In the month of November, we composted 1,675 lbs. With a steady supply of food and the recent issues with the current worm bed. I am making a major pivot. With the fly problem coming to a head, I've decided to design a new bed system. This time outdoors. For people new to vermicomposting, starting a bed outdoors in the winter time might seem like a daunting task. Worms do not like temperatures to get below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and they cannot survive in below freezing conditions. However, with the volume of food waste I receive, I've realized it is easier to heat up a bed than to cool it down, since decomposing food releases heat. Therefore, with the cold weather and freezing nights moving in, I'm excited to begin.
The plan is to make a "Worm Pit" out of cinderblocks with insulated roof panels as the top coverings. I plan to make 3-5 separate pits, totaling around 250 square feet. With previous experience as my guide, I'm sure this plan will change and develop as I build and observe the pros and cons.
I've also started experimenting with Bokashi as a pretreatment method for the food waste. Bokashi is the technique of fermenting food scraps using lactobacillus (the same bacteria used in preparing yogurt) before burying them and letting them decompose fully. The fermentation occurs under anaerobic conditions and creates an acidic environment, which kills weed seeds and fly larvae. It also leads to the food waste being colonized by beneficial bacteria. After the food waste ferments for two weeks, it can be buried in trenches or placed in soil factory (in my case, the worm pit) where it can fully breakdown. Due to the bacteria already present on the food, the food waste breaks down faster, is easier for the worms to digest, produces less heat while decomposing, and is less attractive to animals.
However, like worms, bacteria are living creatures. I will need to have a consistent supply of lactobacillus or EM-1 (a commercially sold mix of lactobacillus, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria for Bokashi systems) ready for processing food and incorporate the food fermentation into my waste processing flow. Still a big learning curve ahead, we'll see where it leads! If it works, though, I can finally start receiving meat and dairy which would be a big plus for my non-vegan members.