Friday, June 1, 2012

Pondering on Managing a Vermiculture Enterprise

Worms digest their own weight of food a day. That means a worm farm reaches homeostasis when the rate of digestion matches the flow of food.

What would it mean to a local economy to have the waste stream channeled into a vermiculture ecosystem?Could it be a stabilizing factor  in local economic systems?

The rate of digestion of the worms determines scale of a vermiculture operation. The systems model of a verimculture operation is simple. Organic biomass, (kitchen waste) is the input, which is converted into castings (fertile soil) to become the worms environmen, and if conditions are right in that environment, the worms multiply gradually. Soil is easily exchanged to another ecosystem as well and as it is removed to use in gardens and potted plants, more organic matter can be introduced. The scale of the operation would do little to complicate the process.

So what if a neighborhood block were to collectively operate a worm farm? It would be useful to measure the waste stream of biomass to determine the amount of worms need to digest it. With production yields so stable, it seems it would.Would there be gains in addition to the rich soil and worm yields?

A cost savings in reducing the waste transported out of a community? A cost savings in packaging that waste for transport?

Vermiculture has exponential value outside the ecosystem loop. Collections would establish community exchange pathways, where communication and surpluses may also travel. A neighborhood vermiculture collective paired with a system of plot gardens, for instance, would channel both the flow of a portion of the household waste stream, and provide a network for crop sharing. A cooperative worm farm would create a social network that maps to the loop of the worms ecosystem, and because the rate of digestion is a biological constant.

While the size of the worm farm cooperative would map to the ecology of the vermiculture system, the residual (non-market) economic benefits would scale up from the ecological activity.

Theoretically a soil development project in the form of a vermiculture operation could have real measurable economic impact, including but not limited to an increase in the trade of goods and services outside the vermiculture ecosystem. Scaled up to the civic level the measures could be in waste management savings, in the material surplus generated for input back into local food production, creation of jobs, reduction of the cost of living through shortened supply chains.

Scaling up to global systems, still more value can be internalized. The social institutions of both State and Economy are failing institutions, yet they control business enterprise through taxation and capitalization. As both the market economy and the rhythm of tax system control small businesses, emerging enterprise is stifled and innovation is suppressed. While conventional finance determines social and economic development though the consistent demanding for profit, the mechanisms of finance seek global-sized supply chains that they can wager their bets on. All ventures must profit, so they push to privatize any and all social activity for profit.

Governments collude in these schemes by shifting public funds to finance more and more private ventures. They hand over state-owned resources and sometimes funds their feasibility studies. As the supply chains lengthen, resilience of our local economic systems lessen. As the global markets spin with futures trading, the ecosystem are forsaken.

If collecting a pile of kitchen scraps and feeding it to a worm farm is anything, it is ecosystem design. It is building economic and ecological resilience. It is not profitable like trading futures is for a few, but it might be entrusting a future for the many.

Here is the an example of a large scale operation.

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