The 2016 USBI Biochar Conference flew by in a flash this week. It was great to see old friends, meet so many folks that I’ve corresponded with but never met in the flesh and to see so many new people that are joining the biochar fray. Academics mingled with industry, government representatives (USDA NCRS and Forestry mainly) chatted with NGOs and Venture Capitalists; Idealists focused on reversing climate change spoke to pragmatists focused on building the next big industry; Newbies met with the biochar literati and technology promoters exchanged ideas with agronomists. Beyond those from within the US border were attendees from Canada, Mexico, Guam, Norway and South Africa (and probably other countries as well but those are the ones that I met). It truly lived up to the ‘Synergy of Science and Industry’ theme.
Conferences like this tend to be like a smorgasbord – where there is more than a little something for everyone. Hors d’oeuvres in the form of table displays showcasing various pre-production & pyrolysis technologies (I was particularly impressed with Forest Concepts “Crumbles” technology) as well as some other non-traditional technologies where biochar is part of an overall system (check out this amazing Algae Aqua Culture Technology). Biochar producers brought samples and new products which I always love to see (and take!).
Also on the menu was an abundance of biochar presentations – nearly 90 in all. Presentations were categorized into 4 subject areas: Agriculture/Horticulture, Forestry, Policy, and Stormwater & Remediation. Many of the presentation slides will be added to the USBI2016 website in the near future, so if you are interested in exploring a particular topic a bit further, check that out next month sometime. I was particularly impressed with the sessions I attended in the Stormwater & Remediation track. There is so much positive news coming out of that arena in terms of regenerating mine lands as well as using biochar to filter different waste streams. Several folks are working on the sewage/biosolids and biochar front – both academic but also in terms of production technologies that can deal with high moisture content feedstocks such as biosolids. Since I just recently wrote about this topic in the Biochar Journal, it was great to find and chat with others focusing on this endlessly renewable waste stream.
Though there has been a burn ban on in Oregon due to the drought, a few folks did bring some small scale production technologies to display at the conference including a very nice version of the Kon-Tiki kiln, a funky pyramid kiln with the ability to flare off syngas (a new one for me), a rather fancy TLUD, and a little biochar bar-b-que (forgot to take pictures!)
Against the gorgeous backdrop of Corvallis and OSU’s campus, the ambiance, the knowledge sharing and the vibe was really great at this Conference. Sincere thanks to all of the organizers!