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About the company
Startup or self-employed
6999 Astano, Switzerland
Clean water and sanitation
Affordable and clean energy
Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Sustainable cities and communities
Responsible consumption and production
We develop and promote innovative solutions and technologies to recycle carbon from the atmosphere, where we have an excess, to agricultural soils, where we have too little.
The specific solutions we've developed include an innovative, efficient continuous pyrolysis device to produce biochar and/or torrefied biomass at scale, and a novel method to produce humic and fulvic acid from torrefied biomass at significantly less cost than current methods.
Our innovative kiln makes biochar, wood vinegar and energy, recycling carbon from the atmosphere to agricultural soils.
It is well known that carbon levels in the atmosphere are increasing, which is a serious sustainability issue in itself. What is less known is that carbon levels in our soils are declining. Carbon is an essential element of soil fertility, facilitating the storage of plant nutrients in topsoil. Without carbon, agricultural plants starve. No amount of chemical fertilizers can compensate for a lack of carbon - they are simply leeched out of the soil at the first rainfall. Biochar, charcoal produced under specific conditions of temperature and residence time in a pyrolysis kiln, is an efficient means of replenishing soil carbon in a form that retains plant nutrients in top soil. Pyrolysis essentially means heating without oxygen. Compared to compost, biochar retains much more of the carbon contained in the biomass source material, and remains stable (unoxidised) in topsoil for significantly longer. Wood vinegar, or pyroligneous acid, is a condensate distilled from the gases emitted during biomass pyrolysis. The condensate produced between 105° C to 230° C can be used as a fungicide, herbicide, insecticide and growth enhancer, depending on the concentration and application. Wood vinegar is extensively used throughout Asia. It is beneficial to soil microbiology. Chemical fungicides, herbicides and insecticides destroy soil microbiology and promote the oxidation of soil carbon. They also weaken the immune systems of plants, leading to a vicious cycle of more chemical use. A healthy soil microbiology is another essential component of soil fertility. Annually, plants absorb and retain about 60 gigatonnes of carbon. Decomposing biomass releases about the same amount of carbon as CO2 to the atmosphere. Humans control a significant portion of this biomass contained in forestry waste, agricultural waste, manure, and municipal waste streams. We have an opportunity, and a need, to intervene in the carbon cycle at this point, preventing the carbon passing through our hands from decomposing to CO2. The challenge is to develop systems that do so in a financially attractive way. The horizontal bed kiln is an answer to that challenge, designed specifically to extract as much value as possible from biomass waste streams, while providing the capability to precisely control process conditions in a simple, reliable way. The horizontal bed kiln will a) produce biochar or torrefied biomass from nearly any feedstock b) condense wood vinegar from the raw syngas stream, c) optionally crack and filter the raw syngas remaining after the condensation step to produce a clean mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, known as syngas, and d) optionally burn the syngas in a motor genset to produce electricity. Syngas can also be used as a replacement for natural gas or propane for heating purposes. The horizontal bed kiln has excellent heat distribution characteristics; the feedstock is spread out in a thin layer and passes through the kiln on a conveyor, heated from both sides by hot, oxygen free gas. Mechanically, it is very reliable, since there are no bearings in the hot zones of the device, and a minimum of simple moving parts. Anyone experienced in biomass pyrolysis will appreciate that the evolving tars have plenty of open, uniformly heated space to escape from the feedstock bed. For its capacity, it is also relatively inexpensive to manufacture, and its modular design allows for a variety of capacities and capabilities. The design also allows the operator to precisely control process conditions. The kiln is manufactured in a modular fashion, in 3 main sections, and its throughput capacity can be easily increased by adding units to the mid-section to make it longer. Its functional capacity can be enhanced by adding sections to fractionate the condensate yield, producing essential oils or chemicals like terpenes for instance. The capability can also be added to the end to convert the char to activated char. The feedstock stream required for the base capacity unit would be about 16 tonnes of wood chip (@ 20% moisture content) per day. The unit is intended to run 24/7. Once started, this kiln is self-sufficient in terms of energy. Startup is accomplished with either natural or bottled gas. The base capacity plant will produce, per day, about 4 tonnes of biochar, 2500 liters of wood vinegar, and optionally 8400 kWh of electricity. A preliminary, conservative estimate of revenue per day would be $150 x 4 for the biochar, $1 x 2500 for the wood vinegar, and $ 0.05 x 8400 for the electricity, 600 + 2500 + 420 = $3520 per day. At present, we are manufacturing the first unit and it is anticipated it will be ready to test around March 1, 2018.
Categories of application
Clean water and sanitation, Affordable and clean energy, Industry, innovation and infrastructure, Sustainable cities and communities, Responsible consumption and production
Sector of application
Water treatment, Renewable fuels, Energy from waste, Materials and chemistry, Industrial processes, Communities infrastructures, Agriculture and farming for food production, Circular economy of solid wastes, Primary resources management
A novel, patentable process to produce pure humic and fulvic acid from biomass.
Humic and fulvic acid are the end products of biomass decomposition in soils. Comprised of long chains of primarily carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, infinite in variety, they have the potential to significantly improve soil fertility. A garden soil that has had annual additions of plentiful amounts of compost over decades will be rich in humic and fulvic acid, and very fertile. However, almost all of the carbon in the original biomass used for compost will have oxidized to CO2, perhaps only 1% to 2% becomes relatively stable humic matter. Hence, this method of building humic content in large scale agriculture is in almost all cases too inefficient to be practical. Nature can afford to be inefficient, taking thousands of years to build humic matter in soils. But when humans dominate, stripping the land of vegetation, ploughing, spraying chemicals, humic matter in soils is decimated. The loss of humic matter (i.e. carbon) in soils is as urgent a sustainability issue as any other we face. Without humic matter, soils become completely infertile, and large scale agriculture as we know it today cannot continue. There currently exists a market valued at about 700 million dollars annual for humates, which are produced from mined brown coal deposits near the surface of the soil. Humates are a combination of humic / fulvic acid, minerals, heavy metals, and often radioactive elements like uranium. The mineral content varies in composition, not only per mine, but also to some extent per shovel. Some producers try to source the mined material to be relatively free of contaminants that are detrimental to agricultural soils. Many, from China for instance, simply dig up whatever they can find and put it on the market. Almost none of the humate producers will provide a certificate of analysis of their product. They will simply say "it is pure, of high quality", but unless a buyer has every lot analyzed, taking multiple samples, they will have no idea what contaminates are actually in it. In short, there are no standards in this market, very little transparency, and it is still large. We call these products fossil humates. Our novel process produces humic and fulvic acid directly from biomass in a matter of hours. All of the carbon in the biomass is preserved, rather than losing almost all to CO2. We call these end products biohumates. These molecules are not bound to any minerals as produced, so they can be blended with exact ratios of minerals that would be best for a particular soil before application. Or they can be left unbound to for instance chelate heavy metals in soil. Fulvic acid also has significant promise as a nutraceutical, particularly because when it is properly formulated, it facilitates redox signalling within and between cells. Redox signalling is essential to proper cellular functionality. Healthy cells will have optimal redox signalling potential, and even cancerous cells can be restored to a healthy state if redox signalling is restored. Interestingly, bacterial colonies, whether within our intestines or in soil, utilize redox signalling, which can be significantly improved by humic and fulvic acid. What the current market completely lacks is a pure source of humic and fulvic acid, and our process can offer that at a fraction of the current production cost. The process is currently demonstrated at lab scale and we are moving toward setting up a pilot production plant in the coming months.
Categories of application
Affordable and clean energy, Industry, innovation and infrastructure, Responsible consumption and production
Sector of application
Energy storage, Materials and chemistry, Agriculture and farming for food production, Circular economy of solid wastes, Primary resources management
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