A powerful link is made between an industrial combustion specialist and a tree planting organization
May 4th 2017, Montreal
It’s not every day that a tree planting organization partners with an industrial combustion specialist, but that’s exactly why this partnership is so powerful. Too often, non-profit development organizations try to reinvent the wheel as opposed to leveraging expertise of an existing industry. The question is: What is the connecting link between Taking Root and Thermotech Combustion?
We all are aware that Taking Root grows trees with farmers. Since the underlying driver of deforestation is the pursuit of better economic opportunities, reforestation can only ever work if it creates better opportunities for farmers. This is why Taking Root gives farmers direct cash payments as the trees grow and connects them to markets for sustainably grown timber once they mature.
The challenge is that more than half of the wood from a tree is wasted when milled into timber in the form of branches, slabs, sawdust, etc. If more of the wood could be utilized, farmers could get a better price for their trees and have greater incentive to grow more trees.
One opportunity to utilize this waste would be, in theory, to transform it into valuable green charcoal or biochar – but therein lays our problem.
The technology to transform mill waste into green charcoal and biochar exists but its viability depends on scale. On one end of the spectrum, there are large industrial applications that require large quantities of biomass and cost millions of dollars to build. On the other end, there are small, simple and inexpensive technologies but they are very polluting and only work with large logs – actually creating the incentive for people to cut down large growth forests to make charcoal. Clearly, none of these options are going to work for Taking Root.
When Thermotech Combustion heard about this problem they immediately saw an opportunity. In countries like Canada, small and medium sized farms produce a lot of waste biomass that could be made into biochar. In developing countries all over the developing world, charcoal is an important fuel source that is driving deforestation. Neither can afford a million dollar solution. What is needed is an affordable biochar reactor for smaller operations.
With a common goal in mind, an industrial combustion specialist and a tree planting organization are working together to find a solution. Thermotech Combustion is providing engineers, gas specialists, welders, electricians and industrial space. Taking Root is providing its experience working in remote regions under difficult conditions.
While this partnership is off to a great start, many challenges lay ahead. Designing and building a highly efficient, pollution-free biochar reactor at a low enough cost to be viable for a developing country context has never been done before.
With over 18 years building industrial combustion solutions for organizations of all sizes, Thermotech Combustion is exactly the type of company that can solve this problem for Taking Root…and maybe even the world.
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