BYU student Joseph Walker was named the winner of the 2017 Utah Regional Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) with his company, OmniEarth, an organic fertilizer company based out of Provo, Utah. A sample is pictured here. He said "The largest impact this product is making is in the medical marijuana market. He has formulated an organic fertilizer specific for this industry to optimize the growth and potency of marijuana plants for certified growers. He was photographed in the Life Sciences Building on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. (Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An entrepreneurial student who turns worm poop into organic fertilizer targeted for marijuana growers is generating buzz and earning accolades.
Joseph Walker, who's studying at Brigham Young University, began the company OmniEarth to make fertilizer from worm castings — the technical term for worm poop, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .
Walker, 22, and originally from Eugene, Oregon, said he became interested in developing an organic fertilizer while working in landscaping and noticing that chemical fertilizers could be a contentious subject. His grandfather suggested worm droppings as a solution.
"At first, I'll be honest, I thought he was crazy. It sounded like a ridiculous idea," Walker said. "But after just five hours of research, I understood this could be a really cool organic solution for any industry, not just lawn care."
After more research and contacting companies already selling worm castings, Walker said he learned that the fast growing marijuana industry was a prime target for his business. Growers often prefer organic and pesticide-free products.
"They all said it's the marijuana market," Walker said. "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 found warehouse space and began searching for the right combination of temperature, humidity and water content of the soil to maximize production.
The research for Walker's startup company has been aided by cash prizes won in student entrepreneurship competitions this year.
In January, Walker's company earned a $900 grant from a program at the University of Utah's Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
OmniEarth then received $15,000 two months later after it was selected as a finalist in the New Venture Challenge, a competition sponsored by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
In November, Walker's company won a regional competition for the international Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. The overall winner to be selected in Toronto in April will receive $50,000.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com