As IBI’s Executive Director, I recently shared some highlights from 2014 in a letter to our members. At the top of our list of achievements in 2014, I highlighted the continued advancement of the first-ever IBI Biochar Certification Program, built upon the biochar material requirements of the IBI Biochar Standards. Both programs provide critical formative steps towards product certainty necessary to develop a robust biochar industry. The programs enable everyone from researchers to producers to consumers to articulate and identify what biochar is, and as importantly, what it is not. The IBI Biochar Certification Program allows biochar producers to pass rigorous testing requirements to show that their biochar products meet exacting standards, and to then carry an IBI Certified™ biochar seal, which verifies product safety and use as a soil amendment. The IBI Certified™ biochar seal provides important product differentiation for producers and consumers, and is an important marketing tool for the nascent biochar industry.
Additionally, IBI can chalk up the following accomplishments during 2014, due in no small part to the unwavering support and contributions of the Packard Foundation, our members, stakeholders, Board of Directors, staff, and Advisory Committee members:
- Based on feedback from our stakeholders, expert panels, and to reflect new research, we proposed policy revisions to the IBI Biochar Standards which were voted on by our membership and passed overwhelmingly. The revisions addressed: 1) testing requirements for weathered biochar; 2) timing of testing for post-processed biochar; 3) provisions for high carbon biomass ash; and 4) biochar sampling procedures, and were published in Version 2.0 of the IBI Biochar Standards in October.
- Spain Biochar Course: IBI and course co-developers delivered a training course titled, “Biochar for Environmental Sustainability and Economic Development” hosted by the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The objective of the course was to provide an in-depth understanding of biochar for the target audience of government officials, policy makers, financiers, and entrepreneurs in the European region. IBI collaborated with biochar researchers and engineers from Massey University, New Zealand; Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT, Germany; and the Spanish National Research Council to design and present the course. Nearly 40 participants from 13 countries attended.Topics presented over the two and a half day course included production technologies; physicochemical properties; standards, classification, and certification; biochar effects when used as a soil amendment; biochar carbon persistence in soils, carbon accounting and climate change; and commercialization of the biochar industry. IBI intends to deliver and/or adapt this intensive training course for future training opportunities in order to facilitate best-science updates on biochar and to promote the uptake of biochar production and use as well as proactive public policies in support of biochar production and utilization systems.
- IBI Webinar Series: These webinars allow IBI to connect IBI members to leaders in the biochar field, from business professionals to producers and academics, who present cutting-edge information, research, and updates to our IBI membership. Participants have the opportunity to interact with presenters by submitting questions before or during the webinar for live responses, as time permits. This year, IBI has moderated webinars by Dr. Steven McGreevy of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan; Dr. Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University, USA, and Chairman of the IBI Board of Directors; Dr. Isabel Lima of the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service; and Art Donnelly, Estufa Finca Project Director and co-founder of Seachar (Seattle Biochar Working Group).
- Global Biochar Support: Our staff and Board of Directors have continued to engage in many other related efforts on behalf of the global biochar community, including organizing and presenting at regional, national, and international biochar conferences, continuing to spread the word on biochar and IBI, and increasing our communications and outreach through materials development, our website, our 57-affiliated regional biochar groups, and our monthly newsletter.
- Biochar Promotion: IBI developed relationships with multiple biochar-related regulatory agencies to ensure they have an understanding of biochar and its relevance in their areas of regulation, and to promote support of biochar within their respective organizations. We thank these organizations for their willingness to work with us, including: the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO); Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI); European Biochar Certificate (EBC); United States Department of Agriculture National Organics Program (USDA NOP); and the United States Composting Council.
- Global Biochar Progress Tracking: IBI continued to track and report progress in all aspects of the biochar field, including science and technology, policy, market, and project development, and media coverage of biochar through our newsletter and website.