Mount Nelson Hotel Creates “Permaculture” of Excellence With Worm Farm


Cape Town’s landmark 5-star hotel, the Mount Nelson, has yet again surpassed its rivals, adding a feature to its list of facilities that’s a South African first. Swimming pool? Check. Gym? Check. Tennis courts? Check. Fully-functioning worm farm? Check!

The hotel, known as the “Pink Lady” to locals, has decided to go green, by instituting an organic-waste recycling program that sees its kitchen droppings – orange peels, cabbage hearts, apple cores and the like – turn into worm droppings, which constitute some of the best fertilizer around, and which is used to keep the hotel’s lawns and pot plants in the “pink” of health.


The worm farm concept stems from an environmental movement called “permaculture”, which encourages the creation of self-sustaining organic loops, in which waste is transformed, step-by-step, back into plants. At the Mount Nelson, the kitchen-worm-fertilizer-garden loop is the result of a three-way partnership between the hotel, Wasteman (the city’s waste company), and local eco consultancy Fullcycle.

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Roger Jaques, of Fullcycle, is the farm’s day-to-day manager. He and an assistant ensure that the kitchen waste is properly sorted, then “feed” it (along with the hotel’s daily newspapers) to thousands of worms housed in plastic crates behind one of the hotel’s parking areas. Jaques estimates that the farm currently hosts about 100 kilograms of living annelid. Allowing for a generous 3 grams per worm, that’s well over thirty-three thousand squirmers!

The worms munch happily along, then do their business – the euphemism for which is “worm cast” – which filters down into collection trays, and eventually liquifies, becoming the gold of the agriculture world. (To quote an agricultural dabbler that I know, worm-cast fertilizer is “nuclear” – you get mutant, “superplants” when you use it.)

The fertilizer is moved, 25 litres at a time, to the hotel’s nursery, where all manner of leafy things are growing, and put to good use by the expert garden staff. If this pilot project proves a success (it’s been running for over four months now), the hotel may eventually begin growing many of its own fruits and vegetables, thus completing the organic loop.

At the very least, the worms can look forward to an expanded diet – the hotel’s cut flowers could soon feature on their menu, as well as possibly the kitchen droppings of other establishments, whose managers would like to contribute to the city’s new permaculture ethos, but don’t have quite as much space on hand as the Pink Lady.

  • For more information on this innovative project – and to secure a worm farm for your own organization – send a note to Roger Jaques (roger@jaques.co.za), or to Fullcycle’s co-founder Mary Murphy (mary@poloandfriends.org).

Permaculture, Vermiculture and Enviro-friendly hotel links: