Worms probably aren’t front of mind when you think about coffee, yet they play a very big part in coffee production at Bristol Coffee’s Santa Francisca Romana Estates where principally red earthworms named Eisenia Fetida are used to create compost out of coffee pulp and other natural waste via a process called ‘vermiculture.’
Vermiculture isn’t a new idea - in fact, Charles Darwin wrote in his 1881 publication The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms about the ability of worms or as Darwin referred to them, the little recylers, to turn over four tons of soil, per hectare, per year. That’s a lot of rich organic fertilizer for our coffee plants and a great way of recycling the coffee pulp that might otherwise be tossed out after production.
How exactly does this process work? Well, the coffee pulp that is left over after the beans have been extracted is combined with other natural waste (for example: vegetable/fruit peels and cores, egg shells, peanut shells, animal manure etc.), and placed in canoe-like elevated structures where the worms will eat away at the waste and digest a type of insect compost called ‘humus.’ Not to be confused with the delicious Mediterranean dish hummus (that missing ‘m’ makes a big difference in this case!), the humus is then used as a natural and nutrient-rich fertilizer for our coffee plants. This is just one way that the Bristol team is working hard to produce the finest coffee possible, free of synthetic chemical fertilizers.
Here are a few fun facts about our worms:
- They can live up to 16 years - yes, 16!
- Each worm weighs about 1 gram and can measure between 2.5-4” in length
- They have 5 hearts and 6 pairs of kidneys, and 182 excretory orifices
- They breathe through their skin
- They eat all kinds of natural waste
- Approximately 100,000 earthworms in an area of 2m2 can produce up to 2 pounds of humus per day
- They are hermaphrodites
- Each adult worm can have up to 1,500 larvae per year
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And remember, you only need coffee on days ending with ‘y’ - so go buy some Bristol, why don’t you!