This student is making fertiliser weed growers lust after
An exploding industry. Source: Twitter/@_DiegoPellicer_

College students are usually stereotyped as consumers of weed products, not producers. But one young student from Brigham Young University (a Mormon university, no less!) is overturning that stereotype through his successful business selling an eco-friendly fertiliser to commercial marijuana growers.

According to The Salt Lake TribuneJoseph Walker’s fertiliser that makes use of worm castings – i.e worm poop – as an organic and completely natural fertiliser is feeding a gap in the marijuana market that sees more demand for them that supply has yet to catch up with.

“There is a seemingly insatiable need. None of the companies said they could keep up with current orders. There’s this huge need to go green,” Walker said.

Bethany Gomez, director of research for Brightfield Group, a Chicago-based market research firm that focuses on cannabis issues agrees.

“Using organic, pesticide-free, innovative and sustainable products like worm castings, she said, “is a way for cannabis growers to differentiate themselves and be eco-friendly, which is very important to a significant portion of cannabis consumers. They’re overwhelmingly demanding about their cannabis being organic, especially with higher-end products and things like edibles and concentrates.”

This demand from an industry expected to grow 600 percent in the next decade, is also fueling the growth of university courses focused on the herb, graduates of which will supply the personnel to the growing cannabis, herbal extract, and natural product industries, given their increasing legalisation in the US.

Northern Michigan University’s (NMU) new Medical Plant Chemistry programme has students majoring in a “pot chemistry” course, “the only four-year undergraduate degree program of its kind” learning about the foundation in chemistry and plant biology, as well as research about “experimental horticulture” and “instrumental analysis of natural product”.

Award-winning fertiliser

Walker first got the idea from his grandfather, when he was looking for a solution for people turning his landscaping job offers away because of the artificial fertilisers he was using.

“He had an idea he thought I should pursue,” Walker recalled. “He said worm poop. At first, I’ll be honest, I thought he was crazy. It sounded like a ridiculous idea.

“But after just five hours of research, I understood this could be a really cool organic solution for any industry, not just lawn care.”

The idea paid off and since then, Walker’s startup OmniEarth has won awards at three entrepreneurship competitions this year for its use of worm castings, including the Utah winner of the 2017 regional competition for the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA). He’s invested his winnings into his business to fine-tune his product as well as expand its operations.

Dan Ramsay, the general manager of Natural Order Supply, a Colorado company that works with farmers, gardeners and commercial marijuana growers said:

“It’s neat to see college kids doing research,” he said. “Organic trends are common in the cannabis industry and something I promote with my business”.

There’s a lot of competition, according to Ramsay but “the industry will continue to expand, and as it expands, there will continue to be a need for more organic fertilizers”.

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