Turn Worm Poop into Cash
Two University students, Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer, entered their “Worm Project” into a business plan contest at Princeton. The project involved taking organic garbage from the dining halls at Princeton University and feeding it to worms. The worms processed the garbage into organic fertilizer for flowers, house plants, and vegetables.
– Most fertilizer products available today use synthetic chemicals which destroy the microbes that improve the soil and promote plant growth. In addition, runoff from fields into water supplies causes harm to the environment.
– The popularity of organically grown foods is growing. As a result, more farms are using organic fertilizers. The USDA projects that sales of organically grown food will be $20 billion this year and are expected to grow at an annual rate of 20 percent.
Szaky decided to drop out of school and dedicate his time to turning the Worm Project into reality. His company TerraCycle International Inc. www.terracycle.net signed contracts through which it will receive 130 tons of organic garbage daily from clients throughout northern New Jersey.
In his manufacturing process, the garbage is fed to millions of red worms. The worms take about three weeks to turn the garbage into solid worm poop. The worm poop is separated out, liquefied, and put in bottles.
– The resulting product is superior to other brands on the market because most fertilizer has had chemicals added. TerraCycle’s process is entirely organic, creating soil the same way it’s created in the forest.
Since the product became available in stores, about 15,000 units have been sold. A 20-ounce bottle sells for $6.95. TerraCycle now has 11 employees and expects revenues to reach $1 million in its 2004-05 fiscal year.
Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer have created a brilliant “garage operation” farming business using worms as their “live stock”. All you need is a source of organic garbage and you too can turn worm poop into cash.
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