Worm farming unites Melbourne Award winners

A busy restaurant and bar.

Be recognised for your significant contribution to our city through the prestigious Melbourne Awards.

For fellow winners Nathan Toleman from The Mulberry Group and Richard Thomas from Wormlovers, a chance meeting at last year’s gala dinner sparked a fruitful partnership.

Nathan was seeking a better way to manage organic waste at his cafe and restaurant, Higher Ground. Richard had the answer: 20 state-of-the-art worm farms.

‘We wanted to stop putting so much green waste and organic matter into landfill, and to treat our waste as a resource rather than a problem,’ Nathan said.

‘Hearing Richard’s story was the missing piece of the puzzle and our staff have become really engaged in our new worm farms, separating the waste and making sure it’s compostable.’

Worm farming can reduce 25 to 50 kilos of food waste into just one kilo of worm castings, making it easier to transport, and a rich, non-harmful fertiliser for Nathan’s farm.

‘The great thing about this project is that it feels like some of Melbourne’s thought-leaders are coming together with a can-do attitude,’ Richard said.

‘The natural system of soil, biology and worms has been around for literally hundreds of millions of years. We’ve just got to get the humans aligned with what the worms are doing.

‘My theory is that you’ve got to have a bit of fun and be creative. We’re always learning and experimenting to find the optimal conditions for happy, healthy worms.’

‘The natural system of soil, biology and worms has been around for literally hundreds of millions of years. We’ve just got to get the humans aligned with what the worms are doing.’

Nathan’s next plans for Higher Ground include more worm farms, garden beds and chickens on the roof.

His chefs are also getting on board with his waste-reduction mindset, thinking of creative ways to use food scraps, such as turning carrot tops into carrot salt.

Applications to the Melbourne Awards open on 19 April.


Do you have a worm farm? Here are some of the things that you should and shouldn’t feed your worms.


  • Most fruit and vegetables
  • Teabags
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Egg cartons and toilet rolls
  • Paper towel and tissues
  • Vacuum dust
  • Uncoated paper


  • Citrus and pineapple
  • Onion, garlic and spicy foods
  • Bread, pasta and processed food
  • Dairy and oils
  • Meat and fish

For more tips on worm farming, download this Wormlovers fact sheet.

Three men

Richard Thomas, Aaron Parfitt and Nathan Toleman

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