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NC State Extension

Speakers at 2019 Vermiculture Conference

Troy Hinke specializes in soil microbiology/ Soil Food Web, compost, and compost teas. He worked with Dr. Elaine Ingham as the Compost Production/Research Specialist at the Rodale Institute performing research on food waste composting on a large scale, using compost extract on a large and small scale, and how this all relates to soil microbiology. He also worked with vermicompost, hydroponics (with compost extract only), and aquaponics. After Rodale, Troy went on to start and co-manage an organic farm and built and maintained two 4ft x 8ft vermicompost beds. He worked for an organic landscape company after the farm, where he mainly brewed and sprayed compost tea, working as their soil specialist. Then he went to work for a large-scale composting facility that uses windrows and began using aerated static piles. Troy started his business Living Roots Compost Tea in the spring of 2017. He is currently in the process of starting Nashville’s first large-scale food waste compost facility and will have a warehouse with flow-thru worm bins.

John Garn has been focused on resource recovery and reuse in the wine industry for over 25-years. For the past 5+ years, John has set his sights on how to enhance soil microbiology in agriculture through the application of treated winery process water. With the recent drought the reuse of water in agricultural operations has taken on a new urgency but traditional methods of water treatment are energy intensive, chemically driven and generate tons of unusable sludge. Now with BioFiltro, John focuses clients’ attention to how worms work in a chemical-free environment to transform organic waste into valuable casting and compost tea which increases the terroir noir of wine.

Kristen Beigay owns and runs Earthen Organics Worm Farm in upstate South Carolina. In 2012, Kristen and Anthony Beigay started vermicomposting as a hobby, but in early 2013, Kristen was laid off from her job in the financial field and she decided to take on worm farming full time with help from her husband and two children. In a continuous flow-through reactor, worms are fed raw juice pulp covered with composted horse manure from their aerated static piles. With the help of her aspiring agronomist son, Caleb, they recently decided to make custom sustainable soils.

Josh Walker and his brother and father have a vermicomposting operation called Life Cycle Organics. They are located in the mountains of North Carolina. They designed and built a 28-feet by 5-feet continuous flow-through reactor with a drive chain on both sides for harvesting vermicompost. They feed their worms OMRI-listed compost.

Norman Arancon, Ph.D., is a professor at University of Hawaii-Hilo with extensive teaching and research programs. He was previously the lead vermicomposting researcher at the Soil Ecology Laboratory at The Ohio State University. Norman studies the effects of vermicompost and aqueous extracts on field crops and greenhouse plants. He pioneered research on the use of vermicompost to suppress plant diseases, plant-parasitic nematodes, and insect pest attacks in greenhouses and in the field.

Zack Jones, PhD, is working with the Rocky Mountain Soil Stewardship in order to better understand microbial diversity in vermicast, compost, and sustainable agricultural process. Zack received his PhD from the Colorado School of Mines where he used advanced DNA sequencing and bioinformatic techniques to better understand microbial communities of wetland systems and how they can be optimized to treat water pollutants. He is now interested in using this technology to better understand and promote sustainable agriculture techniques.

Ali S. Calikoglu, MD, is a doctor and professor in the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, at the Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Dr. Calikoglu has been involved in all aspects of academic medicine including basic and clinical research, patient care and teaching. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles, books and book chapters. Ali developed an interest in biological waste reduction, specifically vermicomposting, black soldier fly farming and aquaponics. He and his five physician partners founded a company, Germina, Inc., to realize their dream of developing a model for small farmers in Turkey to establish self-sufficient, environment-friendly and sustainable farming practices.

Tom Herlihy has over 30 years of experience in developing, designing, permitting, constructing, and operating large-scale agriculturally-based projects. He founded Worm Power in 2004 and has since focused his attention on developing large-scale vermicomposting systems and the production of vermicompost for use in large-scale agricultural production. He has secured $3 million in research awards to establish vermicomposting as a viable technology and secure the credibility of the resulting vermicompost as plant growth and plant protection products in production agriculture.

Rhonda Sherman has given more than 1,000 presentations and written more than 65 articles on vermicomposting and other sustainability topics. Her new book, The Worm Farmer’s Handbook was published by Chelsea Green Publishing. Rhonda has conducted workshops in Guyana, Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico, and throughout the United States. For 20 years, she has annually offered the nation’s only conference on large-scale vermicomposting, helping more than 1,000 people to start-up or expand earthworm farms. Rhonda developed and is the director of the Compost Learning Lab (CL2) at NC State University. The lab features 26 types of composting and vermicomposting bins and areas for hands-on training activities.