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Farm-scale biochar project launching in Cornwall

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A farm-scale biochar pilot project is being launched in Cornwall this summer to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and support local farmers, and its’ organisers Restord have launched a Crowdfunding campaign to help purchase the necessary equipment.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, more than 190 countries committed to limit the increase in the average global temperatures to well below 2°C, aiming for no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in an attempt to avoid the worst effects of climate change. 

In addition to transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels it is essential that we actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere if we are to keep below 2°C (sadly 2023 saw an increase of 1.52°C), with experts predicting that the UK will need to remove 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, rising to 23 million tonnes per year by 2035, representing a huge increase on the 1000s of tonnes currently being removed.

Farmers also face huge challenges, including more extreme and unpredictable weather patterns, tight margins and the need to navigate some of the biggest changes to agricultural policy in a generation, as the industry looks to increase productivity and transition to more sustainable farming practices.

What is biochar and how can it help?

Biochar is an organic, charcoal-like substance made by burning agricultural and forestry wastes in the absence of oxygen, via a process called pyrolysis. 

The application of biochar on soil has numerous benefits including increased water retention, and nutrient capacity, promoting topsoil regeneration and enhancing biodiversity. There’s evidence that biochar added to cattle feed also reduces methane emissions.

During the pyrolysis process the carbon, normally released into the atmosphere, is stored within the biochar, effectively extracting CO2 from the atmosphere, while its’ introduction into farming practices aligns with the UK’s principle farming subsidy scheme – the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

Tom Previte holding some biochar
Tom Previte holding some biochar

Pilot Project in Cornwall

Supported by Cornwall council, Restord is partnering with two local farmers to conduct on-farm biochar trials. These trials will explore the practical applications and benefits of biochar for the agricultural sector, aiming to answer critical questions about its usage and benefits while proving its efficacy in carbon removal.

Founded by Tom Previte, Restord are a team passionate about producing biochar for its climate and agricultural benefits. For the last 80 years, Tom’s family has managed a 200 acre farm near Liskeard, Cornwall (see top picture), broken into an ancient woodland, with the rest managed by two farmers. Here is where the pilot facility will be launched.

How you can get involved

Restord are seeking funds to purchase the pyrolysis technology needed to produce biochar on-farm. This project is in partnership with CapChar, a UK biochar company, which will supply the necessary technology and software infrastructure.

Anyone wishing to support the project can do so via the dedicated Crowdfunding page, which features rewards in exchange for donations.

A podcast has also been launched to chart the project’s development. ‘Grounded: A Climate Startup Journey‘ features insight into the realities and complexities of setting up a carbon removal project,  the science involved, the money, and everything it takes to build an environmentally (and financially) sustainable business.

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