The Crucibulum

Here is some news should have been in the June ABE newsletter.

Art and Fire fuse together at this year’s Whangārei Night Lights Festival (July 5th-8th)

“Artists Sally Howe and Robert Mignault present ‘Crucibulum,’ an alchemical initiation of aesthetic and cultural transformation — where a live Biochar kiln process will be created as a large-scale contemplative immersive fire-sculpture.

We stand at the crossroads of climate crisis and the urgent need for action. Since ancient times, fire has been used for sacred purification and renewal. By witnessing the ‘Crucibulum’ at this significant time of Matariki, audiences will directly participate in that calling for profound personal and collective change. An ephemeral encounter with light, heat, art, community and alchemy during the festival, the resulting biochar will nevertheless be returned to the earth after the event to be sequestered as carbon for hundreds of years, thereby contributing to soil regen
eration and planetary healing.”

They did not need any help with getting the word out… all four nights sold out but keep a lookout for media coverage. The fire connection between arts & science around environmental repair & climate change action is heating up.

Scoop – BNNZ press release

The Biochar Network New Zealand’s campaign to increase the profile of biochar continues. A Carbon Rescue initiative stemming from the post-Gabrielle residue cleanup has helped facilitate the conversation on how to create value from biomass through the creation of biochar. Although public funding for the initiative is pending, a number of Network members all over the motu are demonstrating better ways of using excess biomass.

“With large volumes of biomass residues readily available to be converted to biochar, New Zealand is in a good position to develop innovative ways to get best value from biochar”, says Warrick Isaachsen, Chair of Biochar Network New Zealand Inc.

In Canterbury, the Biochar Network facilitated a workshop in collaboration with Pukaki Forestry Ltd to present the basics of biochar production and its applications. The project aims to demonstrate alternative methods to manage residues from wilding pine control and eradication. Further north in the Hutt Valley, Biochar Network member, The Good Carbon Farm was last month awarded a grant from Upper Hutt City Council to convert forestry slash into biochar for use in local community gardens.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle and in areas affected by wildfires, the opportunity for biochar to be made from problematic organic resource streams has become increasingly obvious. The recent Ministerial inquiry into forestry slash and woody debris made multiple mentions of the potential of this harmful waste stream to be converted to biochar and used to remediate damaged land.

“Internationally, biochar-related carbon credits are traded on the multi-billion dollar voluntary carbon market. We welcome a review of the Emissions Trading Scheme to open the door for alternative, long-term carbon sequestering methods, such as biochar. By valuing the carbon sequestration of biochar, New Zealand can help provide the right market signals for forestry managers and owners to convert forestry residues into more valuable resources, even on challenging sites,” says Isaachsen.

In Marlborough last week, biochar was on the agenda at the Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing Conference, and Network members and biochar specialists Soilpro and NZ Biochar Ltd were in attendance to engage with viticulturalists. The uptake of biochar from organic winegrowers in the region is on the rise, building on field trials established in collaboration with Marlborough Grape Growers Cooperative and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

In Northland, the Whangārei Night Lights Festival next month will feature Crucibulum, a live biochar kiln created by artists Sally Howe and Robert Mignault as a large-scale, contemplative and immersive fire-sculpture. In the Waikato, a number of biochar project initiatives are in development, building on informal animal feed trials that have taken place over the past two years. And across the ditch, the Australia New Zealand Biochar Industry Group has launched a roadmap to guide the growth of local biochar production into a major industry by 2030.

As well as enjoying international recognition as one of few negative emissions technologies readily available to reverse climate change, biochar increases yield from plants, improves soil and water quality, and reduces fertiliser and irrigation dependency.

For more information about biochar, visit

Preliminary results from kiwifruit biochar trials

Dr Pranoy Pal has an association with biochar reaching back to his post-doctoral work at Lincoln University in 2012. Pranoy is now the Kiwifruit Technical Manager at Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool – New Zealand’s largest family-owned kiwifruit and avocado packhouse. Pranoy’s aim to use regenerative agriculture principles to horticulture, aligns well with the company’s one of the core principles of sustainability.

From one of the recent trials, he quotes, “Our trial involves the testing of the regenerative agriculture concept – we have sown a 16-species seed mix – a seed only, a seed mix plus biochar, biochar only and a control treatment. The trial is in its infancy (started in Sept 2022) but are planning to run it as a multiyear trial. We are doing a chemical and biological testing of the soil across the treatments. We have partial funding from Zespri on this one. Another similar trial is being planned on another kiwifruit block this upcoming season. The biochar used was sourced from SoilPro, Pukekohe, applied at 1 ton/ha – although I would have liked it to be at least 3 ton/ha. The results of BC+seeds had the biggest impact in our study.

Here is a link to Pranoy’s Linkedin post connected with this work which is also supported by Zespri.

Carbon Rescue: BNNZ on slash crisis

BNNZ has shared some ideas related avoiding some of the environmental impacts associated with the biomass residue removal process that is underway in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and other parts of NZ affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. This document has been shared with officials dealing with the cleanup but it remains to be seen if any of the suggestions fall on fertile ground (or get smothered in silt!)

BNNZ had their bi-monthly committee meeting last night and it was agreed to bring forward the next ‘members lounge’ discussion with a focus on biochar & biomass residue management. Keep a lookout for the notice and reach out if you want an invitation but are not a current BNNZ member.

RNZ on biochar… again

Apologies that this report is a bit out of sequence. I’m keen to keep a record of all NZ media reports on biochar posted here. Its great to see Kim Hill picking up this story but she was a bit light on her homework. The earlier Katheryn Ryan report had a bit more meat to it. Lets hope Kim digs a bit deeper next time.

Lutra on biosolids > biochar

Lutra YouTube channel has provided links to information and discussion on the new Logan City biosolids processing facility incorporating Pyrocal multi-hearth technology. I’ve posted a few times on this to the BNNZ FB page as the project developed. Its great to see this discussion happening in NZ and thanks to WaterNZ latest newsletter where it was flagged.

The discussion is split into two short video clips.