Friday, 20 May 2016

Permaculture Research Institute - biochar

Tropical Orchard Establishment Practices and Concepts: Part 2 of 3

Biochar Production

We make a small amount of biochar yearly to be used in our nursery potting soil and applied to our garden beds. Biochar has been studied extensively over the past 25 years and has proven to be an effective soil fertility strategy, in particular in the tropics. We use two different biochar systems. The first is a cook stove called an Estufa Finca. This was developed by our friend Art Donnelly of The second is a larger retort kiln called a TLUD (Top-Lit Up-Draft) made of two 55 gallon metal drums.
Biochar is a fascinating soil amendment that inspires much disagreement and conversation. For us, we are mostly interested in leveraging the unique physical and chemical properties of biochar to reduce leaching of nutrients, improve soil structure, buffer our pH, and provide host sites for microorganisms. Biochar in general has a negative molecular charge which binds well to nutrients and it’s physical structure provides endless nooks and crannies for a diversity of microbial life to seek shelter from predators.
We primary use fruit tree and bamboo prunings for our biochar feed stock. We avoid nitrogen rich feed stock as this nitrogen volatilizes during the combustion process. After a burn, which can be seen in the following photos, the biochar is crushed and then charged. As the burn process removes most nutrients from the remaining carbon, it is most effective to soak the biochar in a nitrogen rich liquid. Typically we use effluent from our methane biodigestors.
An Estufa Finca cook stove is stocked and started. This highly efficient stove boils a gallon of water in under 10 minutes and produces biochar as a bi-product.
An Estufa Finca cook stove is stocked and started. This highly efficient stove boils a gallon of water in under 10 minutes and produces biochar as a bi-product.
Turmeric is being processed on the stove to make a live-cultured soda and obtain a dried spice.
Turmeric is being processed on the stove to make a live-cultured soda and obtain a dried spice.
As the stove dies down, the combustion is stopped by dumping the contents into a quench bucket.
As the stove dies down, the combustion is stopped by dumping the contents into a quench bucket.
The biochar is then incorporated into our potting mix or worked into resting garden beds. Occasionally we apply this amendment directly to tree planting holes, in which case we apply ½ kilo per tree hole and top dress under the mulch another ½ kilo.
Overall biochar does not make up a huge part of our day-to-day work. I find it challenging to find the time and physical space for all the necessary harvesting, handling, and drying of feedstock. This year we will make 60 to 120 kilos of biochar for our gardens.

Akhmal Buanie: Innovative tech for charcoal production

Co/ the Borneo Post...

Superb winners from Sarawak
Akhmal Buanie: Innovative tech for charcoal production

"Akhmal Buanie was the first Sarawakian contestant to win over the panel in the fourth series of Superb in 2014 with his invention called the Biochar Pyrolysis.
Akhmal was one of 26 winners of Superb grants in the third and fourth phases that won a total of RM13 million – each taking RM500,000.
Titled ‘Biochar Pyrolysis – Innovated Technology For Charcoal Production’, Akhmal’s project involved the production of Biochar from industrial residues or other Biomass Energy sources using Pyrolysis Technology.
“As you know, Superb programme is a programme which provides initial capital to start up new and innovative businesses for Bumiputera youth who have new innovative business ideas which could be introduced or even be a hit in today’s market.
“I believed that I have a few new and innovative business ideas that I can bet on in the Superb programme.
“For that programme, I offered Superb my latest innovation, ‘Biochar Pyrolysis’ – Innovated Technology For Charcoal Production,” Akhmal said to BizHive Weekly.
Biochar Pyrolysis, he explained, is a technology that will improve and reduce the production cost of producing charcoal to as much as 60 per cent of the current cost using the traditional technology, a method which is still widely used by charcoal producers in Malaysia.
“The pyrolysis system that we adopted for the charcoal production will also produce better and cleaner charcoal compared to the traditional method,” he said, adding that the system is also environmental friendly as there is no smoke produced in the process.
Akhmal believes charcoal production will be more cost efferctive with better quality products while at the same time, the industry will be a green industry for the country if all charcoal producers adopted his technology.
On the progress and development of Biochar Pyrolysis, Akhmal shared that they have just completed their design and planning stage.
“We have rented a factory in Sejingkat Industrial Area for our future operation,” he enthused. “We will very soon start fabricating our own design (of) relevent machineries.”
With the funding from Superb, Akhmal is confident that they will surely be able to have a modern charcoal production factory capable of producing various types of charcoal/biochar products in the range of 10 metric tonnes (mt) per day.
“We hope to go further downstream, producing activated carbon and carbon-related products in the future,” he added.
Akhmal had advice to impart on those aspiring entrepreneurs looking to join the Superb programmes which is simply to “understand and know your product well.”
At the same time, participants are also advised to expand their knowledge base, gathering more information from whatever relevant resources they can think of.
As for those who believe that Akhmal can be of help to them and would like for him share his experience in Superb with them, he stresses that he is willing to do so and is always available to them in that regard."

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Biochar and urban trees

The following link leads to my post to ABE website on a new article published by The Biochar Journal. The article is focused on temperate climate urban planting in Sweden but I think it is still highly relevant to urban tree planting in the tropics.
Click above to link:

Malaysia has some experience with urban biochar planting which has been highlighted in the past...

Singapore also has a strong history in urban tree research...

If you have any other stories related to urban biochar applications in the SEA region, then please get in touch. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Thinking big about haze in Thailand

Michael Shafer, director of the Warm Heart Foundation offers some thoughtful comments on Thailand's version of the regional haze issue. I cut the following comments related to biochar from the article published by 'The Nation' newspaper. The full article is available here.

CP are The Charoen Pokphand Group

"...What might such a solution look like?

The problem is hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste corn stalk that farmers have no option but to burn in order to clear their fields for the next crop. CP can teach farmers how to turn their corn stalk into a valuable product: biochar. Biochar, a pure form of charcoal, is made using a process called "pyrolysis" that produces no smoke, no black carbon, and virtually no greenhouse gases. The production of biochar is also carbon-negative, meaning that it removes CO2 from the atmosphere, reversing global warming.

To encourage farmers to make biochar, CP can include the purchase of the biochar made from contract corn stalks in the same contracts as for the purchase of corn kernel.

CP also owns large pig farms where it has manure management problems. Biochar is an excellent absorbent, capable of absorbing huge quantities of pig urine. It also dramatically reduces smells by adsorbing the ammonia and other noxious gases produced by pig urine and manure that make it smell so foul. Conveniently, mixing biochar with pig urine and manure creates a very effective organic fertiliser.

At the start of a growing season CP can distribute the biochar fertiliser to farmers in lieu of distributing synthetic fertiliser as they often do now. The reduction in synthetic fertiliser costs will fund biochar purchases, while the biochar fertiliser will improve farmers' soils and yields because it provides many more benefits than synthetics, including the capacity to retain water. Biochar fertilisers have the added benefit that biochar "locks up" pesticides in the soil. This reduces the risk of toxins entering the food chain and reduces the amount of toxic run-off from fields.

Taking such a "life-cycle" approach - from field waste and manure to fertiliser and feed - CP joins the ranks of a corporate elite, companies that make environmental sustainability part of the way they do business, and distinguishes itself from the majority of companies that talk about the environment without making it part of business operations. Such public relations is literally priceless, because it cannot be bought, but will serve CP well as it deals with consumer pressure groups in Europe.

If CP offers such a solution to the "corn crisis", it secures all five of the values we seek to protect. Farmers continue to get corn contracts and now get contracts for biochar made from their corn waste. Public health improves because every tonne of corn waste that is "pyrolysed" keeps six kilograms of smoke from being released into the air. The economy of the North gets a boost because the poor have more money in their pockets which, being poor, they spend immediately. The Thai economy can continue to grow as consumers do not face higher meat prices, chicken exports do not fall, and thousands of jobs and billions of baht of economic activity do not move to Myanmar. Thailand sharply reduces its national carbon footprint as the reduction in field burning cuts black carbon releases and the rise in biochar production cuts GHG emissions and sequesters three tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of biochar produced.

Michael Shafer is director of the Warm Heart Foundation based in A Phrao, Chiang Mai.

There is a overlapping story here for the annual haze issues emanating from forestry and plantation activity in Indonesia (some of it controlled by Malaysian & Singaporean interests). Check out 13 previous posts on the haze issue and its solutions here.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Mine tailing land restoration

How compost and cattle are restoring Coal Basin

This article may provide guidance on restoring damaged mining areas in our region.

Orion Magazine | Dirt First

Orion Magazine | Dirt First: Nurturing the busy life of soil is both a key to sustainable food production and a tool to turn back climate change.

This is a great read if you are into soil... not a comfortable read if you are a chemical farming advocate.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Pro-Natura newsletter
This Newsletter includes a table that lists 6 scientific publications on biochar impact on tropical crops in SEA region. Crops covered rice, cabbage, peanuts and cassava.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

More media coverage on WarmHeart Haze solution

Biochar: a profitable solution to Thailand’s haze problem

... "Why not develop a solution to the haze problem that turns waste corn stalks into a valuable product?

This is what Theerasak Charassrivisist, director of the Chiang Mai Provincial Energy Office, is doing. Theerasak is teaching farmers how to turn their corn stalk and corncob into "biochar" - a pure form of charcoal - using do-it-yourself technology. "Pyrolysed" corn waste produces no smoke, no particulates, almost no greenhouse gases and actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere." ...

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Warm Heart shows a new way forward on haze issues

Could this be a pointer to wider solutions for haze in Indonesia? When plantations and commercial agriculture recognize the value the carbon in waste biomass then we may have found an economic, social and environmentally acceptable solution.

Some earlier posts on this...

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Version 2.0 of TLUD history

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul Anderson [biochar]
Date: 18 February 2016 at 14:39
Subject: [biochar] Version 2.0 of TLUD history is available
To: Stoves and biofuels network , ""

Dear all who are interested in TLUD stoves or their ability to make char,

The History of TLUD stoves documentation has been expanded and released as Version 2.0. The document now has over 30 photos / figures, and a much expanded bibliography. Be sure to see the Box (Figure 22 on page 22) that defines and names 24 "TLUD Pyroneers".

It is lengthy at 38 pages so that the historical details are well recorded for future generations. You can pick and choose the historical periods of interest, but do be sure to at least skim quickly the beginning and concluding pages that have comments on the current and future prospects for TLUD micro-gasification.

This link will always take you to the most recent version of the document. (earlier versions are still available at the Dr TLUD website with specific addresses).

-- Doc / Dr TLUD / Prof. Paul S. Anderson, PhD Email: Skype: paultlud Phone: +1-309-452-7072 Website: