A Biochar Revolution? Let's Find Out - Walden Labs

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A Biochar Revolution? Let’s Find Out

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I just had a great phone call with Jeff, one of the founders of the Biochar Company.

Screen shot 2012-03-16 at 10.45.53 AM

He and his company are doing the entrepreneurial grunt work necessary to bring biochar into the mainstream.

How?  They working on improving the quality of biochar production through easy to use technology, and finding ways to drive down the costs of biochar to end-users.

Here’s why bringing biochar to the mainstream is is a good thing.  We’ve got a fifty thousand square miles of depleted and polluted lawns in the US alone.

This soil will be rehabilitated as we return to producing food locally.  It’s just a question of how it will be done.

biochar hands

One of the best ways for us to do that is by adding biochar as a soil amendment.

What is Biochar?  It’s simply a type of charcoal.  What makes it special is that it is extremely porous.   Its surface is dotted with nooks and crannies that hold things.

This porosity makes it able to:

  • soak up and safely store pollutants and contaminants in soil (soil remediation) 
  • improve the ability of soil to retain/manage water,
  • house beneficial organisms such as fungus and bacteria.

The end result?   High quality soil. 

Soil that can boost the fertility of your garden over the next couple of decades (in some cases, much longer) with less water and less fertilizer.  That’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, making high quality biochar is harder than most people believe.  For example, there are nearly thirty methods used to produce it. Each method produces biochar with different characteristics (porosity, PH, etc.) due to differences in the temperature used, the feedstock used, etc.   This also means that just scooping some ash and charcoal out of your Firepit is not likely to produce the results you are looking for.

Fortunately, that complexity doesn’t mean you can’t make high quality biochar at the local scale if you know what to do.  That’s where I think the Biochar Company can help, by refining the technologies required and growing the markets for locally produced biochar.

For example, they are working on ways to insert biochar production into viable long term business.  Here’s an example from Hawaii.  Note how biochar production fits into the system.

Hawaiian

Let’s hope they are successful since I believe we are going to hear a lot about biochar in the next decade.

Regardless, I’ll keep you up to date on its progress.

Resiliently yours,

 

JOHN ROBB

 

PS: Members can get the details on this interview in February’s Resilient Strategies report.  

John-Robb

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