It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention and that adage has proven true for Ottawa’s Akil Mesiwala, founder of The Box of Life. He was looking for a new career opportunity while also reflecting on what he could do to have a sizeable impact on mitigating climate change. His solution was to create a business capitalizing on vermicomposting — an innovative system for effortless indoor food waste recycling.
What was the spark that led you to found your business?
I had often dreamed of starting a worm farming business as I had been vermicomposting at home for several years and couldn’t believe how easy and effective it is at processing food waste. Because municipal composting programs are not available for all households, a lot of scraps are still going into the garbage. Composting with worms is an effortless process — if more people knew about this, it could significantly reduce the methane produced by ever-expanding landfills.
What is your primary product, and how does it work?
The Worm Studio is an attractive, scalable cedar worm farm that converts food waste into superior compost in under a month, with minimal effort and no unpleasant aromas. It’s a fun family activity and a great way to teach kids about the environment, all while building sustainable composting habits. You just feed the worms chopped-up food scraps, and they do all the work.
What was one key lesson you learned as you started the business?
The initial focus for The Box of Life was just waste diversion, but I have since realized that vermiculture is also about healing our soil. The food grown and consumed today is less nutritious due to all the awful things going into the land. Composting is part of good biodiversity and regenerative agriculture and can help protect our environment because healthy soil is much better at absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.
When you are preparing food for yourself, do you ever find yourself thinking about your worms?
In the early days, I did think about how the worms would love what I was about to feed them. I even started eating more fruits and vegetables because I wanted to give the worms the best food possible. It also changed the way I purchased food — I got much more into cooking from scratch.
Why is maintaining a worm studio ideal for a classroom project?
Our objective is to offer a living, teachable solution for climate change and share it with students from Grade 1 through Grade 12. The worm studio helps teach the curriculum, real-life science connections and math; it also fosters an emotional connection to the worms. We hope young people will learn skills that they can take into adulthood so they will continue to think about waste, how to love nature, and how to care for our planet.
What other products do you offer?
We have a small-scale Bucket of Life worm farm and our larger Bench of Life; it’s ideal for multiple users, and we will start installing them in community gardens. We will launch a rental program to expand composting to the office and industrial sectors. We also offer workshops — both our own and those delivered by other businesses with a sustainability mindset.
For more information: theboxoflife.com