The “Biochar for the People” project turns waste wood into valuable biochar, and uses it as a soil additive.
The project was planned in response to the combined challenge of intolerable atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations, burning and/or landfilling waste wood, and the decline of Israel’s agricultural soils health and productivity. Wood turns into coal through a process call “pyrolysis” which essentially means “thermal breakdown”.
Production and burying of biochar is a critical strategy for reducing global GHG concentrations since it “locks-up” atmospheric carbon in a stabilized form. Israel sees the production of ca. 1,100,000 tons of wood waste from agricultural residues, municipal yard clippings and JNF forests – every year! Most of these residues are burnt openly or landfilled causing air pollution and adding GHG to the problem. This is a game-changing solution in civilization’s attempt to tackle climate-change, and its about time we start returning carbon where it belong – deep under the Holy land.
Our ancestors knew how to char organic residues and bury them with animal refuse to fertilize their fields. The advent of chemical fertilizers has erased this ancient practice. Modern science shows that biochar changes the chemical and physical soil structure, boosts water retention and beneficial microbial activity, and improves overall plant health. The “Biochar for the People” project aims to renew this old agricultural tool, and to improve production and implementation using modern technology.
Our pilot and demo plant “Lahavior 1” operates within the “Ayanot” agricultural boarding school near Nes-Tziona. It can turn two cubic meters of waste-wood into one cubic meter of biochar every day. The product is an excellent soil additive, and it sequesters 1.5 tons of GHG in a very stable for years to come. We are testing various waste feedstocks, trying out various pyrolysis methods, and improving ways to process feedstocks and products. We’re looking at process air pollution and at the value of the co-products: wood vinegar and tar.
During the next phase, we plan to promote using biochar as a soil additive in Israel, and to enhance our production capacity with a continuous pyrolyzer. We hope to sell biochar to the gardening and greenhouse industries, and involve biochar in the national effort to clean-up contaminated soil. At this stage, we do not plan wide-scale implementation in open agricultural soil.
The project is working closely with Dr. Ellen Graber from Volcani Institute’s Soil and Water Dept. We thank Dr. Graber for supporting us with knowledge and Good Energy.