Innovation That Matters

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Carbon-capturing biochar made from crop waste


How is this startup helping farmers boost yields and regenerate the land?

Spotted: Biochar is any organic material that has been carbonised under high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. The process releases bio-oils and leaves a solid residue that is up to 80 per cent carbon. Biochar is an excellent fertiliser, in part due to its stability and ability to retain nutrients in the soil. In Africa, BIOSORRA is helping to improve the quality of farmland by taking advantage of biochar’s potential.

BIOSORRA has developed its own patented pyrolysis technology, which uses crop waste to produce biochar. The company claims that its biofertiliser can increase crop yields by up to 200 per cent, trap more moisture in the soil, raise soil pH, and prevent soil erosion. The company also claims that five tonnes of carbon is removed from the atmosphere for every tonne of biochar produced.

Video source BIOSORRA

Synthetic fertilisers may help growers boost their yields, but these products are expensive and do not make lasting improvements to the land. BIOSORRA hopes to counter this with soil analysis and training in regenerative agriculture as well as supplying its biochar alternative. The company’s goal is to help smallholder farmers in areas where slash-and-burn agriculture has degraded the land with a long-term vision of removing one million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and positively impacting 10 million farmers.

Female-led BIOSORRA was awarded $265,000 (around €244,000) as one of 23 winners of the 2021 XPrize competition and has been supported by MIT Solve. More recently, the company launched the largest biochar-producing plant in East Africa and partnered with the Kenya Nut Company to provide biochar fertiliser.

Other recent innovations that aim to help smallholders sustainably increase yields and save money include an affordable fertiliser made from cassava waste and rice husks and the use of satellites to predict extreme weather and help farmers better manage resources.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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