Mobile ‘biochar’ machine to work the fields

An ancient technique to fertilize soil by creating charcoal from plant waste is being revived to tackle some of today’s environmental problems.

The latest company to pursue manmade charcoal, called biochar, is Biochar Systems, which has developed a biochar-making machine that can be pulled by a pickup truck. Two customers–a North Carolina farm and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management–will be begin testing the units this fall.

The unit, called the Biochar 1000, is designed to convert woody biomass, such as agricultural or forestry waste, into biochar, a black, porous, and fine-grained charcoal that can be used as a fertilizer. It uses pyrolysis–slowly burning biomass in a low-oxygen chamber–to treat 1,000 pounds of biomass per hour, yielding 250 pounds of biochar.

The Biochar 1000 converts agricultural wastes to charcoal, which is then added to soil, a process that enriches soil and removes carbon from air.

(Credit: EcoTechnologies Group)
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