October 2019
Highlights from this Month's News
Robert Gillett , Editor
PDF versions available in English / Español / Français
In this month's edition, look for news, ideas and trends like these:

  • From Organic to Climate Farming
  • ANZBC 2019 Recap
  • Livestock/Dung Beetle/Soil Cascades
  • Compostable bioplastics
  • Biochar sparks a regional economic development program
ORGANIZATION MEMBER: National Carbon Technologies
Bloomington, Minnesota
United States

We are the global leader in production of high value carbon products from renewable biomass. We operate the largest advanced biocarbon production facility in North America with capacity to convert hundreds of thousands of tons of biomass into patented carbon products.

And Welcome Again to Our Renewing Corporate Members...
Bristol, UK

Carbon Gold was founded by Craig Sams, founder of Green & Blacks Chocolate, back in 2007 as an organic, peat-free planting aid for the retail sector.

With a few years of incredible results from third-party scientific trials looking into enriched biochar’s effect on plant health, our natural organic biochar products were quickly adopted by the commercial crop growing, tree care and sports turf sectors.

Our customers range from those commercial horticulture and tree care sectors to home growers, NGOs and community cooperatives. We have also worked with some of the world’s major food brands including Mars, Nestlé and Kraft and our tree care products are used in the Royal Parks and Gardens of the UK.

The sustainability of our products is assured by the FSC®, we’re certified organic by the Soil Association, we’re partners with LEAF, approved for use in Dutch growing systems by the RHP and in biodynamic systems by Demeter.

Greenwood Village, Colorado, USA

Cool Planet is an agricultural technology company that develops, and markets Engineered Biocarbon™ technology products for soil health, food security. and global sustainability. The company’s first commercial product line is Cool Terra®, an award winning soil amendment, which works to improve key soil performance characteristics for greater plant productivity. Cool Terra® is also carbon negative. Cool Terra® provides sustainability and profitability for agriculture, landscape, turf, nursery, ornamental and other green industry markets. Cool Planet is also innovating fixed carbon (biocarbon) based technologies for animal nutrition, microbial delivery, and early plant establishment products to adress the growing global concerns of soil health, food security, and sustainability.

BUSINESS MEMBER: Advanced Resilient Biocarbon LLC
Cold Spring, NY, USA

Advanced Resilient Biocarbon (ARB), the American affiliate of Advanced Resilient Technology, Limited (ART), an international technology development company, provides globally applicable, locally deployable systems to generate revenue while addressing critical environmental and resource challenges with transformative improvements.

ARB systems provide local solutions utilizing waste to generate clean energy, support sustainable economies, and restore environmental habitat—including offering carbon sequestration. ARB systems generate perpetual revenues to recoup investments, generate profits and fund sustainable waste elimination solutions for the future. Using innovative technology to increase the productivity and efficiency of time-proven methods, ARB reclaims organic wastes by generating energy (electricity and heat), Elemental Char™ and Formulated Char™.

ARB's Chars renew valuable resources to be used for environmental filtration, cleaning and restoration. They can be sold to a wide variety of markets and to obtain carbon credits. By transforming waste streams that otherwise are deposited in landfills or released into waterways, ARB systems significantly reduce vast quantities of formerly unusable waste streams by transforming them into usable products for enabling environmental recovery, meeting energy needs and supplying industrial processes.
Hawthorn, Australia

Earth Systems is a multidisciplinary environmental and social consulting firm, which develops and implements innovative and effective environment, water and sustainability solutions throughout the world. Established in 1993, we have successfully completed over 500 major projects in Australia, Asia, Africa, South America, North America and the Pacific.
Earth Systems provides high quality services and solutions in the areas of environmental and social impact assessment, water management and treatment, ecology, energy efficiency, carbon accounting, community consultation and development.
Our research and development capabilities help to ensure that we are leaders in finding new and more sustainable solutions to complex environmental problems.
The Big Picture
There is good news and bad news out of a study of how a complete switch to organic farming would affect the UK. The good news is that greenhouse gas emissions for croplands would drop by 20%. The bad news is that the amount of land needed would be 40% greater (the emissions from change in land use more than offsetting the lower emissions from existing farmland).

While many headlines that seized on this report seemed to disparage organic agriculture, the study can be read to say that organic agriculture is just not enough, especially since fossil fuel-derived fertilizers are going to become scarce as the end of that age plays out. If switching to organic agriculture is not going to be enough, we need to think about more productive options. Biochar as a component of regenerative and/or climate farming has the potential to raise yields sustainably without reliance on fossil fuel inputs. As we see in a paper listed under “New Research” at the end of this month’s newsletter, biochar boosts the effect of inorganic fertilizer significantly. We would expect a similar or even greater boost when using organic fertilizer.

The geographic context of the UK study is also key. Conventional farming in temperate regions might currently be sustained above critical humus concentrations of 1 to 2 percent, however nearly 90 percent of starving populations live in regions such as Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America where humus has fallen below critical levels. Organic farming and biochar amendment are essential in those regions to restoring the arability of soils through rapid humus accumulation. (Ute Scheub, 2016)

Lest the reporting on the UK study leave us uncertain about weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, we need to remember that organic agriculture has evolved in the past 20 years, leading to improvements in yields and resiliency under the related constructs of regenerative agriculture and climate farming. Biochar can play a major role in the former and is the ne plus ultra of the latter.

While we’re on the topic of climate farming, another notable paper (along with its supplementary info ) proposes a roadmap of mitigations needed to reduce atmospheric carbon. Twenty-four activity types are modeled under the land sector, with biochar placing highly. Soil carbon sequestration (including biochar application) is modeled to grow to 1.3 GtCO 2 e yr -1 by 2050, second to ecosystem restoration and preservation in terms of carbon removals. China, EU, US, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Sub-Saharan Africa could contribute the most to sequestering soil carbon.
Works Cited

Ute Scheub, Haiko Pieplow, Hans-Peter Schmidt, Kathleen Draper (2016). Humus Production by Climate Farming. In Terra Preta: How the World's Most Fertile Soil can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger (pp. 68 - 76). Vancouver, BC, Canada: Greystone/David Suzuki Institute.
News of the Initiative:
The organizers of the 2019 IBI Biochar World Congress, 10 – 14 November, Seoul, are pleased to present the Program   Overview along with the   Full Program . Both can be accessed from the IBI website.
Regional Briefs

Biochar Down Under, Tom Miles, Chair, IBI

I had the privilege of visiting with biochar producers and users at the Australia New Zealand Biochar Initiative (ANZBI) 2019 study tour and conference, October 20-26. Delegates were from the Pacific Islands (Vanuatu), Tasmania, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, and USA. The conference was attended by millennial and broadacre farmers and ranchers, researchers, biochar producers, policy makers and advocates of all kinds.

The study tour included: a visit to test plots in Portland, Victoria, hosted by Helen Phillips (widow of Doug Phillips d. 2018) of Triple R Biochar, the Glenelg Shire and the Southwest Environment Alliance; a Tasmanian Kon Tiki demonstration by Frank Strie at Bambra Agroforestry Farm; dung beetle viewing on the Cashmore Oklea sheep farm; seeing the Rainbow Bee Eater gasifier providing heat and power to Ian Lions’ Holla-Fresh herb greenhouse and a tour of their composting partner BioGro which supplies the fuel and takes the biochar; and presentations and lengthy discussions about the research, production and use of biochar in orchards, fertilizers, feeds and construction. We even had Aussie Russel Burnett skyping from his new Applied Gaia carbonizer in Florida.

The three day conference in Melbourne included plenary and breakout discussions of many creative ways of using biochar for a wide variety of commercial applications in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Austria and elsewhere including displays of biochar used in concrete structures, aggregate, cosmetics, wood vinegar, biosolids, and 3-D printing of biochar amended concrete. The conference ended with a visit to see the high-quality biochar and wood vinegar from Earth Systems carbonizers.

It was a special treat to see how far the knowledge, experience and commercial applications of biochar has advanced in the last 12 years since the IBI meeting in Terrigal, New South Wales in 2007, and to discuss practical methods of applying biochar for soil, feed, and orchard crops with Gerald Dunst (Sonnenerde), Dominik Dunst (Charline), Doug Pow (PowBrook) and others. As farmer-researcher Lukas van Zwieten says, we know the science, let’s find ways to develop more biochar users.

Many thanks to organizer Don Coyne and his ANZBI committee for an entertaining and productive event. Presentations will be available on the ANZBI website.
Doug Pow’s success in recruiting dung beetles to cultivate his farm with biochar-laden cattle manure has not only attracted interest from scientists in Australia, but also internationally, in the quest to mitigate the climate effects of livestock. A study tour held in conjunction with the ANZBI Conference also visited a sheep ranch following a similar process.


Research on biochar in cattle feed is popping up all over, as with this farm in Great Britain.

The European Biochar Industry Consortium led by Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, CEO of Carbuna includes three IBI-member companies in the founding group: Pyreg , Sonnenerde , and Syncraft .

In Scotland, a 350-hectare land transformation project called The Helix , home of The Kelpies, is also now home to a new Carbon Gold SuperChar 100 kiln .

A spray-on biochar -containing soil cover is showing promise for contaminated sites.

Did you ever imagine you would be able to make biochar in the comfort of your own home? Pricey, but there is now a device t hat makes it possible.
Biochar comes to Nantes!

Bioenergy Events and Services (BEES) is delighted to announce that biochar is getting, for the first time, a major showing at the international bioenergy exhibition Bio360 in Nantes (France), 29-30 January. In partnership with IBI, who will be present to represent the global biochar movement, a dedicated exhibition area for biochar actors and a two-day biochar international conference (English/French) is putting biochar firmly on the agenda for the 5000 international visitors and 400 exhibitors from over 20 countries.

The multiple cross-over points between biochar and bioenergy make this platform not only highly relevant but also one which promises to expose the virtues and possibilities of biochar to a large number of potential biochar uptakers, technology providers, biomass fuel specialists, research institutes, policy makers, and green financiers … amongst others ! 

The full conference programme and other details will be published near the end of November. We hope to see you there. - the BEES Team.


U.S. land managers with woody residues can get USDA assistance to produce biochar under a new Enhancement Code in the Conservation Stewardship Program . A pictorial story of how this campaign succeeded was recently featured by USDA. The low-tech methods used in the pilot project are also detailed in links that accompany the story.

A Saskatchewan company that has been making various biochar products for over 10 years is developing the world’s first carbon negative compostable bio-plastics for food containers and agricultural plastics.

Learn from this podcast about how biochar can be used in an urban context.

The 22 ton-per-day biochar output of Aries Clean Energy’s biosolids gasification plant under construction in New Jersey offers a glimpse of how much biochar we can expect to be available down the road. Aries also has plans for small gasifiers in California to make electricity under a favorable rate structure for biomass energy, while also producing biochar.

Maryland’s draft plan to achieve their climate goals includes biochar as one emerging technology. One possibility it addresses is biochar as an ameliorant for greenhouse gas emissions from dredge spoils.

Mineral Wells, Texas is aiming to lead Palo Pinto County into becoming a regional biochar center . They have been in talks with nine prospective biochar companies and expect to announce a major corporate partnership soon.

Something from Biochar2019 must have rubbed off on city managers in Fort Collins, Colorado. They have been using biochar to reduce odors from a public lake . A quick fix that apparently works!


IBI member AgriProtein wastes no part of the black soldier fly larvae who are the key players in their process to treat fecal sludge . In one of their South African treatment plants, residue of larvae comprising the third cascade in the process are used to make biochar.

Takachar , a biochar company using technology and logistics developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), continues its crowdfunding campaign! Their Indiegogo site contains videos and many details about the project.

According to Prof. Kwame Agyei Frimpong, at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, biochar was added to soil together with NPK fertilizer and maize yields improved up to 300% in a three-year study.


Biochar could be the solution to crop burning that Indian farmers have been looking for. 
Biochar-related opportunities, jobs, and education
Carbon 180 is offering Entrepreneur-in-Residence Fellowships to teams or individuals to support visionary leaders in becoming carbon removal innovators through a program designed to:

  • Accelerate learning of carbon-removal technologies and opportunities
  • Make introductions to deep industry and technical networks
  • Provide a funded runway while they study, design and test new carbon removal business models. Apply.
We are seeking a new Editor to take over this monthly newsletter. As with all IBI positions, this job is unpaid, but well compensated by the information acquired and impact you can have on the growing biochar industry, as well as the chance to interface with key figures in the world of biochar. Please e-mail [email protected] to express your interest. If you have questions of the current Editor about this position, call him at (410) 231-1348.
Free Webinars:
Mark your calendar for a series of webinars hosted by the UK Biochar Research Center to be live-streamed 3 pm (Central European Time) on each Thursday from October through the first part of December. Each session will include two 25-minute talks about current research presented by participating scientists from Europe, Australia, and North America. The Green Carbon Webinar videos are also available to view following the live sessions.
News You can Use
For those who like to keep indoor plants, a layer of biochar at the bottom of any pots without holes will help prevent anoxia from killing the lower roots. As for plants in your garden, Carbon Gold CEO Simon Manley offers five other helpful tips for using biochar. He should know. Part of one of the UK’s most winning gardener’s secret to huge vegetables is Carbon Gold’s Biology Blend , now available in retail quantities.
Upcoming Calendar Events

January 29 -30, 2020 Nantes, France. Includes a biochar exhibit section plus two days dedicated to biochar.
See more under Europe news brief.
AGU Fall Meeting
December 9 -13, 2019 San Francisco. Session B092 will cover Pyrogenic Organic Matter: Production, Characterization and Cycling in the Environment.
Biochar Forum
November 1, 2019 Riverside, Tasmania, Australia. An educational event for the Tamar Valley Region supporting establishment of the Tasmanian Biochar Initiative.
Compost 2020
January 28 -31, 2020 Charleston, SC.
US Composting Council conference will include a panel and presentations on the synergies of biochar and compost.

I BI Biochar World Congress 2019
November 10 - 14, 2019, Seoul, Korea
Towards Biochar Global Market Development
November 10 - 14, 2019, Seoul, Korea. Sharing knowledge on all aspects of biochar among a broad international scientific community, policy makers and industrial personnel.
New Research
Here are some of the papers authored by IBI members out of over 280 articles included in the latest monthly list available on your IBI Member homepage . The full list contains topical emphasis, selected excerpts from abstracts, and are grouped by subject to make it easy for you to find articles of interest. You can automatically receive the full research paper list by e-mail every month by joining IBI. If you have already not done so, joining is an easy way to up your game.
Another way to stay on the cutting edge is to download the journal Biochar which offers open access as they build reader awareness. The second issue came out in October.
  • Reach sky high CECs:

Kharel, Gyanendra et al. 2019. “Biochar Surface Oxygenation by Ozonization for Super High Cation Exchange Capacity .” ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering: acssuschemeng.9b03536. .

From the Abstract: “The CEC value of the untreated biochar was measured to be anywhere between 14 and 17 cmol/kg. A 90 min dry ozonization treatment resulted in an increased biochar CEC value of 109–152 cmol/kg.”
  • Bioretention Systems that Retain Metals too:

Sun, Y, SS Chen, et al. “Waste-Derived Compost and Biochar Amendments for Stormwater Treatment in Bioretention Column: Co-Transport of Metals and Colloids.” Elsevier. .

From the Abstract: “... columns amended with compost and biochar removed more than 50–70% of influent metals, whereas iron-oxide coated sand was much less effective. ... The results suggest that both waste-derived compost and biochar show promising potential for stormwater harvesting, while biochar is expected to be more recalcitrant and desirable in field-scale bioretention systems.”

  • DACC? We can do that:

Igalavithana, AD, SW Choi, … PD Dissanayake - Journal of Hazardous. “Gasification Biochar from Biowaste (Food Waste and Wood Waste) for Effective CO 2 Adsorption .” Elsevier. .

From the Abstract: “The [20% food waste, 80% wood waste biochar] showed the highest CO 2  adsorption capacity, while higher percentage of food waste in the feedstock was unfavorable for the CO 2  adsorption.”
  • Bio-MUC - Making Urea Cool:

Shi, W et al. “Biochar Bound Urea Boosts Plant Growth and Reduces Nitrogen Leaching.” Elsevier.
From the Abstract: “In the leaching experiment over 30 days, cumulative N release as NH 4 + -N and of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was significantly smaller by >70% and by 8% from the [biochar-mineral urea composite (Bio-MUC)] than from [urea fertilizer (UF)]. In pot culture with maize growing for 50 days, total fresh shoot was enhanced by 14% but fresh root by 25% under Bio-MUC compared to UF.”

  • Making Fertilizer Better:

Ye, L. et al. 2019. “Biochar Effects on Crop Yields with and without Fertilizer: A Meta‐analysis of Field Studies Using Separate Controls.” Soil Use and Management: sum.12546. .

From the Abstract: “Compared with the non‐fertilized control, a 26% ... increase in yield was observed with the use of [inorganic fertilizers (IF)] only, whereas that of biochar along with IF caused a 48% ... increase. Compared to the use of IF only, the addition of biochar along with IF caused a 15% ... increase in yield, indicating that biochar was as effective as fertilizers in increasing crop yields when added in combination. ... Our results also suggest that biochar application rates > 10 t ha ‐1  do not contribute to greater crop yield (at least in the short term).”
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