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Earthworm Farming
Twelve years ago, Illinois farmer and entrepreneur Bill Kreitzer engineered a method to "plant" earthworms in fields at the same time crops are planted, using "melt away" gelatin capsules containing earthworm eggs (Vol. 14, No. 2).
  He formed a company to develop the idea and still believes in it as strongly as he ever did but, so far, the idea has yet to gain widespread acceptance.
  Kreitzer's company, Advanced Biotechnology Inc. (ABI) markets earthworm egg capsules under the brand name ET Seeds. ET stands for Earthworm Tillage. The University of Illinois has set up earthworm research plots on Kreitzer's farm.
  Earthworms reproduce by laying a cocoon with eggs inside it. Under ideal laboratory conditions, earthworm eggs hatch in 3 to 6 weeks. However, the eggs hatch only when soil temperature is right. At 3 months of age, the earthworms are old enough to produce their own cocoons. Kreitzer's goal has always been to develop an automated process for encapsulating earthworm eggs in gelatin capsules. The idea is to coat the cocoon with a substance that preserves the eggs to keep them viable until they're planted. Last summer, working with Ball Horticultural Company in West Chicago, Ill., they successfully encapsulated mass quantities of Kreitzer's earthworm cocoons and were able to keep the eggs viable for over a year.
  The final phase of research is aimed at determining the optimal storage conditions for the encapsulated cocoons under different temperature and moisture conditions. Kreitzer is looking for additional investors and would be willing to sell up to 50 percent of his patent for the process in order to attact enough funds to finish the research. He wants to build production facilities and design equipment for automation of the harvesting and encapsulation. Interested parties can contact him at ABI, 104 W. Market, Box 1, Elliott, Ill. 60933 (ph 217 784-4367).

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2002 - Volume #26, Issue #3