Funding for Biochar Scale-Up

von Kathleen Draper

It will come as no surprise to those in the biochar industry that funding to help scale-up biochar has been hard to come by. With few exceptions, most commercial biochar endeavors have been funded by individuals coupled with woefully inadequate grant funding mostly for academic biochar research.

Given that the increasingly extreme climate situation is destabilizing food production, exacerbating supply chain risk and triggering more frequent and powerful natural disasters, there are a growing number of funding sources and mechanisms focusing on programs that provide solutions to economic development, climate change and social impacts. As biochar can help in each of these realms, biochar projects could be in a unique position to tap into these new funding opportunities, but it may require a change in focus on how the benefits of biochar are communicated.

Now that low cost farm-scale production of biochar has been demonstrated and a growing body of field research shows that nutrient enriched biochar can effectively be used in lieu of more expensive fossil fuel fertilizers, the economic benefits of biochar production and use for farmers in the developing world are compelling. Biochar can also be effectively used to recycle waste nutrients from animal farming and food processing (soaking up otherwise unused or discarded liquids which are rich in nutrients) and to produce organic fertilizers. Replacing abundantly used chemical fertilizers with organic biochar based fertilizers not only reduces a significant portion of farming costs in the developing world but also improves water quality and decreases the climate impact of agriculture in the developing and developed world alike.

The use of biochar in tree planting can improve tree survival rates making it possible to reforest more severely degraded, or remote and abandoned land thereby increasing carbon capture from the atmosphere all the while rebuilding soil. The inclusion of biochar into development projects can further provide important social impacts including improved health from reduced air pollution caused by uncontrolled burning of crop residues or invasive species, better drinking water quality through the use of biochar for filtration, and soils that are more resilient during times of drought or torrential rains. It is this unique combination of benefits, this holistic ecosystem approach which embeds biochar into agroforestry and climate farming projects - instead of the more common singular focus on standalone biochar projects - that should become increasingly attractive to funders that have a broad range of motivations for funding social and ecological impact initiatives.

comments

  • Luca A. Schueli,
    01.12.2015 08:14

    funding for biochar projects

    Dear Kathleen, I am surprised that there is no way of sharing your and all interesting tBJ articles on facebook, twitter, mail etc. Also crowd-funding may be a good way of promoting smaller biochar projects. I'm 69, but I have recently learned that this is the way to get the younger generations interested. Thank you Luca (www.ra-biochar.com)

  • Michael Levinsohn,
    01.12.2015 15:10

    Biochar investment

    There is no doubt that capital will gravitate towards funding viable biochar projects. We, as an industry, need to engage with professional bankers and advisers who have the track record and expertise to raise meaningful capital. Wealthy investors won't back what they perceive to be poorly thought through projects. We need scale, proof of concept and high profile validation. Then the capital will flow.

  • Kathleen,
    01.12.2015 16:37

    Biochar Journal in Social Media

    Hi Luca - thanks for your comment! Crowdfunding is a great suggestion and one which we may start to explore in the near future. I just wanted to let you know we have a small but growing social media portfolio which we curate as time allows. We have a Facebook page for the Biochar Journal (https://www.facebook.com/theBiocharJournal/) where we post articles and notifications about biochar workshops that folks are hosting around the world. We have a separate Facebook page for the Ithaka Institute (https://www.facebook.com/The-Ithaka-Institute-841329789249882/) where we put additional details about some of our projects. We also have a Pinterest Board under the Ithaka Institute name (https://www.pinterest.com/ithakainstitute/) that has pictures of the growing Kon-Tiki presence around the world plus additional photos from some of our projects. We have a Twitter account for the Biochar Journal and always appreciate new follows and retweets! Please keep us posted on your research with the Ra kiln and salt water - I'm very interested in the results!! Kathleen

    PS.: And thanks for reminding us to set-up the buttons that makes it easy for our readers to recommend individual articles on Social Media. We will do so!

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