Upcycling forestry slash with school community projects

by | Apr 18, 2024

An initiative supported by Soil Pro and the Mazda Foundation is seeing community projects in Auckland experiment with adding carbon to their soils.

Made by upcycling surplus forestry slash, the project was initiated by The Good Carbon Farm to produce carbonised organic matter – or biochar, as it is more commonly known. The biochar is being donated to Oke, who fund and build school gardens; and Restoring Takarunga Hauraki, a community-led organisation involved with multiple environmental restoration projects, Timberbiz reported.

“This project is repurposing underutilised biomass on our doorstep into something good,” The Good Carbon Farm co-founder, Joany Grima said.

“When properly added to the ground, biochar becomes a long-term haven for beneficial microbes and nutrients, which plants love.”

Plants are abundant in carbon which is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane when they decompose after death. However, converting plant waste into biochar creates a circular system that effectively captures up to half of the carbon that would have otherwise been emitted. Additionally, this process results in a plant-enhancing product.

Oke will reportedly distribute the biochar to some of its Auckland-based school gardens.

“Ever since launching the Oke Charity back in 2016, we have tried to both build school gardens and make them as sustainable as possible,” Oke founder, Paul Dickson said.

“This has been achieved through ongoing relationships with the schools, working with amazing suppliers who come up with innovative products and collaborating with epic partners such as The Good Carbon Farm. Teaching the benefits of biochar gets our Mighty Kids thinking about the wider environmental impact of their school garden and helping them realise they are learning in an outdoor classroom.”

Not only internationally recognised as one of the few negative emissions technologies available to reverse climate change, but it also improves soil and water quality, increases plant yield, and reduces dependency on fertilisers and irrigation.

Restoring Takarunga Hauraki began experimenting with biochar in its nurseries this year, to reduce fertiliser use and decrease watering.

“Our native plant nursery has been operating for a few years now and found a permanent home about a year ago in Devonport,” Restoring Takarunga Hauraki Chair, Anne McMillan, said.

“We grow plants for the urban ngahere that are robust and locally eco-sourced. We were concerned about the emissions that fertiliser creates as well as their effect on fungi in the soil so this collaboration with The Good Carbon Farm was an awesome solution for us.”

“We are part of an Iwi and community nursery group always looking for innovation to grow better plants. We also want to look at using biochar to filter water that goes into our local streams as this is mostly runoff from roads and contains contaminants that can harm our native fish and invertebrates that live in streams,” she said.

“Our mahi builds community through volunteers that manage native plantings, pest weed and pest animal control, stream and repo/wetland restoration and education. We are super excited by the potential of biochar,” Ms McMillan concluded.