How Farmers Can Make Money by Storing Carbon in Soil and Reducing Fertilizer Costs

As a result of advances in technologies, government incentives and carbon markets, farmers can now earn substantial money by storing carbon in their soil.  In addition, the can use products produced like biochar and algae to reduce their fertilizer costs.  Given below is some information about these options:

1) Incentive funding from government sources: Federal Agricultural Climate Solutions – On-Farm Climate Action Fund.

2) Selected articles about carbon credits for farmers:

a) Agricultural Carbon Credits and Carbon Farming Guide By Jennifer, June 20, 2022
b) Carbon Markets – How Can Farmers Cash In On Their Regenerative Practices?, January 12, 2021
c) Carbon-Credit Systems in Agriculture – A review of literature by Nimanthika Lokuge, M.Sc. and Prof. Sven Anders, PhD

3) A company providing a service for farmers to measure carbon in the soil so that farmers to get paid for storing more carbon in the soil: Carbon Asset Solutions (CAS Canada).

4) A report about farming methods that increase carbon content of soil: Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution by the Rodale Institute.

5) Some example Alberta-based companies working on innovative strategies for farmers: Bio Agtive.

6) A small automatic biomass burner that produces both biochar and heat for buildings and/or drying crops: RocketChar by High Plains Biochar.

7) Some videos & Information about farm-scale biochar systems:

i) Video: Farm Scale Biochar with Bob Wells & Jon Nilsson Part 1, Aug 5, 2015
ii) Video: Farm Scale Biochar Part 2 Feedstocks
iii) Video: Farm Scale Biochar Part 3 Production
iv) Video: Farm Scale Biochar Part 4 Energy Use
v) Video: Farm Scale Biochar Part 5 System Design, Oct 22, 2015
vi) Video: Farm Scale Biochar Part 6 Applications
vii) Video: Farm Scale Biochar Part 7 Operation
viii) Video: More videos relating to Farm Scale Biochar
ix) Video: Living Web Farms YouTube Video Channel
x) The “H-Frame” Design of RoCC Pyrolytic Kilns, with Updates by Woodgas International

8) Some ways farms can benefit from utilizing algae and nitrogen fertilizer-producing bacteria:

a) Algae to reduce methane emission in cattle by 80%: Red seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) supplementation reduces enteric methane by over 80 percent in beef steers.
b) Production of nitrogen fertilizer with nitrogen-fixing blue – green algae, April 1979
c) How fast-growing algae could enhance growth of food crops by Princeton University, MAY 19, 2022 A new study provides a framework to boost crop growth by incorporating a strategy adopted from a fast-growing species of green algae. The algae, known as Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii, contain an organelle called the pyrenoid that speeds up the conversion of carbon, which the algae absorb from the air, into a form that the organisms can use for growth.
d) Potential of microalgae as a sustainable feed ingredient for aquaculture, 20 November 2021
e) Why the world needs more algae, not less by DW Planet A, Jul 2, 2021.
Utilizing high-purity carbon dioxide sources for algae cultivation and biofuel production in the United States: opportunities and challenges. Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 321. Longwen, Ou. et al. (2021).
g) Algae pull nutrients from swine facility manure, air, March 22, 2021.
h) Biomass and nutrient composition of Spirulina platensis grown in goat manure media. Asian Journal of Agriculture and Biology, Tatang Sopandi. (2021).
i) Bloomberg: Venture Firms Back Startup Behind `Next Generation’ Nitrogen Fertilizer, Jan 27, 2022,  Also see: Kula Bio.
j) Pivot Bio – This company indicates that their microbes deliver more than 90% reduction in GHG emissions.

9) Research papers on how farmers can benefit from dewatering and pyrolyzing manure to make biochar:

a) High-Temperature Pyrolysis of Blended Animal Manures for Producing Renewable Energy and Value-Added Biochar, Kyoung S Ro, United States Department of Agriculture, September 2010, DOI:10.1021/ie101155m
b) The Potential for Biochar to Enhance Sustainability in the Dairy Industry Written by: Kathleen Draper, Ithaka Institute for Carbon Intelligence Shannan Sweet, Cornell University 2020
c) Biochar from Biosolids Pyrolysis: A Review, 2018 May 10 by Jorge Paz-Ferreiro, et al.
d) Manure-Derived Biochars for Use as a Phosphorus Fertilizer in Cotton Production by Thomas F. Ducey, et al.
e) Biochar From Cow Manure Could Be Key To Sustainable Agriculture. Forbes., Amin Mirkouei. (2021)
f) Biochar-Swine Manure Impact on Soil Nutrients and Carbon Under Controlled Leaching Experiment Using a Midwestern Mollisols. Front. Environ. Sci., 15., Cumki Banik, Et al. (2021)
g) “Risk Evaluation of Pyrolyzed Biochar from Multiple Wastes“, Journal of Chemistry, 2019 by Shem M. Ndirangu, et al.

10) Example manure dewatering equipment: Manure Separator for Dairy Farms by Trident TNZ.  (Note: The dewatered manure made by this separator may be able to be converted into biochar by this biomass burner: RocketChar by High Plains Biochar.  Farmers may want to investigate this option).

11) Step-by-step pictorial of converting wood waste biomass to biochar+heat by Gordon West – The Trollworks LLC.

12) Combine technologies to produce agricultural products and reliable energy: Integrating Technologies to Produce Agricultural Products and Reliable Energy

13) Information about other initiatives helping farmers on climate issues:
14) Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that’s made by heating organic waste (also called biomass) in an oxygen-limited environment.  It can be combined with organic matter and incorporated into soil to enhance its ability to grow food.  Many organizations around the world are training people on how to make and utilize biochar such as the International Biochar InitiativeSince producing biochar from biomass and incorporating it into soil is an internationally recognized way of removing carbon from the atmosphere, substantial money can be earned by creating this biochar.  Even more beneficial than creating biochar is combining it with nutrients and utilizing it in soil.  For example, one study found that biochar combined with compost increased average crop yield by 40% compared with the control, which was compost without biochar.  There have been a wide range of studies completed about biochar that have documented its substantial benefits, especially when combined with other nutrients.  One notable discovery from this research is that the increase in crop yield is often even greater in the second and third year after adding this biochar to soil.  Given below are some images illustrating the benefits of biochar:

Images Courtesy of Seneca Farms LLC

Zambia, Kaomao Region, 121 Farms, Cornelissen, et al, 2013, Martinsen, et al., 2014.

15) Currently, a considerable amount of money is flowing into biochar initiatives and much more is expected.  For example, most of the carbon removal initiatives on an  international carbon trading platform called Puro Earth are related to biochar.   As well, there is a rapid growth of companies committing to Net Zero by 2040 or 2050, which will require many of them to buy carbon credits from platforms like Puro Earth to meet their Net Zero commitments.  For example, 21% of 2,000 of the world’s largest public companies, representing sales of nearly $14 trillion, now have Net Zero commitments by 2050.

Norwegian Research Council, G. Cornelissen, 2014. A. Cowrie, 2017