We've worked on R&D for about five years under the Biochar Project.
There are several things that are important with our biochar:
To demonstrate the benefits using biochar to improve soil fertility, we have established the Hill Of Abundance food project for 500 families here on the property.
Part of what we did was to put 10 tonnes per hectare onto a 1 ha garden. We allowed it to stay in the ground for a whole year without going through our 6M's process of amending biochar. After a year we took our soil samples in for testing, we were looking for the soluble and total nutrition across 20 samples on our 1 ha plot. The results were stunning: 13% organic matter (compared to 5% without biochar inputs). The next year, this increased to 14.1%- so there was a 1.1% jump of organic matter in one year. But the most surprising part was it jumped up 3.9% in labile carbon- this is the carbon that microbes leave behind for other microbes to eat so it's a food type carbon- this showed that in one year there was 3.9% of the labile carbon added just by these microbes- indigenous micro-organisms (IMO's)- without any prior inoculation. So we now recommend inoculating biochar with IMO's to accelerate the transformation of soil.
Research and development is the most exciting part of this biochar project for us because instead of trying to come up with just 'world firsts' we aim for “planet first”- as we're fast needing a planet B. We just need everyone on this planet to do something for the planet and she will begin rapidly healing.
We've formulated the “tea lud stumpy” a fantastic permaculture device that allows people in poorer countries to cook using less wood while making biochar as a by-product. It is fully insulated so you don't get burns and injuries from kids falling into fireplaces. It's fabulous modular device made from emptied spent gas cylinders and is now being manufactured by men's sheds in Labrador and Brisbane with the design being sent to Vanuatu and West Africa.
We held a biochar bash to bring scientists from all over the world down here to Byron Bay to get everything they know about pyrolysis. From that we created our world's first commercial Adam retort which was supposed to go into commercial biochar applications but had so many errors we realised in the beginning that sometimes other people's ideas should never be copied- one of our greatest learning's.
So we redesigned many things and invented the Moxham Burner- a TFOD (top fed open draft) kiln. This method has been proven to be absolutely lower polluting than most commercial farm scale biochar units. It's a lot of hard manual work feeding the burn but our idea is to get it as another task that you do on the farm to save yourself money and look after the environment.
We are right in the middle of the sustainable “Weeds Out Carbon In” project and it an ongoing project with the assistance of Australian government in the caring for our country program.
Bio-charring is a misunderstood science- looking only at one-time application and one-time events- whereas biochar can last for 1000 years so we figure the longer you leave biochar in the ground the better the results over 25 years, we are looking to triple the yield compared to the first year.
Black is Green makes farm and industrial scale pyrolysis. They became interested in our Moxham burner and they got together a team including a chemist and research engineer to measure one of our 24hr burns. It turned out that it rained heavily over those 24hrs, so it was the worst possible application of wet wood to a Moxham fire burning. One would have expected the maximum amount of dioxins and pollution coming from burning wet wood, but they took away all the data and made their calculations.
Their reports shows that our Moxham burner has the same pollution or emissions as a single cylinder diesel engine on idle- not bad for an $800 farm-scale burner!