Producing carbon-negative biochar for small farmers in East Africa to improve soils and sequester atmospheric carbon

re:char - GSBI™ Class of 2010 Headquarters:
States Austin, TX, United

Problem Statement:
At least 45 Million small farmers in East Africa face the daily challenges of food scarcity, energy scarcity and climate change. These farmers attempt to make a living by growing food in some of the poorest soils in the world. A lack of reliable electricity forces them to expend 40% of their monthly income on illegally-harvested charcoal. Finally, these small farmers face the looming threat of global climate change, which stands to disrupt growing seasons and increase desertification.

Established: 2007 Impact Areas: East Africa Type: For-Profit Sectors: Agriculture & Fishing,
Clean Tech & Energy

Staff Size: 4 and 1-2 volunteers Annual Budget: $150,000 Major Funders: Founders, Echoing Green

Awards: Pop!Tech Fellowship 2009,
“Top Innovation of 2009” The Economist Carbon Economy Conference, “Top 25 Social Entrepreneur in America” Business Week 2010, Echoing Green Fellowship and Grant 2010

Theory of Change:
re:char sequesters atmospheric carbon in soils by producing carbonnegative biochar from waste using a unique, village-scale operating model and employing local labor in East Africa.

re:char produces a low-cost soil amendment called biochar via village-scale kilns employing local labor. Biochar is a premium charcoal made from farm waste, that can be briquetted and burned just like traditional charcoal. Biochar can also be buried in agricultural soils, reducing water and fertilization needs while improving crop yield up to 200%. Finally, the burial of carbonnegative biochar has the potential to sequester up to 12% of humanity’s carbon emissions in the soil.

“For less than $1,000, re:char can double the income of up to 500 small farmers in one year, while sequestering enough CO2 to offset the emissions of over 150 automobiles.” - Jason Aramburu, Founder


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Producing carbon-negative biochar for small farmers in East Africa to improve soils and sequester atmospheric carbon

Milestones Achieved:
2008: Developed initial prototypes for biochar production kilns 2009: Recruited Dr. James Lovelock as scientific advisor 2010: Launched pilot operations in East Africa 2010: Received grant funding from Echoing Green

Impact to Date:
• • • Offset the CO2 emissions equivalent of nearly 200 vehicles Doubled farmer income in 1 year in pilot project Reduced fertilizer and water needs by over 15% in test pilot

Projected Cash Flow:

Growth Plan:
2011: Build and operate 5 kilns in central Kenya 2013: Cash flow breakeven with 100 kilns in operation throughout East Africa 2015: Generate $25M in revenue while offsetting over 500,000 tonnes of CO2

Projected Social Impact:

“There is one way that humanity can save itself from the threat of global climate change and that is through the massive burial of biochar.” - Dr. James Lovelock (Author, Scientist and Originator of the Gaia Theory)

Investment Required:

Initial capitalization of $120K ($30K raised to date) via convertible debt and grants by Q4 2010. Series A capitalization of $500K by Q3 2012 via equity and debt.

This profile was developed during the 2010 Global Social Benefit Incubator™, the signature program of Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology and Society.
Updated 8/26/2010.


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