If you were trying to start a business online, there wouldn’t be many people out there who would consider shipping live worms all over Australia as a viable option. That’s exactly what Peter did though when he started The Australian Worm Firm.
We sat down with Peter to ask how his innovative business is going and learn what’s coming next.
Tell us about The Australian Worm Firm. How did you get started?
We are a one stop worm farming shop. We grow compost worms, we manufacture worm farms and we produce worm castings and sell those products all over Australia. I started it as a backyard business with a website about five years ago while I was working full time as an assistant fruit and veg manager.
I got into worm farming through a family friend. We’ve always been into home gardening, where worm farming can be really beneficial, so I thought I should give it a go on a larger scale.
Early in 2022, I got an email from the guy who was making the worm castles that I was reselling. He asked me if I’d be interested in purchasing the moulds to get them made in South Australia. So, I purchased all the tools required, which take up a lot of space and I set myself up here in Smithfield.
So, how did you end up in the Playford?
Our site here on Anderson Walk is a great place from which to grow a manufacturing and retail business. We are close to prime farming areas like the Northern Adelaide Plains, so it’s a good location from which to distribute agricultural fertilisers. We are also close to the Northern Connector and key highways, so that makes it easy for us to reach our customers quickly – and for customers to be able to reach us.
It’s also beneficial to be close to other local agricultural businesses who we can collaborate with and just to simply be a part of a really nice community. Lots of people in the north are good at supporting local.
Why would someone want to start a worm farm?
A lot of people are keen to recycle their food scraps to make a difference to their local environment. There is also a big advantage to your budget as well, because you can usually grow fruit and vegetables cheaper than you can buy them. Other people who buy worm farms are looking to make their own fertilisers – especially because they have gone up in price so much. Once you’ve got the setup, you’re up and running.
To help get even more people into worm farming, we also run workshops with local businesses, community groups and schools to teach people how to use worm farms effectively. We do these workshops on the road, but we would love to be able to do them on our own site in the future. It’s really cool to be able to see an industrial scale worm farm.
You are very active online. Tell us about your Facebook presence.
When people start out with worm farming it’s easy to make mistakes, so I wanted to make sure that there is as much support available out there as possible. The most common mistakes that people make are overfeeding the worms and failing to keep their worm farm cool. It’s really important to keep your worm farm out of the sun, and to make sure that your worm farm is a light colour (so it doesn’t absorb too much heat). All the worm farming kits that we produce take this into consideration.
I’ve created seven worm farming groups across Australia, including ‘Worm Farming Advice South Australia’. There are more than 1000 people in this group and almost 4,000 people Australia-wide. It’s not just me providing advice in there. There are other worm farmers who pitch in too.
How did you get into your first store?
The first store that we got into was Coopers Rural and Hardware Supplies in Mylor. I went into their store with some worm castings and a couple of our other products and they took a punt on me. I’m grateful to them. They are still one of our best customers.
They’ve found that people out in the hills are passionate about growing things organically and improving the quality of their soils.
For anyone who is looking to get their products into stores, my advice is that you must approach them yourself. No one is going to approach you asking to be in their store. You need to visit them with a strong pitch. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
You are passionate about supporting local? What does that mean?
I think that if I expect people to support my business, I need to lead by example and support other local businesses through my own company. There are still a lot of high-quality manufacturers in South Australia, and many of them are really good to work with.
One example of this is our relationship with Microtek Organics. When we first begun that relationship, they were supplying a handful of stores. Through our relationship, they are now in 35 stores, which has helped them to open a new premises in Angaston. We see the real difference it makes when people support local.
And when people support us, it means that we can employ more local people. I have three staff who work here in our garden shop now, and as that grows, I will look to employ even more people.
The question on everyone’s lips: How do you send worms all over Australia?
You’ve recently set up a little garden store out the front of your premises. How’s that going?
It’s going well. We’ve got a big range now. Lots of fruit trees and flowers from local suppliers. We have a new supplier from Mount Barker. We are their one and only wholesale customer and it’s a good relationship. We are also purchasing from several other local businesses within the region.
Where to next for the business?
We are about to open our second store in Port Adelaide, which we are really excited about. It’ll be called Garden Goodness Port Adelaide and it will act as a satellite store for here. It’ll be stocking similar products to what we offer on Anderson Walk.
For the wholesale side of things, we are currently in 45 stores. I would really like to be a lot more than that and be stocked in most independent garden stores nationwide. I know it’s ambitious, but I think I can do it.
You can visit Peter at The Australian Worm Firm at 61 Anderson Walk, Smithfield.
You can also find The Australian Worm firm online at australianwormfirm.com.au