Norman startup Veragrow creates 45 million earthworms to “digest” bio-waste

The period established in the Agec law, known as anti-waste law », is rapidly approaching. As of the 1st of January, all professionals (restaurants, agro-industries, etc.) who produce more than five tons of bio-waste* per year will be required to sort it at source.

The same restriction will be imposed on local authorities a year later. It is up to them to organize a selective collection system for their constituents’ organic waste. Mostly incinerated today, this so-called “kitchen” waste accounts for a third of our black dumps, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

This inexhaustible deposit of several tens of thousands of tons is highly coveted. By the actors of anaerobic digestion in the first place, but not only. In Normandy, startup Veragrow is counting on the window of opportunity offered by regulation to popularize vermicomposting and take it from the artisanal stage to the industrial scale. Founded in 2019 by three young engineers, it specializes in this process that transforms organic matter into agricultural corrective thanks to the action of earthworms.

tireless workers

Located in Val-de-Reuil on the Eure, its production unit feeds around 45 million earthworms from the family of fetid eisenia. “The most common, most voracious and most reproductive », specifies Alexandre Bocage, one of its co-founders. The scientific literature teaches us, in fact, that a single of these worms digests the equivalent of its weight daily and can generate offspring of 800 specimens during its short life (two years).

To make the most of the capabilities of these tireless workers, Veragrow has developed two types of industrial and semi-industrial vermicomposters. Provided with 5 million earthworms, the first and most capable is capable of transforming into ” continuous flow » 150 tons of bio-waste per year in about 40 tons of ready-to-use compost. Sold at a price of 100,000 euros, the installation can equip wastewater treatment plants or large producers of organic waste, such as vegetable processors. ” We are talking to a number of customers, including Veolia and L’Oréal, who have expressed interest », indicates Alexandre Bocage.

The second module more specifically targets the market of local authorities or VSEs. Sold for 5,000 euros with 50 kilos of earthworms, the equipment that can be installed on public roads can accommodate up to 5 kilos of waste per day. Its great advantage over simpler systems is that the material does not need to be turned and the compost is easily recoverable. “, praise its designers. Called Veraprox, it is being tested with individuals from the urban community of Caen and the metropolis of Rouen, which has equipped two restorers.

From solid to liquid

At the same time, the young company that holds the seal deep tech startup Bpifrance is developing what it claims is the first liquid biostimulant made from the active ingredients of vermicompost. Usable by farmers, horticulturists or horticulturists as a substitute for synthetic fertilizers, it should be placed on the market next year, after approval by ANSES (National Health Security Agency). “Its use in crops can increase productivity by up to 30%”assures Alexandre Bocage.

To justify this promise, the product is the subject of several experimental protocols in technical institutes such as the vineyard and among the members of several cooperatives, including the Norman group Natup. This one looks satisfied at the end of its first test campaign. ” We are recording heterogeneous but interesting results in some winter crops to be confirmed in spring crops notes Laurent Lemarchand, its R&D director. While waiting to industrialize its solution, Veragrow sells its vermicompost in a solid way in organic store chains.

*The environmental code precisely defines bio-waste (article R. 541-8). They are grouped into three categories, green waste, from the maintenance of green spaces, kitchen and table waste (or DCT) and waste from the food industry