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Big Table Farm Converts Smoke into Biochar

by Press Release
May 13, 2019

Gaston, Ore.—After 13 years farming and making wine here at Big Table Farm in Gaston, Oregon, Brian and I started preparing 13 acres of our farm to plant a vineyard. As part of this process, we needed to reclaim our hillside, and there was only one solution readily available for dealing with all the cleared brush, small fir trees and invasive scotch broom an open burn. Burning is the most widely accepted agricultural solution for brush and slash created when you are converting land from one use to another.

Brian had enough of an understanding of the damaging effects of open burn that he wanted a better alternative, so, we got to work on finding a solution. This process has taken us a year of research, talking to scientists, air curtain companies and other industry professionals. We put our vineyard development on hold until we had a solution that fit our values. Now a year later, we are excited to announce the first onsite carbonization of cleared vegetation in an agricultural setting by a Carbonator 500. We are turning what would be just smoke and ash into trapped carbon. Carbonization of the brush is a net negative carbon sequestration of the biomass at Big Table Farm.

As agricultural land in Oregon's Willamette Valley transitions from tree farms to vineyards and orchards, Big Table Farm is pioneering a new way to capture carbon from biomass to amend farm soils, while keeping smoke and carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Instead of burning big smoky piles, Big Table Farm will use the Carbonator 500 to cleanly convert the biomass into biochar, a stable form of carbon that builds soil. The Carbonator burns smoke and other gases from waste wood to generate the heat that makes biochar, returning it to the soil.

Big Table Farm has hired Blackwood Solutions to begin using the Carbonator the week of May 14, 2019. The work may take two to four weeks depending on feedstock conditions like moisture and size. The process uses far less energy than other alternatives, such as grinding and trucking it to distant composting or energy facilities.

Compared to a conventional burn pile that create smoke and ash, the Carbonation traps and converts CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, and carbonizes particulates instead of releasing them into the atmosphere. The Carbonator also converts the biomass into biochar by arresting the carbonization at a critical point, sequestering carbon in the form of biochar that is stable in soil for hundreds to thousands of years. It is a one-way trip for carbon that is pulled out of the atmosphere by a growing tree or shrub and ends up in the soil as biochar.

This process is considered carbon negative. In the soil, biochar continues to sequester carbon as it attracts and holds nutrients, water, and microbial life. Plant roots seek out biochar particles in soil to feed on the abundant nutrients held in biochar pores. Soil carbon continues to build as plants remove even more carbon from the atmosphere.

For our lungs, and our planet, Big Table Farm is proud to initiate environmentally responsible handling of agricultural biomass by partnering with Blackwood Solutions in this first large-scale farm-based biochar production project.

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