those problems but Rogers Family Company is tackling another issue, the practice of letting tons of rotting waste from coffee operations contaminate local waterways and drinking water supplies.  At the company’s model organic farm in Panama, worms were deployed to convert and recycle 5,000 tons of coffee pulp that had been contaminating the Caldera River.  They were also set to work composting waste from the local community.

Bokashi, Worms and Coffee: Perfect Together

At a more recent project in Rwanda, Rogers pre-treated the coffee pulp with a special mixture of microorganisms, molasses and other ingredients to achieve an effect similar to bokashi.  Bokashi is a revved-up, fermentation-based composting technique first developed in Japan.  The treated coffee pulp was then fed to the eager worms, which consume their equivalent in body weight daily.  In human proportions, for the average adult that would come out to…aw heck, you do the math.

Image: Gummi worms by digipam on flickr.com.

 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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