Researchers at Iowa State University looking into ways to make biodiesel more profitable have found a way for farmers to cash in on biochar, a charcoal-like substance used as a carbon sequestering resource. This article from the school says ISU students Bernardo Del Campo, Juan Proano and Matthew Kieffer are expanding their horizons and have picked up a U.S. Department of Energy for $150,000 to help make the idea a reality.
“In the beginning, it was biodiesel and consulting. It was playing around as a club figuring out ‘How do we do biodiesel? How do we help the farmer?’ Proano said. “In that phase, we figured out that Biochar could be a good addition in order to improve the health of the soils on a farm.”
As the group began looking at the idea of making a profit with the research they had done, it became apparent that a change needed to be made.
“People have been doing this pretreatment for some time, but we did it [for] pennies. It was a really reduced budget.” Proano said.
From there, the company began working with around 20 individuals from many different backgrounds and ethnicities to make different products from another bio-renewable resource, Biochar.
The article goes on to explain that biochar starts as sawdust, and through biomass pyrolysis, the sawdust is turned into the biochar, which acts like a sponge to help clean up farm chemicals from streams and rivers while also enriching the soil.