NZAGRC 2021 Highlights

NZAGRC has recently shared a report covering their progress in 2021. The report does mention biochar on pg30…

I posted on this MPI commissioned report here:

I can’t recall seeing any synopsis coming from the Wellington presentation but I guess we can say that this useful work has not lead to any new investment on biochar research. I suggest that this research investment is needed for biochar to overcome foreseen financial and practical barriers “to provide cost-effective mitigation at scale“.

Bringing biochar into the ETS would help overcome the financial barriers but so would govt support for demonstration projects. I look at the practical barriers and see exciting opportunities.

Biochar White Paper from BNNZ

I’ve been very under-whelming recently on my posting the this site. A few months ago I managed to shut myself out of the site which is not a good look when you are the site administrator. Most of the NZ based biochar stories that I focus on here where captured as articles in the ABE newsletter but I now see that the newsletters are not an easily searchable archive so I may bring a few back here for the record… particularly the recent & busy BNNZ workshop history.

I’ve been working with the BNNZ committee on a plan to produce a series of white papers on biochar in NZ. This was actually instigated by Brian Cox from BANZ when he asked for comment on a Technical Note they had produced on bio-carbons that covered biochar. BNNZ contributed to this which is now published as TNSB82 on the BANZ website. BNNZ have also provided BANZ with a biochar focused TNSB05 which we hope to see on their website soon.

From this effort it was a simple journey to the first BNNZ white paper, BNNZ-WP-01 (see link to “Biochar explained” on the home page).

1 of 4 pages

We have a long list of industry and issue focused white papers that we plan to produce. Do get in touch if you can contribute in any way.

Biochar under rugby boots

The journo description “Biochar is burnt charcoal” may be a bit naff but any mention of biochar from a NZ council is welcome. This is not the first time that Marlborough District Council have got their fingers in the char. They are leading the way in NZ, having investigated biochar as an option for grape marc management.

FlameCap kiln commissioning

My last post covered the fabrication of a new WarmHeart designed trough kiln. This was run for the first time on a farm in the South Waikato. Aranui Farm is currently converting from a cow to sheep dairy system. Plans are also underway to incorporate biochar into the farming system at Aranui. HCBA will be used in bedding mixes and animal feed trials are also being planned.

The following photos follow the first firing of the kiln…

The woodpile was a mix of typical unidentified farm biomass… box-thorn, windfall, stumps, some dry, some fresh but all a bit winter damp. The kiln was placed on some old glass insulation and posts to provide separation from the damp, heat sucking ground. Quench water was made available via piping from a trough 100m away. Some uniform sized material was cut, stacked and covered a few days before firing. A ‘rick’ was constructed within the kiln from the similar sized material and then top lit. This is allowed to burn down to form the bed and help get the kiln up to temperature more quickly. A shortage of labor and a tightly bound wood pile limited how much biomass could be processed on the day. Much more could have been done with some better planning but the kiln performed very well, working through some quite damp wood and some large logs (up to 300mm dia).

Some general comments on the kiln: ideal farm-community-cooperative scale… 2-3 able bodies required to operate efficiently depending on biomass access and preparation; insulation of base & sides may increase process heat (the rockwool was only partially successful); success with larger logs requires good management and adequate smaller material to maintain flame cap for extended periods.

Waikato WarmHeart

My nephew has knocked out a large new flame-cap kiln which we have yet to test drive. It was fabricated from 2 full sheets (1.6mm) to form the trough and another sheet for the ends. Dr Karl Frogner’s design cleverly limits steel wastage. The frame & ribs are 25mm SHS. The design for this 2000 liter kiln and other smaller sizes are available thanks to Dr Michael Shafer & WarmHeart Thailand but I suggest a donation to the orphanage they support in Northern Thailand if you plan to take advantage of their designs.

Removable wheels at one end (its heavy… ~150kg).
LHS is the old pyramid kontiki; behind a new ‘kanga’ mobile rotary biochar screen next to a future retort vessel under construction

Basic materials for the kiln were about $400 and another $90 for the wheels & axle stubs. We got the plates bent for ~$140. Do get in touch if you want to get more details.

Fieldays 2021

Thanks to Bill Quinn, OrganicAg for hosting us again in his organic marquee. Our last effort was 2018. We were kept busier this year and I’m sure more folk were aware of biochar than in 2018. Thanks to BNNZ committee members Simon Day and Miles Pope for their participation and to Dr John McDonald-Wharry for his support.

Important new report for NZ?

It looks like this was released on 17May but it has only just come to my attention.
The report is dated December 2020 so it has been floating about for awhile.
I hear that it will be discussed in Wellington on 10June.
I wonder if the Climate Change Commission sighted it before making their final recommendation to government.

Link to report: