Firing Waste into Black Gold

This article appeared in the Tas Country Newspaper, Friday 28th April 2017

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FRANK and Karin Strie from Terra-Preta Developments are bringing to AGFEST the plant-boosting powers of biochar.
Biochar turns organic waste into charcoal products that are valuable in a range of uses from feeding soil organisms to filtering water, boosting the composting process and enriching soils permanently.
The couple say biochar is the perfect ingredient for the garden year round as it will enhance plant growth and increase sustainability.
The Stries moved to Tasmania from Germany 30 years ago with their two young children. The family settles in the Tamar Valley and started planting fruit and hazelnut trees and growing their own vegetables, ensuring the property remained free of chemicals and sprays.
As Mr Strie pondered the waste of woody pruning from the orchards his thoughts turned to transforming waste into a valuable resource. For the next 10 years he concentrated on creating biochar, turning unloved biomass into charcoal through heat.
The process, called pyrolysis heats the biomass to very high temperatures and in the absence of oxygen it becomes carbon residues or charcoal.
Mr Strie uses a Tasmanian built Kon-Tiki-Tas deep cone kiln to efficiently turn biomass such as thin branches from his orchards and prunings from vineyards into Frank’s Char.
The kiln uses a flame-curtain process that minimises polluting emissions and creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal or biochar that helps soil retain water and nutrients. Biochar is increasingly seen as an essential tool in carbon sequestration, renewable energy and caring for the land.
Apart from its carbon storage properties, Franks Char has many uses. It is a compost booster, it can be used in composting toilets or in animal bedding and poultry sheds and it cuts odours and filter water.
Nutrient-enriched biochar is a ready-to-use lasting soil additive to improve water retention, increase aeration and minimise nutrient leaching. It is also used in grow blocks.
Terra-Peeta Developments makes and sells biochar products and the Kon-Tiki-Tas kilns. It also offers consultation in managing natural resources.