Business plan - mk1

A project log for TerraPreta

Continuous Pyrolysis Biochar Production Reducing waste and returning nutrients to the soil

Leonardo ZunigaLeonardo Zuniga 07/20/2017 at 07:330 Comments

Our world population is rapidly increasing, by 2050 it is expected we're expected to hit the 9 billion people mark. Therefore it's necessary to be more efficient with natural resources as there will be a higher demand for food while more trash will be generated. Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide that for centuries has had an atmospheric concentration below 300 ppm, in the last 7 decades has been rising alarmingly, through natural processes as animal respiration and volcano eruptions, but most importantly through human activities as deforestation, land usage changes, and burning fossil fuels, contributing to a Global Warming that can potentially generate inconveniences to the environment, as sea level rise, global temperature shifts, warming oceans, extreme weather events, among others.

In an effort to address some of the environmental challenges the world is going to be facing, help sequester carbon, and bring back nutrients we take from the soil as we harvest our food, the TerraPreta team is currently developing a prototype of a high temperature and pressure reactor, as an improved version of the technique used in the past by the Brazilian Aboriginals to produce Terra Preta, a term in Portuguese that refers to Black Soil, product of the anaerobic charring of their Organic Waste into a Charcoal commonly named Biochar. 

Our first goal is to develop and validate a process that efficiently converts various types of organic waste into what we currently know as biochar, a stable solid rich in carbon, which holds promising characteristics such as an increased fertility and water retention in the soil, promoting a better yield in agricultural production, while it helps with carbon sequestering as well as reintroducing nutrients for new crops. This high water retention would also improve the usage of water in agriculture in the State of California, which currently represents about 50% of the total water consumption, as well as in other areas, as was validated by the success case of Rwanda that was recently visited by personnel of the Water Resources Group of the UCLA IoES to study this kind of process.

In these first steps, our plan is to develop the Biochar Reactor Prototype and earn additional funding to further streamline and develop the process. Then showcase this as a toilet 2.0 candidate and valid waste management and repurposing system for use in developing nations. We also aim to come with a version that can be used by the RV & tiny home community, and properly scaling it, for LEED certified green buildings to manage the organic waste directly in the place it's produced. We have been approached in the past weeks by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to assess how this reactor can be used by farmers, and we also had an initial inquiry from the Army, as they seek alternative energy sources, in this case, obtained from biomass. We are planning to include testing cases to better understand the production of energy. The final goal is to adapt the design for its widespread use around the world.

With the advantage of the Internet, we have checked out different kinds of reactors that are used to produce Biochar around the world, finding that our prototype has great characteristics, like using a continuous process, having a wide feedstock flexibility, the possibility to control it remotely using the Particle Electron (3G) to remotely access the system, and fine tuning of the operating conditions to produce more Biochar or more Energy, we also aim for a very low production cost with mostly off-the-shelf components, among others that we'll keep adding to our project updates.

The current cost of the prototype is about USD 750, however, this prototype was clearly over-engineered to cover many testing scenarios, for each particular use case we want to redesign it with with a lower production cost in order to make it more accessible to its different potential users. For inquiries, the TerraPreta Team is integrated by two members, Leonardo Zuniga and Ricardo Martinez. We assume that a modest funding of about $2500/month plus materials for about a year would allow us to properly design and validate an alpha model for a commercial application.