Biovessel – a worm composting product

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-3-54-59-pmThis new vermicomposting product fascinates me. I am so hopeful to see a product like this. I have no connection to the Bionicraft company producing it, but as an artist who has created artworks that also function as domestic worm composting ecosystems for over 10 years, I offer my critique. There are many positive things to say about it …and 2 big concerns.

Starting with the positive:

  1. The fact that this product exists (at least as a funded Kickstarter) tells me the world is moving in the right direction.  We are finally ready to co-habitate with worms!
  2. The company has done an excellent job with framing the problems of food waste and presenting their product as a solution. Their advertising copy aligns with the spirit of this WormCulture blog: “…it brings nature into your urban home and redefines your waste by turning it into nutrients that feeds new life!”
  3. Putting this ecosystem on your kitchen countertop makes perfect sense. This is where food waste happens and the home is the ideal temperature for worm ecosystems.
  4. They are right in saying that there are no foul odors. From maintaining various experimental indoor worm bins over 10 years, I can attest to this.
  5. The product appears to have a workable solution for separating the finished compost – the removable lid at the bottom.
  6. The algorithmic design that has contributed to the odd shape of this product is mysterious. I’m going to guess that it has to do with creating the largest surface area, which helps aerate the system, at the lowest cost of manufacture and shipping. The inner structure identified as a regulator hole intrigues me. Is it for extra aeration?

The issues:

  1. The portal for food waste is too small. It will only accept a tiny handful of waste and if the waste is concentrated in that one area, it will cause anaerobic bacteria to build up and the worms will avoid that stink. In actuality, you would need to open the entire wood lid to spread the food out to take advantage of the surface area that worms need to feed in an healthy aerobic zone. Worms want to be fed a layer of food that is no more than one inch thick. Check the worm compost quickstart guide.
  2. It is made of plastic. Making new plastic products does not show concern for the ecosystem. What makes this design nice is that it looks like a ceramic vessel. That would have been an excellent material choice. The wood top is sweet, but questionable, since worms will eventually eat it, unless it has waterproof paint on it, which again makes me ask, why not use ceramics? Or stainless steel?

Ultimately, this is a good start for a saleable, indoor worm composting product. Though it is clearly in the beta stage, it is on a good track. Its very existence frames the problem nicely and helps educate humans about the benefits of living with ecosystems. I look forward to future iterations that go further into solving the design problems of evenly distributing food waste – and the problem of using plastics.

And even if Bionicraft does not pursue the quest to solve these design problems, surely there will be other eco creatives and green business people who will. Looks like the time is ripe for designing kitchen worm composters.

~ Amy M. Youngs

wormcozycookpot.jpg

This is my diy kitchen counter worm composter called the Worm Cozy. It is based on traditional upward migration systems usually made of plastic. This one is made of thrift store stainless-steel cookpots and colanders with fabric trimming.

Copy it, or better yet, improve upon it and send me a photo. I am always looking for creative worm projects to feature in this WormCulture blog.

Gaia Cabinet

By Erika Braccini, designer and recent graduate of Camberwell College of Arts, London, UK.gaia-cabinet

gaiabackThe Gaia Cabinet is a movable furniture unit that contains soil and earthworms. It has been designed to be brought around the city to schools to educate children on how important earthworms are, how important is to limit food waste, and to recycle it by feeding it to the earthworms, who will turn it into nutrients that will enrich the soil, making it 1000 times more nutrient. By using this enriched soil children are encouraged in planting and growing their own food, and by doing so learn how healthier food from highly nourishing soil is, and at the same time are also stimulated in being more connected with nature. By encouraging children, even on a small scale, in growing their own food, Gaia Cabinet can be the way forward in ensuring that children eat healthier food, therefore breaking the power of multinational corporations that control a big chunk of a food chain mainly made of non healthy and often GMO foods. In addition, Gaia Cabinet also wants to stimulate children and people in being more respectful of nature, and by getting in touch with the earthworms who have played an important role in our lives, could make children realise the importance of the environment that surrounds us and of preventing its destruction.

The main purpose of Gaia Cabinet is to bring attention on important issues through play, positivity, happiness and colours instead of seriousness and gloominess. I believe that if important issues such as food waste, healthy eating, respect to the environment and the importance of earthworms for our lives are explained in a more playful and interacting way, children are more likely to understand the importance of them.

I like to call myself an activist, environmentalist and happy designer, as I believe that design is a new form of positive activism that has the potential to become a powerful tool to tackle environmental and social issues. This is the reason why I decided to embark on a journey through the field of design and what has led me to graduate in three-dimensional design from Camberwell College of Arts in June 2014.

In fact, I have faith that play, creativity, positivity and happiness is the way forward to tackle and overcome environmental and social issues.

The design of the cabinet is fundamental for the project and for my ideals. Since this project is all about raising awareness on food waste, connecting and respecting nature, growing food and have a healthy and balanced diet, is also important that the product itself is coherent with these principles. Gaia Cabinet is entirely made with recycled plastic and stainless steel, both fully recyclable and locally sourced in UK. It is very easy to assemble and disassemble, therefore once its lifespan is over, it can be easily placed into the recycle bin, making it a truly zero waste product. The product is born from a thorough research on how to limit its impact on the environment, and be in line with the principles of a circular economy, an economy without waste where all the materials are going back into the system from where they were coming from.

wormery

Gaia cabinet has already been tested at Rhyl Primary Schools, at the Assembly Community Centre and at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School (schools in London), as part of my research for my final major project. In an hour workshop I explained to children why earthworms are important for human lives, why is important to have a healthy diet and how to prevent food waste. I was letting children touch the worms so they could have a better understanding of them and explained them how to compost with worms. After the lesson on earthworms, compost and food growing, we were making simple clay pots together that I took back to university and fired, glazed and donated to them so they could start planting their own edible plants. The workshops have been successful as children were very happy to see me after a few months when I was going back to schools to bring them the pots. Teachers were happy and willing to have more workshops in the schools and engage with different age groups.

The aim of Gaia Cabinet is to create a cycle within which every form of life will help and support each other, and provide a great ecosystem.

Please visit my website at www.erikabraccini.com for more information about Gaia Cabinet project, a video of the project and images of the cabinet.

Worm Propaganda

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We at WormCulture are honored that the Portland Oregon designer Joe Wirtheim created a propaganda poster for worms. It is a new addition to his long-running series called The Victory Garden of Tomorrow. It includes several space age chickens, plants and people and you can see the whole series on his website. We are told that this new poster, Worms will do the Work will eventually be available for purchase there.

Joe says: “this project is committed to civic innovation and social progress — better food, better gardens, and better cities. I get really excited about edible school gardens, city bicycles, home cooking, backyard chickens, beekeeping, rooftop gardens and really anything that brings health and activity to people’s lives. I love looking at vintage graphics, especially mid-century propaganda and advertising.”

About this design: “I’m inspired by the power and relentless energy of such a small creature. As described by Youngs and the Worm Culture blog, these creatures and their microbe allies take our discards and attack them with vigor. The result is a valuable resource for any gardener. I wanted to show our Red Wriggler in a heroic light among their work; cute, harmless and in our service.”

Worms in Space

Students in a Cybiotic Interaction Design Class taught by Andrew Quitmeyer at Georgia Tech created this interactive board game that allows humans to play with worms. I’m not sure how much fun this game is for the worms, but the designers, Katie Staples and Eric Hamilton, certainly created an complete project package. It has a good story, electronic detection circuitry, motivational elements, a 3D game board, and an entire “Instructable” that shows you how to build your own.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.55.43 AM“NASA has taken worms to the ISS on their own special capsule. There was an accident aboard the station and the worm astronauts have to navigate to the escape capsule to return to Earth. The airlock to the escape capsule has been damaged but can be reached from the other side of the ship. The human astronauts are helping their wormy comrades reach the capsule by using a series of warning lights in each quadrant of the station.”Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 12.22.05 PM

I particularly enjoyed their reflection on their project and future plans for it, which included giving the worms more control, building 2 mazes and letting the worms play each other by triggering the doors and lights. They also suggest “eliminating any ’empty space’ in the game board layout because the worms tend to migrate to those areas that a dark and quiet.”

I guess worms still win when it comes to finding dark, empty space to inhabit.

worms in space

Worms in Space 3D electronic game board.

The Urbeen, by Studio Claire Hornn

Claire-Hornn2Living and working in style – with composting worms. Dutch designer Claire Hornn has just concluded a four-month-long pilot project where her hand-made, bamboo worm bins were placed in six companies in Amsterdam for evaluation. The results were very positive and helpful towards her current designs. Unknown-5 She discovered in her pilot program that users were asking for outdoor versions, but she points out that the composting process is more efficient at indoor temperatures. Claire describes her design motivations this way: “Vermicomposting is a great way to be more aware of your food waste and to green your home. It’s odourless and ideal for inside use. But where are the good-looking, functional designs for indoor composting? This question was the start of the Urbeen. The Urbeen is an indoor, design and multifunctional vermi-compostbin. It’s made out of CO2-neutral bamboo and can be used a compost-bin, a stool or little table. It fits easily small apartment and is therefore interesting for city-people who don’t have a garden or balcony.” Her most current designs will soon be available for sale online. Stay tuned by following her website and blog.Claire-Hornn3Claire-Hornn4

Street Corner Composter

Street Corner Composter by Rowin Snijder

Street Corner Composter by Rowin Snijder

Can worm composting become a community activity?   Carpenter/artist Rowin Snijder is testing this concept out on a street corner in Amsterdam. He has designed and built a durable, oak cabinet that looks like an elevated planter box. Inside, it hides 2 vermicomposting compartments, into which neighbors can deposit their food scraps. When one side is filled, they use the adjacent section so the worms will follow the food scraps and move into it through a bamboo lattice that connects them. The finished compost can be harvested from the first bin while the second becomes full of worms that are being fed. And the composting process continues. lepetitcompostier-5Rowin says, “When a group of people take it upon themselves to take responsibility for their own trash, and work together, so much more happens than just making compost. It builds community, a connection with your surrounding, and is an inspiration for others to do so as well. The compost produced, can be used in gardens in the street or on rooftop gardens and balconies.” He has also designed a version for the balcony, which he sells in Amsterdam, but also offers the plans for free on the Le Compostier Facebook page for others who want to build it themselves. And there is a  new, 2 square meter version that has space for worms and bees. The bees are invited in through a yellow-painted portal in the wood box, where they can find refuge in their own protected box inside. An intriguing cohabitation with worms, bees, plants and people on the street. I look forward to hearing more about this project as it develops. Visit the Le Compostier blog for more information.

The yellow painted hole invites bees in to share the space with the worms.

The yellow painted hole invites bees in to share the space with the worms.

Cascading Garden

Ken Rinaldo
Ken-Rinaldo-cascading-gardens
Designed for urban agriculture, indoor and outdoor growing of herbs, leafy greens, house plants and ornamentals. Outdoors they are attached to rainwater barrels, collecting roof runoff and automatically watered with timers. The Cascading Growbags Vermiponic Wormbag uses live worms to convert organic compost into nutrients which are then fed back to the plants through the watering system. Using the Vermiponic Wormbag in this system allows the worms to create organic worm castings from your kitchen scraps, which then becomes worm tea in the rain-barrels. This nutrient rich water is then fed to the plants through the watering system which allows for fully organic growth of healthy food.
– more info and purchase info on Cascading Growbags site.

outdoorcascadinggardens