Alfred Grand – Why an Austrian farmer and researcher trained by earthworms is very excited about AI

A conversation with Alfred Grand, farmer at Grand Farm, an organic farm in Austria with a high proportion of research, about vermicompost and seed inoculation, but also about what policymakers should know about farming. Plus, the role of technology in the regenerative transition and why he is so excited about AI and robotics.
Dive deep in the story of a bike mechanic turned farmer and researcher, who has been trained by millions earthworms!


This podcast is part of the AI 4 Soil Health project which aims to help farmers and policy makers by providing new tools powered by AI to monitor and predict soil health across Europe. For more information visit


At Grand Farm, Alfred is working together with thousands and thousands of earthworms to improve soil quality and reduce fertiliser use in agriculture.

‘It’s definitely in the millions. So, it’s big. Sometimes, if you grab in and take a handful of compost, 20–30% of the compost that you have in your hand is earthworms.” – Alfred Grand

”We also say we produce vermicompost. And then we say, No, sorry, that’s wrong. We don’t produce vermicompost. Our earthworms produce vermicompost. And why is that important? We, as humans, cannot make soil. And then people understand. Ah, yeah, that’s true; we cannot make soil. But the earthworms can. So, our workers that we hired were our earthworms, and the microbes, and the whole community, which is in this ecosystem, in the soil, working, and then when we work with the biology, we can create soil.” – Alfred Grand


At Grand Farm, they inoculate seeds with microbes from earthworms to improve soil health and reduce fertiliser use.

”I was always angry with myself because I thought, okay, we were producing a very high quality product. And I can’t use it on the farm because my crops don’t pay off for the saturated kind of fertilizer. And that brought me to do seed inoculation, where we now inoculate seed and do research. So, we inoculate the seed, we cover the seed that will drill into the soil, we cover the seed with the microbiome, with the community of microbes from the earthworms. And so, we bring life back into the soil with the help of the earthworms. And we can reduce the amount down to one litre per hectare. And we still have a significant impact. And that’s crazy. That’s really crazy when you look at how powerful nature is. Because when you put it on the seed, and then the seed starts germinating and the root, the taproot comes out of the seed, it takes some of the microbes from the seed howl, and then the root acts as a transport system into the ground, into the subsoil.” – Alfred Grand


Alfred discusses using robots to analyse plants and make decisions based on their development, rather than relying on a fixed schedule.

”I always said market gardening is nice because it creates jobs in rural areas. […] Our societies are growing older and older. And we might end up having no people, for example, doing weeding or doing simple jobs. So, I thought, okay, let’s use robots to wheat. And then there are technologies, and there are robots out there who work with GPS so they can see themselves. But then they use the same old technology that we used on a tractor, like a hose, which flies through the soil and cuts the wheat. And that’s stupid, because I would like to see a robot that goes and surely sees the plants and decides, okay, I take this, and I rip it out of the soil. And I take this, and I take this. And when you do that, then the machine can learn, okay, which different plant species are there, which different weed species are there, and then you can say, okay, this type of weed is not so dangerous for my crop, or it’s even supportive, because it has a wrestle bill. Let’s leave it there for now for the next three weeks, and then take it out when it starts flowering or something like that.” – Alfred Grand


Alfred’s interest in earthworms began at a young age, influenced by his parents and scientific research.

”My father stopped ploughing like 30 years ago because he wanted to not destroy the earthworm. So, he wanted to save the earthworms lives. So, he stopped ploughing at that time. And my mother in the house, she had a very little garden, home garden for vegetable growing. And when I was a child, she already told me, the earthworms are so important, we have to protect them. And so that’s where it started.” – Alfred Grand

”So, when I had the research in my back, […] But with the science in the background, I could learn a lot from the scientists, but also when I worked with earthworms. And this is the reason why I will say I’m trained by earthworms, rather than by university because I never took classes in a university.” – Alfred Grand


Koen and Alfred also talked about:

  • Regenerative organic farming and vermicomposting
  • Using microbes in compost tea for soil health
  • Using technology to improve agriculture and food systems


Alfred Grand is an organic arable field farmer, market gardener and entrepreneur from Austria. In 2019, Alfred was selected as a member of the Mission Board for Soil Health and Food for developing a mission for Horizon Europe. He is also board member at the Californian initiative Regenerative Organic Alliance. 

GRAND FARM is a 90-hectare research and demonstration farm focusing on soil health, agroforestry and market gardening. Every year, GRAND FARM provides infrastructure to five to 10 different research projects which are conducted together with universities and research institutes. In 2015, a cooperation with Rodale Institute (USA) was established to carry out trials and research in organic no-till methods. In 2019 Alfred also established GRAND GARTEN, where a team of young university graduates is producing year-round organic vegetable for the regional market and is doing research and demonstration activities.
Since February 2024 GRAND GARTEN is the first REGENERATIVE ORGANIC CERTIFIED market garden all over Europe and GRAND FARM is one of the first two European ROC-certified organic arable farms. 




Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

This work has received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee [grant numbers 10053484, 1005216, 1006329].

This work has received funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).


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