By Zac B. Sarian

Several years back, a pilot who had been reading our articles came to us. He wanted to know where he could buy African nightcrawlers, the earthworms popularly used in vermicomposting to produce organic fertilizer.

He was not interested in producing organic fertilizer, however. He said that in General Santos City where he comes from, there are a lot of elvers that can be raised to market-size that commanded as much as a thousand pesos per kilo, especially in the export market. He wanted to raise earthworms for feeding the elvers. He was imagining that when he succeeded, he could proudly say that he had eel-gotten wealth.

Vermicast produced by Reamon.

We were not so keen on his plan to raise earthworms for feeding eels. We told him that it will take about a year to produce market-size eels. We pointed out that he could probably make more money by raising the nightcrawlers for sale as breeder earthworms. At that time and up to now (Nov. 18), a kilo of nightcrawlers sells for as much as P600 to P1,000.

We pointed out that earthworms are much faster to produce than eel. For instance, a kilo of breeder worms can become three kilos in a culture period of three months. There’s another bonus: the vermicast or the organic fertilizer that is produced by the earthworms. In three months, the vermicompost produced by one kilo of earthworms could be as much as 10 sacks, each sack costing from P400 to P600.

The pilot who has now retired must have realized that earthworms had a better money-making potential than raising eels. So he bought several kilos of nightcrawlers to start his vermiculture project. And it did not take long for him to become a leading player in producing worms and organic fertilizer for sale.

Of course, that’s just the beginning of his good fortune. The fellow, Capt. James “Bong” Reamon, was fond of making gadgets that led to his invention of what he calls vermi tea brewer. The vermi tea is a potent organic fertilizer that is sprayed on the leaves of vegetables and other crops. The vermi tea is very economical to use. For instance, by brewing just one kilo of vermicast in the 30-liter brewer for three days, the vermi tea produced is diluted with water at the ratio of one liter vermi tea to 15 liters of water. And the vermi tea produced in one brewing in a 30-liter brewer is enough to spray one hectare of vegetables.

His two models of brewers became bestsellers, especially a manufacturer in Bacolod City. Bong estimates that in those years, he must have sold several thousand units. Each unit sold for a few thousand pesos.

In the meantime, developed his three-hectare property into an organic farm which is today the first and only agritourism destination in Region 12 accredited by the Department of Tourism. His farm has also been accredited by the Agricultural Training Institute as a learning site for organic farming. School kids as well as adults often go there for immersion techniques. Bong is now the president of the Farm Tourism Association of Region 12 and a member of the Interim National Council of Farm Tourism, representing Mindanao.

Now, Capt. Bong Reamo might as well say: “Goodbye, eel-gotten wealth, hello, nightcrawlers!”

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s December 2018 issue.