Hi, My Name is Lopa, and I am a Biochar Junkie.
And an entrepreneur. Both….at the same….time.
I’ve been doing biochar for 5 years. I told this to someone at an investment conference recently and they responded, “So you are like one of 9 people in the world that can say that your primary career is biochar for this long, eh?” I think it’s more than 9—there are a number of brilliant soil scientists, agronomists, entrepreneurs, and engineers that have been equally if not more dedicated to biochar than I have. But yes, it’s a small number of us.
The team at Biochar Engineering and our prototype technology.
I am an entrepreneur. If that’s not crazy enough, I am a biochar entrepreneur. Sometimes I think of myself as “being fond of pushing rocks up hills.” For the first 5 years, that’s what it felt like. I came in on the ground floor of Biochar Engineering, a company that haphazardly but enthusiastically and actually successfully produced mobile biochar technology. Looking back, I realize that I thought to myself often, “OK, 1 more year, and we’ll have this.” Rrrrrright. I did not realize exactly what I was getting into when I said, “Let’s start an industry no one’s heard of!” Heh. Naive? Maybe. Gusto? In spades. At least I’m in good company.
At first, my main motivating factor for being involved in biochar was because of climate change. Now, I’m a bit more moved by the need for us to build our soils; by the incredible potential for people to enhance their lives by JUST GROWING SOMETHING—and how biochar makes that easier. Urban homesteading, green roofs, permaculture, community gardens—these are the words that get me a little weak in the knees these days.
My mom is a Master Gardener. When I was a teenager, I swore to myself I’d never be into “that kind of thing”. Well, here I am. Expect to see some pictures of my little veggie babies and my proud, organic biochar garden. (disclaimer: I am no expert. Think of me as a curious-and-somewhat-comical-gung-ho experimenter). Expect me to ask my mom for advice on this thing (Mom, do you know how to post a comment to a blog? 🙂 And expect me to ask you for advice and insight as I do my best to steer this ship, along with my colleagues across the biochar industry and its myriad related tributaries, toward a more sustainable future.
Biochar Engineering sold last year to a biocoal company. I will refrain from making comments about that here. After that, I decided I wanted to do something besides biochar. I went to work at an orphanage in Haiti. I consulted for Slow Money, one of my favorite organizations ever.
It took about 3 months before I scrapped my idea of “something else” and decided to finish what I’d started. I paired up with my now-business-partner Jeff Wallin, a high-energy, high-integrity, biochar-go-getter that I’d worked with peripherally for years at my old company. We decided to build on the legacy he’d put his lifeblood into for 4 years—EcoTechnologies Group—and expand that business model into a new vision that was aligned to the core with the values that Jeff and I share and want to bring out into the world.
I’m not going to get all corporate-responsibility-mushy-lovey-dovey-values on you here, but I’ll just say how freaking satisfying it is to feel that transparency, whole-systems sustainability, profitability, and social impact really are at the core of our decision-making processes here internally. And I’ll gladly talk more about some of the nuances of what that means here on this blog. Feel free to share in the comments if there’s any particular aspect of running a biochar company that keeps you up at night wondering. I’m a pretty open book. Just ask.
Because we are not so creative, or maybe because we are very creative, we called it The Biochar Company. We wanted it to be the go-to for all things biochar. We do project development, technology sourcing and deployment, consumer and B2B product and market development; and are even forging a coalition of the willing in developing countries and working on some short films. We like finding other good folks in biochar and collaborating with them. We are launching our first products in the Soil Reef line, and are so excited to finally make biochar accessible to the masses.
We intend for this blog to become a hub for all things biochar. Science, news, how-to’s, videos, and copious pictures of my happy little veggie babies, including my arugula named Myka. If you want me to name a veggie after you, just ask. You think I’m not serious?
This is Myka. She is an arugula. Isn’t she beautiful?
You’ll be hearing from me a lot, and from my business partner Jeff, as well—but we’ll also be getting guest posters from inside and outside the biochar space. Have you used biochar? Are you interested? Skeptical? Curious? Inspired? I’d be glad to hear from you, either in comments—or if you are so moved, in a guest blog here. I know you know things that we don’t. Share them with us and the world!