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January 2018 IBI Newsletter

Tue, 01/30/2018
Brian Schorr

- IBI Newsletter: Robert Gillett

Recap of this Month's News

In this month's newsletter, there are many entries of news, ideas and trends that you won't want to miss, including:

  • A newly appointed IBI Board Member and an opportunity to become one
  • IBI corporate/organizational membership doubles in 2017!
  • A Mediterranean project involving several countries
  • The importance of biochar to tea growers
  • Solar-powered pyrolysis becoming mainstream
  • A peek into some of the latest biochar research
  • IBI new website preview / advertising opportunity

Biochar-related stories sometimes do miss our attention if they are not prominent on the world wide web or do not explicitly refer to "biochar".  If you would like to share such news with the thousands around the world who receive this newsletter, please email me a lead, link, or paragraph.  Useful and concise compositions with links to more details may be given a byline.

- IBI Newsletter Editor, Robert Gillett

Biochar related jobs, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities

The Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa in Moab, Utah is looking for an experienced Organic Gardener/Permaculturalist for March to November seasonal employment.  They are increasing their biochar production this season.

Non-profit Sustainable Claremont (California) is contracting a full-time Biochar Researcher under a ReLeaf/Cal Fire grant to study the effect of biochar using 100 trees in an urban forest to be planted with biochar and under control conditions.

Rourke Farms Ltd. - Minto, Manitoba, is putting together a group of new enterprises to transition their 4,300 acres to regenerative farming, including biochar production, and is looking for a full-time major partner.

News of the Initiative

The IBI Board is very pleased to welcome Suzanne Allaire, from Quebec, Canada to the Board of Directors for a three-year term.  Suzanne brings more than 25 years of experience in research and product development in the fields of environmental protection and biomass management.  Her consulting company, GECA Environnement, actively collaborates with private industry and governments on residue management, soil, and water quality projects.  She focuses on improving the value of residues for sustainable development, mostly through pyrolysis/biochar projects.

Prior to leading GECA Suzanne was a full professor at Laval University for 16 years.  Before working at Laval University, she worked in the US for several years including at the NCAR in Boulder, CO, and at the US Salinity Laboratory (USDA-ARS) in Riverside, CA.

From the Chair

2017 was a productive year for biochar with growth in China, North America, and Europe and important research on biochar for land restoration and soil health in Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Latin America.  IBI has added several organizations and professionals in agronomy, soils and ecosystem development.  We have doubled the number of businesses and organizations, and expanded representation around the world.  We have hosted meetings for the newly formed African Biochar Initiative and are exploring ways to expand biochar use to improve soil health and productivity in Africa.

We welcome Dr. Suzanne Allaire as a new board member and we thank Dr. Annette Cowie for her years of contribution to IBI in research and as a board member.  We look forward to her continued support especially in soil health and land degradation neutrality.

IBI continues to promote biochar through networking, education and demonstration.  IBI will participate in several conferences and commercial shows this year as funds are available.  The successful 2017 Stockholm study tour has encouraged us to plan similar events this year in Austria, China and Nepal.  Dr. Ellen Graber has formed an all-star science committee which will begin to review IBI information, Education committee co-chairs, Dr. Stephen joseph and Dr. Fabiana Rezende will be revising our educational materials.  IBI webinars have been popular and will restart in February with Forestry and Biochar.

IBI is a member supported organization.  We rely on support from agronomists, soil scientists and professionals of all kinds as well as business, agencies and organizations working together to explore the potential of biochar for soil health and climate resilience.  We will be launching a new website to make information more useful and accessible.  Our volunteers need your support.  Join IBI and contribute to our mission.

- Tom Miles

Wanted - Storyteller

Can you tell potential donors the IBI story to help grow the organization?  IBI is looking to appoint an experienced Board Member (at large) that is interested in spearheading its fundraising efforts.  For those interested in this volunteer position, please send a letter of interest as well as an outline of relevant experience to

New and Renewing IBI Corporate Members

Note: bios below were provided by members (or from websites) and not authored by IBI

RENEWING BUSINESS MEMBER: T.R. MILES TECHNICAL CONSULTANTS, INC. provides technical assistance primarily to industry for complete system design, product, and process development for the wood, food, agricultural and energy industries throughout the world.  Projects include harvesting and processing of field crops and residues; harvesting and processing of forest residues and urban wood; boilers, combustion, carbonization and gasification; organic recycling, composting and manure management.

Their special expertise is the development of energy conversion and materials handling systems for wood, crop residues, and food processing residues.  They have unique experience in the transformation of ash in wood, straws, stalks, and manures.  They design systems for densification, carbonization, gasification, power generation, and residue and nutrient management with a special interest in biochar.

They have sponsored and hosted internet discussions on biomass energy and biochar since 1994, including anaerobic digestion, gasification, improved cooking stoves, a biochar website and a biochar discussion list since 2006.  Tom Miles is Chairman of the IBI, the US Biochar Initiative, and a coordinator of the Pacific Northwest Biochar Working Group.  For more information, see

RENEWING BUSINESS MEMBER: Advanced Resilient Technology Ltd. (ART) is an international technology development company headquartered in the Isle of Man.  We are developing resilient solutions that use biomass (nontoxic organic waste) to generate energy in the form of electricity and heat, as well as Biochar, activated carbon, and other valuable by-products.  Using time-honored technology in combination with our proprietary technology for advanced, high-efficiency engines and other equipment, we thermally convert biomass from a wide range of waste sources.

ART systems provide local solutions utilizing waste to generate clean energy, support sustainable economies, and restore environmental habitat - including offering carbon sequestration.  ART 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, ART reclaims organic wastes by generating energy (electricity and heat) and Biochar.

By transforming waste streams that otherwise are deposited in landfills or released into waterways, ART systems significantly reduce vast quantities of unusable waste transforming them into usable products for local energy needs and industrial processes.


RENEWING BUSINESS MEMBER: CAMPOS VERDES is a Franco-Brazillian company belonging to the SLB Group.  Based in southern Brazil, the company Campos Verdes is developing a high-quality biochar product.  The biochar feedstock is FSC certified wood, entirely harvested from afforestation projects.  The SLB Group develops partnerships with the Federal University of Parana (Brazil) and Embrapa (Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation, a state-owned research affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply).

The company began operations in January 2015, and its commercial plant will be active in 2016, with a production target of 500 tons/year of biochar.  For more information, please contact: or see

Regional Updates


FERTICHAR is a project led by Camelia Ghimbeu, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, partnering with teams from RITTMO AGroenvironnement, France; Universidad de Burgos, Spain; Hellenic agricultural organization, Greece; and the Water research and technologies center, Tunisia.  Integrating the processing chain to impregnate olive mill waste on sawdust, followed by pyrolysis to produce bio-fuel and biochar, this demonstration project will also address socio-economic aspects of the changes involving farmers, farmer associations and local/regional actors, leveraging international initiatives, pan-European and North American networks.

Having completed full-scale development, if they can find an investment partner, Terra Humana, Ltd. led by long-time IBI Member Edward Soméus, plans to construct a 12,500 t/y (output) bone char plant in Hungary in the coming year.

German pyrolysis equipment suppliers Biomacon and Pyreg are developing scaled up production equipment which should make their systems more economical.  Their pyrolysis systems are now used in several countries.

United States

U.S. biochar producers report increased production in 2017 with more carbon products offered in retail garden, turf, tree, landscape, orchard, vineyard, storm water and water treatment markets.  Suppliers are improving product consistency and quality and expanding distribution.  Suppliers may increase as the biomass energy industry takes greater interest in making biochar.

The U.S. Biochar Initiative is preparing for Biochar 2018, August 20-23, in Wilmington, Delaware.  Keynote speakers will include Dr. David Montgomery, who's most recent book is Growing a Revolution: Bringing our Soil Back to Life, and Dr. Genxing Pan, director of IBI Asia Center at Nanjing Agricultural University who will describe biochar production and use in China including biochar from manures and biosolids.  The U.S. Forest Service will host a panel on biochar in forestry.  Speakers from cosponsors EPA and Water Environment Federation will describe how biochar can help soils in watersheds.  Abstracts are due by March 1.  Register and submit your abstract now.

The U.S. Biochar Initiative is collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service to prepare and present information to provide educational materials, outreach and technical assistance to biochar producers and consumers, especially where forest residues can reduce fire hazard and benefit agriculture.  Outreach events are scheduled throughout the year.  With USFS support, USBI is collaborating with Ithaka Institute, Dovetail Associates, and the Watershed Training Center to survey biochar producers and consumers.

Heather Norbert of the Nebraska Forest Service and Dave Bruton Kansas Forest Service have launched the Great Plains Biochar Initiative with support from the U.S. Forest Service.  Grants are available for biochar projects.

Appalachian State University's Sustainable Technology and The Built Environment program has been awarded a $98,599 grant by the North Carolina Bioenergy Research Initiative for a project titled "Biochar with Anaerobic Digestion: Enhancing Crops".  This study will investigate the viability of biochar combined with anaerobic digestion to enhance biogas production and improve soil quality to increase bioenergy and vegetable crop yields on marginal lands.

Small-scale production need not prevent biochar makers from becoming entrepreneurs.  One neat idea for boutique biochar comes from Oakland, California-based Back to the Roots in their "Garden in a Can".  Gardeners could also apply the same approach to seed starting, saving them the trouble of drain holes and drip trays.  View a demonstration of biochar's water-holding capability in this quick video by Wakefield Biochar.  (Raw biochar is hydrophobic but becomes hydrophilic after a little rinsing.)

Southern Asia

India's first "earn while you cook" microenterprise would appreciate support from the larger biochar community, asking us to watch this excellent video introducing the Charglo campaign which runs through 15 February.  Boxes of their biochar-based detox products are priced at $45 and $55 US.  Additional details on products and the campaign are available on the EYC Manimuthar blog.  Bulk buyers may wish to correspond with Sujatha Srinivasan directly.

The tea industry in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) has struggled in recent decades while plantation soils have suffered degradation.  A sustainable solution to growing the nutritionally demanding tea bush is gaining ground in the island country.  Rather than import fertilizer, Sri Lankan tea growers are adopting biochar as an economical long-term soil builder thanks to the efforts of IBI Member Dr. R.S. Dharmakeerthi and several other more recent Sri Lankan researchers.

South America

Brazilian biochar consumers, producers and researchers should contact Fabiana Abreu de Rezende, IBI board member and researcher at EMBRAPA, Sinop, to find ways to share regional experiences and provide outreach and assistance to farmers using biochar.  Fabiana conducted a successful workshop on biochar and humic substances in 2017.


The University of Calgary was granted $314,500 from the federally run Western Economic Diversification Canada to create an outdoor validation facility for demonstrating solar bio-technology that will produce renewable gas, renewable plastic, biochar and electricity.


Inventor and entrepreneur Hassan El Hemer is in discussion with PEPS (Pour Et Par le Soleil) to scale up biochar production in Morocco with solar pyrolysis.

At climate and environment meetings regional organizations life African Development Banks and the Biochar Initiative of Nigeria have been discussing ways in which biochar and climate smart agriculture can benefit African countries.  One example is the production of biochar-based soil conditioners through co-composting biochar and organic residue.  This option is discussed for various crops in a recent study on Ethiopia by Cornell University for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

A farm in South Africa reports drought resistance and improved yields on 1,000 ha from adding (20%) biochar-lime pellets when no-till seeding corn and soybeans, compared with neighboring farms which applied lime only.  Biochar as a coproduct of heating systems is also being used in animal bedding and feed.  With drought reaching crisis levels, South African farmers need new sources of biochar enhanced products for use in no-till and Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA).

Australia and The Pacific

The Philippines is one of the leading countries with a federal program supporting a green economy.  Launched in April 2017, the Biochar Community Enterprise Project is one of the components of the Green Economy Model.  The program is run by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), now under the leadership of Gen. Roy Agullana Cimatu.

Many tropical islands and littorals can use excess coconut husk and fronds to make biochar.  IBI Advisory Committee member Josiah Hunt has provided a pictorial on his low-tech method along with suggestions for how to use the product.

Biochar Webinar Series

On Monday, February 26th, 1-2:30 pm EST we will broadcast a webinar on Forestry Management and Biochar.  We will have three speakers from the U.S. Forest Service: Debbie Page-Dumrose, Nate Anderson & Ted Bilek.  More details to follow in an email to members or check our Webinar Series page as the date nears.

Previous webinars are accessible to IBI members for free via the Members' Only page a few days after the Webinars take place.  Non-members who would like access to previous webinars may pay a fee of $40 per webinar or can join IBI as a member and have full access to all historical webinars.  Further information is available on our Webinar Series page.

Boost Your Biochar Business (on IBI's new website - in development!)

Have you been looking for a unique way to make people who are interested in biochar aware of your business and support the international organization that supports biochar development at the same time?  IBI is rebuilding its website for a launch in mid-March and we've made some space available on the home page and throughout the site to feature your advertisement!  Only a few spots are available, so sign up now for prime real estate on IBI's new website.  Options from $300-$3,500 are available.

Find out more here and sign up by contacting Brian Schorr at

Upcoming Calendar Events

3rd Gogreen Summit

March 23-24. St. Giles Classic Hotel, Manila, Philippines.  Abstract Submission Deadline: February 24

26th European Biomass Conference& Exhibition

EUBCE is a world leading event in the biomass sector, sharing the latest research results, latest developments and innovative bioenergy applications from industry and the policy context.  14-18 May 2018, Copenhagen, Denmark.

4th Korea Biochar Research Center International Biochar Conference

SMART Biochar Technology: A Shifting Paradigm Towards Advanced Materials and Healthcare Research - part of BEEM 2018, June 10-13, 2018

International Biomass Conference & Expo

April 16-18, Atlanta, Georgia.  Billed as the World's Largest Biomass Event, expected to draw nearly 1,200 attendees.  IBI has collaborated with USBI and BBI International to present a Biomass Carbonization & Torrefaction Summit pre-conference on 16 April.  IBI members and USBI sponsors will present information on biochar products and processes.

First International Conference on Negative CO2 Emissions

May 22-24, 2018. Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.  Biochar warrants top billing in this conference.  A terrific opportunity to turn some heads.





Australia New Zealand Biochar Conference (ANZBC18)

14-16 August 2018.  Southern Cross University Gold Coast Campus, Bilinga, Qld, Australia.  An Initiative of biochar producers & growers from Australia & New Zealand.






USBI Biochar 2018

August 20-23, 2018. Wilmington, Delaware.  This year's theme: "The Carbon Link in Watershed Ecosystem Services"


Biochar Study Tour

A Look Ahead to Tours Tentatively Coming in 2018
By Kathleen Draper

Based on the success of the first IBI Biochar Study Tour to Stockholm, Sweden, in 2017 IBI is tentatively planning at least 3 new study tours for 2018.  Each of these study tours will be hosted in a different country and will focus on distinct aspects of biochar production and/or uses.  Current times, locations and themes for the 2018 study tour are highlighted below.

  • Week of June 18th: Keindorf Eco-Region, Austria - Biochar production, soil amendments, livestock feed additive, carbon farming
  • October: Nanjing, China - Large scale biochar production & establishing biochar field trials (for commercial, not academic purposes)
  • November: Nepal - Funding, planting & maintaining forest gardens with biochar

As agendas are planned and dates finalized, this information will be shared.  Participation may be limited for some tours.  If you would like to pre-register (no financial commitment required) to receive future updates, please contact Kathleen Draper at

Research News

A glimpse at some of the many interesting insights from recent papers
By Robert Gillett

Here are a few notes from some of the more noteworthy papers recently published regarding biochar.  These are selected from the list of 124 papers from last month which are available on your IBI Member page.  Not an IBI member?  Access to all exclusive biochar research lists is just one more reason to join IBI and keep up with all the exciting developments.

  • One little-discussed design variable for pyrolysis plants is the choice of an inert gas.  Researchers have found that biochar produced in a CO2 atmosphere lends additional value by way of superior retention on innate N, P, and K:

    Tan, Z., Zhang, L., & Huang, Q. (2017).  A comparison of CO2, N2, and Ar to maximize plant nutrient retention in biochar.  Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy
    From the abstract: "...pyrolysis temperature (400ºC) under a CO2 atmosphere is the best biochar preparation conditions for promoting lettuce growth."

  • Eutrophic waterways might be restored by using biochar-mineral complexes.  Researchers have identified complexes that preferentially adsorb ammonium, nitrate, or phosphate in waterways:

    Yin, Q., Wang, R., Production, Z.Z.-J. of C., & 2018, Application of Mg-Al-modified biochar for simultaneous removal of ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate from eutrophic waterElsevier.

    Highlights: "Mg/BC and Al/BC were efficient to adsorb PO34¯ and NO3¯, respectively.  Mg-Al/BC was effective to remediate water with coexisting NH+4, NO¯3, and PO34¯."

  • You probably know that mycorrhizal fungi and biochar work well together to grow healthy plants.  New research has found that this combination can also simultaneously remediate Cd-contaminated soils:

    Liu, L., Li, J., Yue, F., Yan, X., Wang, F., Bloszies, S., ...2017, Effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal inoculation and biochar amendment on maize growth, cadmium uptake and soil cadmium speciation in Cd-contaminated soil.  Elsevier.
    From the abstract: "AM inoculation in combination with biochar application may be applicable not only for maize production but also for phytostabilization of Cd-contaminated soil."

  • Forests, farms, and gardens are usually considered as market sectors for biochar, but one ubiquitous land use that has been largely overlooked is highway greenways.  Biochar's stormwater mitigation capabilities have been shown to make it an excellent choice for this application:

    Imhoff, P., & Nakhli, S. (2017).  Reducing Stormwater Runoff and Pollutant Loading with Biochar Addition to Highway Greenways
    From the Abstract: "...biochar amendment to three representative roadway soils indicated that biochar amendment will improve soil hydraulic properties.  Experiments demonstrate that these effects enhance stormwater treatment, resulting in reductions in stormwater runoff volume and peak flow rate.  A cost analysis indicated that biochar is less expensive than most other best management practices."

Poster Spotting

Posters offer a quick visual and verbal synopsis of information on a topic.  While we don't include them in the list of research papers, we do not want to overlook their value and contribution.  Here are some that have recently been made available on the web:

Biochar by Don Graves:'s%20posters.pdf?dl=0

International Biochar Initiative

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