Reader responses to our previous post on UNCo’s worm farming system…
I looked into the Unco system about four years ago; it is a slick, professional, approach which will yield predictable results if the operation is run exactly in the prescribed manner and using the prescribed bedding and food stock.
Essentially, a series of buckets are filled with an exact amount of bedding and food, inoculated with an exact number of worms, and the buckets are stacked onto a pallet and remain undisturbed for a prescribed time period, then harvested.
Technical support is promised. There is no buy-back implied, and they suggest ways to build your own market. I did not tour Unco’s facilities, but I spoke with them several times by phone, and I was impressed with their know-how and research.
I elected not to go with this system for several reasons:
1) Start-up costs were about $5000 for the buckets, bedding, and technology;
2) The system requires Unco’s proprietary food blend, or the guarantee is voided;
3) Lack of a buy-back plan (which I have since learned was an ethical stance).
Perhaps my impressions and negative conclusions were not warranted, but I wanted a system that would utilize local foodstocks and bedding.
I am not a marketer or salesman so I was looking for a buy-back plan, not help in building a market; I’ve since found out that buy-back plans just don’t work, for the reasons that you mentioned.
So, I have four 3′ x 8′ home-made raised wooden beds in a heated shed, use shredded newspaper for bedding, horse manure for food, and have a slowly growing outlet through the farmers market, but I use most of the castings in my own garden.
I’m emphasizing castings production over worm production, and last year got about 12 yards of pure vermicompost in three cycles. We also sold a couple dozen tote beds and supplied worms and food for them.
As an aside, I’m just getting into activated compost teas. So far, I’m producing just microbial teas from vermicompost and molasses, but this summer I’m trying for fungal teas using vermicimpost with kelp and fish amendments. When I get my new video camera set up on my microscope, I’ll send you some pictures of my teas.
Love your newsletters, keep ’em coming.” ~ George Weaber
“We live Wisconsin about a one hour drive from were UNCO facility is, we bought into a UNCO system about 6 months ago. That was after about 6 months of doing research on the Vermiculture business threw him (Tom) and other sources. So far it’s going better then it did in the beginning.
I can tell you one big thing about Tom Chapman the owner, and that is he will spend a lot of time with you calling you and what ever else he can do to get you to buy in to the system until you do buy in and then it seams like he does not want much to do with you, unless he is calling to see if you have any extra castings to sell back to him.
However I think the system is great in the way that you have control over inventory by that I mean the worms are raised in 3 1/2 gallon pails otherwise known as production units, with 2 1/2 gallons of feed and 275 worms in each pail. You chart or keep a record of when you feed them, how old they are when you hatch, cocoon count and a few other things.
The biggest problem we are having is with the hatch and that is he claims each production unit you should get 439 cocoons. We have yet to get over 60 per production unit and sometimes as few as 30 to a unit. Would you know how many cocoons 275 adult worms should produce? The worms that we are using he calls a “cultured” night crawler I see them as just a worm weather night crawler of a African or a Alabama jumper.
That’s all I got time for now but I would like to say I started getting you newsletter some 2-3 months ago and I find it interesting. I was very surprised to see you bring up the UNCO system. Is their any way for you to put other people that are using the UNCO system in touch with each other? Happy Worming” ~ Rick
“Duncan, I received your newsletter today. And I had looked at UNCO on the web and seem a little to good to be true.
The information I read in the newsletter helped me to feel good about my caution. I am thinking about starting with a single worm factory $92.95. I have not decided on the type of worm yet. I was leaning towards the red wigglers I was going learn from this worm factory, see what it produces and continue to research the worm business in the area.
I live in a the St. Louis, MO area. How do you suggest finding out about the farms in this area. For the first letter it is very informative and I look forward to the next. Thanks,” ~ Willoughby
“I bought an Unco license and they can’t supply me with any product this year because they will only sell to their older customers because they don’t produce enough to meet demands, so I’m stuck unless I can buy at a competitive price to resell to large facilities.” ~ Fred Schimanski
“Hello Duncan, I read with interest the write up about UNCO and their offer to get people started in the worm raising and castings production industry.
I have done initial inquiry with Tom Chapman, the owner, and find to my satisfaction that it is an effort to educate interested people on how to raise the worms efficiently and also develop their own LOCAL markets.
UNCO will buy what is produced, however, this is not the emphasis of the program but rather they are selling their expertise they have gained over the years and promoting that as a means to help other people to be successful at this business.
Of course this comes with a price, but I haven’t seen anything yet that would cause me to question their integrity. The promotional approach in the written material is a bit high pressure in that it implies that intelligent, industrious people will get going right away on the business but that can easily be bypassed.
I’m planning a visit to their operation in Wisconsin and will likely pursue it further. Enjoy your column. Thanks” ~ Ken Braim. Alberta, Canada.
“I am presently using the unco system. They have done a lot of research and time developing this system it is costly to buy their information and you are bound by signed contract not to disclose this information.
The only drawback is the amount of work required and the availability of bedding material required I live in southern Indiana the peat required is in the far north” ~ Wayne Richardson
“Thanks for GREAT info in newsletter. Might not have been so eager to purchase if I had known you then!
Actually doing OK with ECO-TECH system out of Hayden, Id, BUT it appears they might be a “pyramid system” as you explained. You are probably aware of their “coffin like” system which you buy along with worms, manual, & books (2). For extra $25 you can purchase a “very non-professional” video explaining “their business”. 4 questions I have since this endeavor 8 months ago:
1) How do you separate castings without losing worms/eggs with a non-layered system?
2) Worms and I live in Sisters, Oregon (freezing temps during winter, growing season approx 2.5 months, sandy/silty soil). Can my worms survive in flowerbeds filled with my horse’s manure, plants, water reg. during dry times? No worms found in local soil within 25 miles unless in watered grass/lawns.
3) ECO-TECH offers to buy back worms for $8/# with seller paying shipping, packing, etc. ECO-TECH sells worms for $16/# with buyer paying for shipping. When questioned they became defensive.
4) Any more info on Advertising/Marketing worms?
Thanks again. Your website has been Very Helpful.” ~ Cindy
DISCLAIMER: The above views and commentaries are not those of “Worm Farming Secrets” nor any of it’s business associates. They are independant reader feed back from our newsletter readers. We are in no way associated with UNCO and have no first hand knowledge nor experience with this company.
Just downloaded The Biology and Business of Raisingf Earth Worms. It is awesome and this is an awesome web site. I’m very excited to find an open worming community. I wish I would have found this site first before buying into UNCO. Tom Chapman spent a lot of time with me on the phone before I purchased his “system” . He was very hesitant about allowing me to visit the facility but agreed because he realized I was not going to purchase something I could not see. I thought the system was expensive but the clincher for me was the promise of continued education technical support from Tom for as long as I needed it. His information about raising worms is good and as a novice I learned alot from his book but that is where the good news ends. His system works well “for him”. I asked several times about the bedding he raises his worms in. He was very guarded and would not disclose the exact supplier replying it would be too expensive for me to ship it to my area anyway. And yet, the whole system is highly dependent on the bedding. He required I send soil samples when I returned home. Sounded like a good idea. I liked the Canadian peat moss. He insisted I use the leaf mold despite my concerns about shredded plastic bags and other debri mixed in. He stated if I did not use the leaf mold I would not get the same quality results he obtains. It is true he does not guarantee a buy back, but he does say IF your casting are of equal quality to his (and he decides that) then he will buy them back. Unfortunately, he shipped the worms on a 97 degree day via UPS. Within a week I had buckets full of stinking rot. When I called him for consultation he was not available. When he finally returned my call 10 days later he was more interested in talking about the vacation he just returned from than helping to save my worms. When he realized I was not having initial success he stopped returning my calls. I left a message with his secretay asking her to let him know wanted to sell my buckets back to him. He then replied to me via e-mail to inform me he would give me pennies on the dollar for them and of course I would have to pay the return shipping. When I got a quote for the shipping I realized even after he paid me for the buckets it was still going to cost me money to send them back. When I informed him of this via e-mail and told him I would like to sell the buckets to someone else and have then pay the shipping he never reponded. When I did not hear from him for about a week I e-mailed him again and my e-mail had come back undeliveralbe becuase he had blocked my e-mails. I have not had any contact with him since. Needless to say, I felt I was out a lot of money for nothing, because from my point of view I was purchasing his knowledge and technical support not just buckets and a box of feed. He might have a good system, but not only did he not live up to his promises, he dropped me like a hot potatoe. Since then I learned about flow thru system and have built my own version of an OSCAR. I love the flow through system so much I could care less about ever humpin a bucket.
I had been thinking very seriously about buying the program from UNCO. Thank you for saving me a lot of wasted money. I am a disabled vet and can’t spend a lot of time every day with the worms, do you have any idea where I can find more information on the flow through system?
Kayle, I found the continuous flow reactor on http://www.vermico.com website. They have a link that you can access to purchase the plans for $50.oo if you like but if you are handy you can design your own. They also sell a DVD which shows a very large system in use for dairy cow manure processing. Another type of flow through system that might interest you for design ideas is the worm wigwam. It is a round drum that you put worm feed in the top and the castings drop out the bottom. There are several different styles of comercially available units designed to compost kitchen wastes from restraunts, schools, etc., but they are very expensive. Google worm reactor, continuous flow reactor, vermicomposting, etc. Keep using the internet to do your research and you will gradually accumulate a wealth of information for free., or very resonable such as the down load with this website.
Thank you for the info. I will check out their website for the continuous flow immediately.