Biochar is a ‘Shovel-Ready’ Climate Tech Darling, But Can it Scale Up?

Oct 18, 2023

When Beauregard Burgess and three friends decided to start a hog and poultry farm in 2015, they chose an odd location: 20 acres of swampy land on the east side of Homer, Alaska, a coastal hamlet south of Anchorage.

The land, logged years ago, was in an industrial part of town, and its soil was in poor health. That anemia was part of the appeal for Burgess and his colleagues, who wanted to raise livestock in a way that would add nutrients and beneficial microbes to the ground, restore the local ecosystem, and improve the local food scene.

Today, Blood, Sweat, and Food Farms is something of an oasis. Its lush pastures are just down the road from auto shops, lots crowded with heavy equipment and heaps of gravel. Burgess and his partners have turned the lot’s acidic, water-logged earth into a rich humus, and they’ve done so in an organic, regenerative way — that is, without synthetic chemicals.

Such an achievement has involved a number of innovations and tactics, from building bioswales that limit flooding to spreading nutrient-rich compost across fields. But one tool in particular stands out: biochar — a jet-black substance made by roasting plant matter, like wood, in an oxygen-deprived environment.

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