Mobile ‘biochar’ machine to work the fields | Green Tech – CNET News

Mobile ‘biochar’ machine to work the fields

by Martin LaMonica

An ancient technique to fertilize soil by creating charcoal from plant waste is being revived to tackle some of today’s environmental problems.

The latest company to pursue manmade charcoal, called biochar, is Biochar Systems, which has developed a biochar-making machine that can be pulled by a pickup truck. Two customers–a North Carolina farm and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management–will be begin testing the units this fall.

The unit, called the Biochar 1000, is designed to convert woody biomass, such as agricultural or forestry waste, into biochar, a black, porous, and fine-grained charcoal that can be used as a fertilizer. It uses pyrolysis–slowly burning biomass in a low-oxygen chamber–to treat 1,000 pounds of biomass per hour, yielding 250 pounds of biochar.

The Biochar 1000 converts agricultural wastes to charcoal, which is then added to soil, a process that enriches soil and removes carbon from air. (Credit: EcoTechnologies Group)
The Biochar 1000 converts agricultural wastes to charcoal, which is then added to soil, a process that enriches soil and removes carbon from air. (Credit: EcoTechnologies Group)

There still isn’t a well established market for selling biochar, but there’s growing interest among researchers in the process as a way to cut greenhouse gas concentrations. The United Nations has proposed classifying biochar as a carbon credit for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

LETTERS for August 20 issue –


I would like to express my gratitude to those who took time off from work and family to attend the Maui Planning Commission’s Maui Island Plan meeting at Lahaina Civic Center. However, I am once again disappointed by the Planning Commission’s lack of planning regarding community involvement.

This meeting was not announced in the Lahaina News at all, and did not appear in The Maui News until the Sunday edition. A Sunday announcement for a meeting on a Tuesday is not enough notice, and 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon on the second day of school adds still further insult to the injury.

Correct me if I am wrong, but to replace agriculture in West Maui is a decision that will drastically change the lives of everyone who lives, works or plays in West Maui. Furthermore, it is my impression that the man on the street does not fully understand the impact of what he is signing off on by not attending.

As a member of the West Maui community, I would like to set up another meeting. Not one organized by the Planning Commission or special interests, but one organized by the residents and for the residents who will be affected most. This will be a meeting to formulate a plan for the next step in this process: the County Council’s deliberations on the proposed Maui Island Plan. If you would like to be involved, call me at 385-1649 or e-mail

If you feel that you are being bypassed, you are not alone.

RAMON K. MADDEN, Honokowai

LETTERS for August 20 issue – | News, Information, Lahaina and Western Maui, Hawaii — Lahaina News > Business > Kauai Business > Path to sustainability

Hanalei Click for Larger Image
Hanalei         Click for Larger Image        
Kaua‘i  now imports approximately 90% of its daily food. This situation renders us vulnerable to interruptions in shipping, rising fuel costs and an increasing scarcity of certain foods in the face of rising world population. Some experts claim that the demand for food has already exceeded the supply. These conditions invite predictions of serious food shortages for our island at the same time that profits from our food expenditures are going to off-island suppliers rather than strengthening our local economy.

On the average the entire State only produces somewhere between 4.4 to 5.8 percent of our food supply. Specialists at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agricultural have pointed out that if we doubled our production of local food we would be avoiding $120 million in imports and creating more than 3,000 jobs. Farm related business income would increase, they predict, by about $64 million, and of course, other economic benefits would occur.  Similar estimates regarding the benefits of increasing local food production have been suggested by Governor Lingle and also by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. > Business > Kauai Business > Path to sustainability

Sustainably Engineered Organic

There is a place for GMO. Check out this article from the “Wired Blog.” It makes a very lucid argument for the necessity of genetically engineered crops in sustainable agriculture. 

Sustainably Engineered Organic

  • By Bruce Sterling
  • July 30, 2009  

…checklist for truly sustainable agriculture in a global context. It must:

Provide abundant safe and nutritious food…. Reduce environmentally harmful inputs…. Reduce energy use and greenhouse gases…. Foster soil fertility…. Enhance crop genetic diversity…. Maintain the economic viability of farming communities…. Protect biodiversity…. and improve the lives of the poor and malnourished. (He pointed out that 24,000 a day die of malnutrition worldwide, and about 1 billion are undernourished.)

…But organic has limitations, he said. There are some pests, diseases, and stresses it can’t handle. Its yield ranges from 45% to 97% of conventional ag yield. It is often too expensive for low-income customers. At present it is a niche player in US agriculture, representing only 3.5%, with a slow growth rate suggesting it will always be a niche player.

Genetically engineered crops could carry organic farming much further toward fulfilling all the goals of sustainable agriculture, Raoul said, but it was prohibited as a technique for organic farmers in the standards and regulations set by the federal government in 2000.

Buying Farm Land on Kauai

Buying Farm Land on Kauai | Hawaii Life

How many of us haven’t at some time entertained the idea (except those who have already done so!) of running off to Kauai, buying a few acres, and “living off the land”. A potent fantasy indeed, and for the past several years, one realized only by those with considerably deep pockets – vacant agricultural land on Kauai has recently ranged from $100,000 to well over $300,000 per acre (depending on location, views, caliber of neighborhood, etc…); land with a house already on it, obviously, even more.

The recent economic travails, however, are certainly doing their part to bring farming on Kauai back from the realm of fantasy into something verging on do-able for a lot more of us. And as well, these travails are providing motivation – more and more of us just want to chuck everything and revert to a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle.

Acreage on the Big Island has always been more affordable – for one thing, there’s a whole lot more of it; for another, it comes with active lava zones, limited infrastructure, long travel distances, etc… Kauai is like a precious green jewel-box in comparison – much smaller, more accessible, more groomed. The soil is older, the distances smaller, the beaches closer. And it has been much, much more expensive.

Decisions made with sustainability in mind

The Hot Seat
The Honolulu Advertiser

From politicians to newsmakers to everyday people in the news ? Editorial and Opinion Editor Jeanne Mariani-Belding puts them in the Hot Seat, and lets you ask the questions. So get ready. Let the conversation begin.
Reach Jeanne at

Posted on: July 30, 2007 at 12:02:58 pm

Now on the Hot Seat: Maui Land & Pineapple Co.?s CEO David Cole

Welcome to The Hot Seat! Joining me today is Maui Land & Pineapple Co.?s chairman, president and CEO David Cole.

The closure Maui Land and Pineapple?s canning operation in June marked the end of an era; it was the last canning operation of its kind in the United States. And, as David notes in his commentary in Sunday?s Advertiser, it was also a rite a passage for so many of us here in Hawaii.

David joins us live and will take your questions on his company and the future of agriculture in Hawaii.

With that, let?s chat.

[first question]

Christopher: Can you please explain why Maui Land and Pineapple continues to be a member of the LURF Foundation? Maui Land and Pineapple purports to hold the values of “malama ‘aina, ecology and creating holistic communities.”

With these guiding principles, I have difficulty seeing the association with LURF, which has quietly lobbied against most of the grassroots sustainability issues that have ever come up.

Perhaps with your company’s leadership, you could take LURF in a more modern 21st-century direction?

David Cole: The Land Use Research Foundation has been around since the late ’70s. In recent years, LURF’s focus has become more development-related, although the organization also works with other organizations, such as the Urban Land Institute, Hawai’i Economic Association and the Hawai’i Farm Bureau Federation. One of the goals of LURF is to protect the rights of landowners who are also developers.

As we understand it, LURF has not lobbied, quietly or otherwise, against sustainability issues. In fact, LURF Executive Director David Arakawa has taken a position that is very supportive of sustainability initiatives.

If this not the case, perhaps we should be more engaged in a leadership mode and concentrate more effort another organization?

[last question]

IslandBiz: Aloha, David. I want to say thanks for doing the Hot Seat and talking story with us. I read the article on you recently in Hawaii Business.

Tell us one thing about you that has not been written about that might be surprising, something that would give insight into what kind of a guy you are. Make it a good one!

David Cole: Greetings Islandbiz. My campaign poster for VP of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii (ASUH) back in the 70’s showed me naked on horseback with the slogan “nothing to hide.”

There you have it!!

CLICK HERE to view the full “Hot Seat” conversation

Warming signs seen stressing state’s growth

UH Ag dean says many faculty recruits feel Hawaii has exceeded its carrying capacity
By Helen Altonn
Hawaii will be “the canary” that alerts the rest of the world to the damaging effects of climate changes, says Andrew Hashimoto, dean and director of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

“If not the canary, it will be one of the canaries,” he said in a recent interview, referring to canaries used in the early days of mining to detect dangerous gases.

Hawaii is most susceptible to rising seas and other effects of global warming because it is a remote island state, Hashimoto said.

Read the entire article

Copyright ? 2007 All rights reserved.