Innovation That Matters

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Can we turn waste into soil superfood?


The process fertilises soil, increasing crop yield while sequestering carbon

Spotted: A recent study into the global potential of biochar as a carbon sequestration tool identified agricultural waste as an important source of organic materials. One of the co-lead authors, Dominic Woolf, a senior research associate at Cornell University, specified that: “Making biochar from crop residues is one of the few tools we have that can do this at scale without competing for land.” 

Biochar is charcoal made by heating organic waste and is a superfood for soil. Rather than leave organic waste to rot or have it burned, which pollutes the air through the release of methane and carbon dioxide, the materials can instead be used to make biochar. When added to soil, biochar adds minerals and nutrients while sequestering carbon dioxide for hundreds of years. 

In Africa, smallholder farmers are some of the most vulnerable to climate change and many are already facing intense soil degradation and shrinking harvests. In Kenya, climate technology company Bio-Logical is building a circular economy that provides more income for smallholder farmers, improves the health of their soil, and sequesters carbon. All through the creation of biochar. 

Bio-Logical is focusing its work on smallholding farms because while the farmers have contributed very little to global warming, they are fighting against some of the most devastating climate change. The company uses agricultural waste gathered by the farmers to create biochar, which is then incorporated into an organic fertiliser that regenerates unhealthy soil. As soil health improves, farmers should begin experiencing increases in yield, raising their income and producing more organic waste that’s then available for reuse in the biochar production facility. 

Having recently raised $1 million (around €927,000) in a round of seed funding, Bio-Logical will begin building its first industrial-scale biochar production facility near Mount Kenya. The plant will be able to handle more than 30,000 tonnes of agricultural waste, and in doing so, will sequester up to 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in a year. The company plans to offer carbon credits to other organisations through its biochar production process. 

Using coffee waste and rock powder from mining operations are two other means of naturally enriching agricultural soil that Springwise has featured in its library of innovations.

Written By: Keely Khoury


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