GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Scientists have long known how beneficial earthworms are for soil, and that concept has taken root in one composting business in West Michigan.

Luis Chen started his micro-hauling business called Wormies in 2018, using vermicomposting, in other words, worm composting.

“I was looking to grow healthier food, and I just came to the realization that everything starts with the soil, healthy soil will grow healthy plants … I couldn’t find a person that would do (composting) for me, so I started doing it myself at home. Then people around me started getting interested in this idea,” Chen explained.

Vermicomposting is different than traditional composting, although the process begins the same. Chen’s business gives its 600 customers buckets for their food scraps, which the company then picks up weekly or bi-weekly. Those scraps go into piles at the Wormies Farm in Alto, where the more commonly known process of hot composting begins.

“There’s a set of microorganisms in there, breaking down all of that stuff and the heat they’re producing, just from eating and reproducing and doing all their things, is breaking down all those food scraps and leaves a lot more rapidly,” Chandler Michalsky, operations manager, said.

A pile at the farm started two weeks ago was at 150 degrees on Thursday, with no signs of food scraps.

“Most composing companies, at this point, would bag it up and they’d sell it. But, if you look at that under the microscope, you’re going to find some bacteria, but that’s about it,” Michalsky said.

According to Michalsky, putting in the extra time and letting worms work through those piles for the next eight or 10 months makes a big difference.

“You end up with compost that is loaded full of beneficial microorganisms, a whole lot more than just bacteria … it’s got fungi, protozoa and nematodes and archaea, it’s what’s called bio-complete compost, it’s got the whole entire soil foodweb in there,” he added.

Wormies gives each customer a share of the soil the company produces. Chen also offers workshops where he teaches customers how to do the worm composting at home and supplies them with the materials they’ll need, but he says most customers prefer the pick-up option.

“They’re happy we do it for them. We compost it, and they get back the soil, so they don’t really have to have a pile in their backyards. They’re happy this is not going into the landfill, turning into methane or greenhouse gas … it just contaminates the air and the ground, so by composting it you’re preventing all of that from happening,” he explained.