Featured Member: Biochar Now

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Incorporated in November 2011, Biochar Now is a pioneer in the biochar industry with strong engineering, manufacturing, sales and administrative personnel focused on making and selling quality biochar on a very large scale. They became members of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance in 2018.

How big is your company and where does it operate?

Our company currently has a biochar production operation in Berthoud Colorado. We currently have 23 employees. We have recently closed on expansion funding and we have agreements in place to set up several additional production sites around the US over the next year. One site will be located in the Southeast, another on the East Coast and one site will be located in California. This will reduce the shipping expenses of our customers that currently take delivery from our Colorado facility.

What does your company do related to phosphorus sustainability?

We produce a high-quality carbon from dead trees and waste wood. This carbon has a cation exchange property that effectively binds phosphorus and other nutrients. Our product has been used to treat scores of water bodies nationally and actually removes the nutrients from the water bodies when you remove the carbon filters laden with the nutrients.

What’s your business model?

We sell our product to lake treatment companies, dredgers and other contractors that utilize our product to meet their nutrient removal needs. They use our biochar product to filter nutrients from nutrient laden waters. If needed, we can also participate in the resale of the product after retrieval from the waters.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

We find it easy to get utilized on smaller projects, such as small lakes, golf course ponds, etc. But we actually find our cost effectiveness to be an issue on being included on the largest cleanup projects. Sadly, the projects with the largest budgets are highly visible and end up with perverse incentives to the contractors. The contractors know the money will keep flowing year after year on these projects, as long as the problem persists, because the public will demand “something” be done. If they solve the problem on those projects then they are afraid the funding will stop and it will take a long time for other large projects to clear the permitting hurdles for treatment.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for advancing phosphorus sustainability?

We are able to remove phosphorus from the environment very cost effectively as we are able to reuse the nutrient laden biochar with our agricultural and landscape customers. This cascading use can allow the recapture of project funds and expand further the reach of the project. When the cost is greatly reduced, this opens more projects that can be launched with the limited funds available for clean up.

What’s been your biggest sustainability win?

Our manufactured biochar product is a carbon-negative product that qualifies for carbon credits. Thus, we are in essence sequestering carbon from entering the atmosphere and utilizing that carbon to clear our nutrient laden waters. We then put that nutrient laden carbon into the earth to increase plant growth and further bind and stop nutrient runoff from fields and landscaping when fertilizer is applied. It makes for a very virtuous sustainability circle.