Friday, November 14, 2014

A biochar day at the coffee farm / Un dia de biocarbon en la finca de cafe - AHUACHAPAN / EL SALVADOR

Finca de Cafe en Ahuachapan - El Salvador
Coffee Farm in El Salvador

The farm is located close to the geothermal zone in El Salvador known by the name of AUSOLES

Los Ausoles is a group of hot springs located 20 kilometers north of Ahuachapán in El Salvador. The area has been described as "the capital of Central American geothermal." Many of the springs in the area produce heavy steam, and as of 1850, were described as "semi-fluid mass of mud and water in a state of ebullition, continually throwing large heavy bubbles to the surfaces; this heated mass is in some black, in others red, or of the ochry colour."

New Coffee plants substituting the old ones that were removed due to the terrible infection of ROYA

The best option for the coffee farmers is to "delete" the old coffee trees and renew the plantation with new varieties that are more resistant to the fungi and that cal also give good quality grains.

 Abundance of mycelium life shows the interaction of microorganisms in the habitat

One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Petroleum products and pesticides, typical soil contaminants, are organic molecules, i.e. they are built on a carbon structure. This means that these substances present a potential carbon source for fungi. Hence, fungi have the potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, unless the chemicals prove toxic to the fungus. This biological degradation is a process known as bioremediation. 

Fungi are essential for converting biomass into compost, as they decompose feedstock components such as lignin which many other composting microorganisms cannot.

Biochar process at the farm

Old wood, trimed branches of trees that give shadow to the coffee plants, and removed  roots from ROYA infected tress are the main feedstock for the biochar production in this farm.

Pyrolysis device

This reactors were hand made - with recovered wasted iron pieces that were around the farm - 4 were made. In the middle a barrel is placed in order to take advantage of the heat and dry more biomass. Pyrolysis starts in the evening and left for the night, next day during morning biochar is taken out of the device and cooled down with water. Reaches temperatures around 500 - 800C.

Pyrolized biomass in a 100% - with a 60 -50% weight loss - excellent biochar quality

Biochar is crushed down and inoculated with biofertilizers - by doing this Micorrizal fungi and bacteria like Rhizobium etli and Azospirillium brazilense are ready to colonize the biochar and make a better effect in rood development and nutrient availability for plants - therefore giving as a result an excellent plant development.

Well crushed biochar with some water, makes it easy to handle and does not let dust disturb you

Biochar is displaced in this hand made device - were biofertilizers are added for inoculation - notice the lower pipe - is opened to let go the excess water - the water goes to inoculation once more.

Inoculated biochar goes to the bags and keep in the storage room for applications next day - this gives time for microorganisms to go inside the biochar pores.

I found this perfect peace of biochar around the farm  with a gorgeous moss growing on it - BIOCHAR IS LIFE!!!!

 Biochar aplications to 6-8 month old coffee trees.
Two full hands of biochar were added to each tree - area covered 2,500 trees

 Another application will be made after 6 months

Application were made previous to my visit, and it can be observed that the soil has already incorporated the biochar in it.

Beautiful development  - good absorption of nutrients due to the adsorption of the biofertilizers by biochar.

Dr. Biochar wants to thank Mr. Alejandro Martinez for letting us explore his coffee farm -

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bamboo Biochar Soap

Skin detox bamboo biochar soap, made with olive oil, coconut oil and eucalyptus.

Bamboo biochar - charred at 550C

Preparing the mixture for the soap

Done....... now lets wait for 2 or 3 days to take them out of the mould........

Soap is out unmoulded and will be left to dry for 3 weeks........

Biochar and skin: 
     Your skin is a living organ, which has pores to breath. These pores together with the permeable membrane of your skin, allows chemicals and toxins to pass both in and out of your body. 

    Acne has many possible causes, including clogged pores, dirt and bacteria on the surface of the skin, excess sebum or oil, and a poor diet among others. 

Bamboo biochar application on the skin, it is said, can eliminate toxins extract under the skin. The antibacterial properties of biochar can also help relieve infections, or prevent them from happening.

Getting dry ........

 Jabón hecho con biocarbon de bambú, aceite de oliva, aceite de coco, y aceite esencial de eucalipto 

Biocarbon y su piel:
    Su piel es un órgano vivo, que tiene los poros de su cuenta. Estos poros, y la membrana permeable de la piel, permiten los productos químicos y toxinas de pasar tanto dentro y fuera de su cuerpo. 

    El acné tiene muchas causas posibles, incluyendo los poros obstruidos, la suciedad y las bacterias en la superficie de la piel, el exceso de sebo o aceite, y la dieta pobre. 

La aplicación del biocarbon de bambu en la piel, se dice, se eliminará detritus de la superficie de la piel e incluso puede extraer las toxinas de debajo de la piel. 

    Las propiedades antibacterianas de carbón también puede ayudar a aliviar las infecciones, o impedir que suceda.

    Unlike normal soap, bamboo biochar soap does not leave a residue on the face. This means that the newly cleaned skin pores can receive natural moisturizing from the body’s oils. The bamboo biochar soap produces a rich lather that cleanses pores deeply which standard soaps simply can’t do and allows them to be moisturized it is recommended that people with acne wash with bamboo biochar soap.

    The bamboo charcoal handmade soap is safe to use with all types of skin and is particularly popular with sufferers of psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema. The soap is also made from non toxic ingredients, is very safe to use.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Biochar stoves (the char mini factory)

Inside thousands of homes across rural  El Salvador (marginalized zones of the city are also included), families use open wood-burning fires to prepare their daily meals without knowing that this cooking method has devastating effects. In the country 65% of the total population uses wood-burning fires to cook.

Open-fire cooking stoves... 
Devastate lives. 18% of all deaths of children under five in El Salvador are attributed to respiratory infection often caused by smoke in the home. Millions of children all over the world die from smoke inhalation in developing countries every year.

Waste time and money. Wood costs the average poor family up to 25% of their income. Gathering wood can consume up to 20% of a person’s time. 

Ravage the environment. Open cooking fires use much more wood than necessary. Deforestation has led to soil erosion, crop and water table damage, and fatal mudslides.

Fortunately there are always alternatives to make some positive changes in our population traditional (not well designed) way of cooking....

Open wood-burning fire stoves

I had the chance to meet a clever gentleman (Gustavo) that has a stove factory as family business. I was able to get into his workshop where he designs and ensembles what he calls "eco-cocinas" - the purpose of the eco-cocina is to save half of the wood people usually employs to cook in a traditional way and at the same time improve peoples health with non smoke stoves. 

These are some of the stoves Gustavo design and assembles at his factory....

We made some trials with Gustavo's Eco-cocinas , as a result, we obtained biochar due to the pyrolysis process used to produce heat in the stoves 

This one is his smallest model 

You can use corn cobs for the combustion, is enough for boiling a cup of water...

This is the model I got from Gustavo and is the one i'm using for biochar production at home

It comes with a small metal "comal" to make tortillas while I make my biochar....

Also has a support in case I want to prepare food in a casserole instead of making tortillas 

Once ignited it gives a clean flame and zero smoke

I used Dendrocalamus asper bamboo to produce my biochar

Dendrocalamus asper also known as Rough Bamboo or Giant Bamboo is a giant tropical and subtropical dense clumping species native to Southeast Asia. This timber bamboo is used as a building material for heavy construction, and shoots are consumed as a vegetable.

Read more: Dendrocalamus asper — Guadua Bamboo 

I chopped the bamboo in smaller pieces, due to the size of the eco-cocina drum, it will make a better and faster combustion if small pieces are ignited. 

And this is the final result, nice and well done bamboo biochar!!!!!!

For more information about Gustavos Eco-cocinas you can check his information:

Country:  El Salvador
Factory:  Inversiones Falcón
Contact:  Sr. Gustavo Peña and Rosa Elvira Hererra
Location:  Av 23 de Noviembre 2-2, Nahulingo, Sonsonate

Telephone:  +503-2451-9605


Gustavo Peña left El Salvador during the war after being hunted by the death squads. He worked both in Los Angeles and in Canada prior to returning to El Salvador. He has worked in a variety of occupations from motorcycle sales to the establishment of a pizza business. Members of StoveTeam International met him in early 2008 and assisted him to develop the first Ecocina stove factory. Within the first five years, Gustavo’s factory, Inversiones Falcón, produced and sold over 20,000 Ecocina stoves.

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