Monday, April 15, 2024

After pilot test, climate-tech startup aims to fast-track ‘biochar’ use in PH

WasteX, a climate-tech company operating in the Philippines and Indonesia, recently implemented a biochar solution at a poultry farm in West Java, in collaboration with Pitik Digital Indonesia.

Spanning from January to May 2023, the pilot sought to examine how biochar, a charcoal-like and carbon-rich substance derived from biomass, can boost the performance of the poultry industry and help achieve sustainable farming techniques.

It resulted in a number of significant operational improvements for the farm, the company said.

WasteX recently implemented the same solution in a poultry farm in Cavite that belongs to one of the top agricultural producers in the Philippines. The outcomes are expected in a few months.

While still nascent in the Philippines, biochar technology has already received positive reception and full support from the government. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), for instance, has expressed eagerness to promote biochar as a green alternative to chemical fertilizer.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), on the other hand, is still looking at ways to widely promote the use of biochar amongst farmers. Based on data from the Bureau of Animal Industry, there are 1,593 registered poultry farms in the Philippines.

Biochar is produced from rice husk and poultry litter using WasteX’s proprietary equipment at one of Pitik’s farms. The biochar was then incorporated into the farm’s operations in two ways: as a bedding additive of up to 10% of the total bedding, and as a feed supplement of up to 2% of the feed.

The supplementation of bedding with up to 10% biochar led to substantial improvements in the farm’s broiler chicken production. The results were impressive, with a 25% reduction in chicken mortality rate, a 30% decrease in overall bedding use, and the farm achieving the highest-ever recorded value in its Performance Index. Furthermore, there was a slight decrease in the feed conversion ratio or FCR.

Additionally, by supplementing the feed with up to 2% biochar, the poultry farm experienced a near-complete eradication of the E. coli population, contributing to enhanced biosecurity measures and healthier poultry.

“The outcomes of our solution implementation at the poultry farm have exceeded our initial expectations. While we anticipated operational improvements and benefits from the generation and sale of carbon credits, the additional income and savings resulting from decreased mortality rates and reduced bedding use will far surpass the carbon credit proceeds. We are currently working with several other poultry farms in the Philippines and Indonesia to expand the implementation of our solution,” Pawel Kuznicki, founder and CEO of WasteX, said.

Rymax Joehana, co-founder and COO of Pitik, said: “We are always seeking new solutions to enhance the performance of our poultry farms. The addition of biochar to our bedding and feed has yielded multiple operational benefits. We are in detailed discussions with WasteX to explore scaling up this model, benefiting more of our Kawan Pitik farmers and improving the environmental sustainability of Pitik’s operations.”

WasteX’s pilot findings revealed that total benefits for a 20,000-chicken farm would amount to more than $5,000 or P275,000 annually in additional savings and income. Given the slim margins of a typical poultry farm, adopting this new practice could significantly improve farmers’ profits and livelihood.

Furthermore, WasteX guarantees carbon credits to its clients for the entire biochar production and application, amounting to $50 or about P2,750 per metric ton of biochar. This could translate to up to $2,000 or about P110,000 per farm per year, incentivizing farms to adopt this innovative solution.

Biochar is entitled to carbon credits because it captures and stores carbon for extended periods to help mitigate climate change. If applied at full scale, biochar could transform the agricultural industry into a carbon-negative and climate-positive sector.

During this particular pilot, a total of 0.3 metric tons of biochar was produced and applied, resulting in the removal of approximately 0.5 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Annually, the equipment used in the pilot has the potential to produce up to 40 metric tons of biochar and remove up to 60 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

In addition to the poultry farm, the pilot also examined the impact of biochar mixed with poultry litter on crops and vegetables grown in the vicinity. The results were remarkable, with a yield improvement of 30-60%, demonstrating how biochar can benefit other agricultural producers beyond poultry farms.

WasteX is a portfolio company of Wavemaker Partners, Southeast Asia’s early-stage venture capital firm investing in enterprise, deep tech, and sustainability, co-founded by Filipinos Eric Manlunas and Paul Santos.

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