Earthworms, a humble terrestrial invertebrate belonging to the phylum Annelida, can be seen as more than just creepy crawlies. Ubiquitous around the globe where soil, water and temperature permit, these segmented beings offer significant value to agriculture, both as an alternative protein source in animal husbandry and vital agents for producing fertilisers to enrich crops.

In the heart of Phnom Penh, Kim Nido, founder of Twin Agri Tech, recognised this underappreciated potential. His innovative company uses earthworms in organic fertiliser production, serving a dual purpose; supplying the agricultural sector with organic fertilisers and reducing the kitchen waste of the local markets.

Raised in a lineage of compost makers, Nido took inspiration from his grandfather and father, merging traditional wisdom with contemporary need.

“By raising earthworms, we aim to enrich our agricultural lands with natural ones, instead of relying on chemical fertilisers,” he said, explaining his contribution to tackling waste and unsavoury odours.

His ambition crystallised following a visit to Singapore, where he discovered that even a country with minimal agriculture could produce vast compost quantities.

“I was perplexed by their ability to make compost despite having no agriculture. That’s when I decided to emulate it back home in Cambodia, an agricultural country,” Nido said.

Formally registered in 2013, Nido’s enterprise started not as an income-generating endeavour, but a project aimed at educating urban dwellers about the value of organic waste. As time passed, Nido understood the importance of a sustainable financial model to keep his project running.

His earthworm farming business now stands strong after a decade, with a production site and a showroom at Boeung Baitong Market in Sen Sok district’s Phnom Penh Thmei commune.

His methodology is unique, feeding his earthworms vegetable waste converted into compost instead of animal manure. He modifies the feed based on health conditions, weather and noise disturbances.

“Raising earthworms is not arduous, but collecting vegetable waste at the market is,” Nido confessed.

Nonetheless, with patience, experience and growing understanding among the market-goers, Nido has managed to overcome these initial challenges.

The production of organic fertiliser takes about 30 to 45 days, during which waste is decomposed, an insecticide applied, and the earthworms fed. Nido declares this fertiliser applicable to all types of crops and soils, enhancing soil health and quality.

Expanding on the business model, Nido explained: “We distribute across the nation, not as a depot, but retail. We average 300-400 tonnes per month, offering three types of earthworm composts, ranging from $135 to $350 per tonne”.

Nido’s pursuit embodies an unexpected, potent potential that rests beneath the surface, in the modest earthworm, testament to a remarkable convergence of nature and innovation.