Dave Drinkard, VP of Engineering at Qualterra presents a talk on biomass processing and biochar production technologies at the Qualterra-hosted Biochar Innovation Summit on November 2, 2023.
November 9, 2023 – Clean AgTech company Qualterra hosted its first annual Biochar Innovation Summit on November 2, 2023, in the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington. The full day, invitation-only summit included talks and discussions led by academic researchers, commercial growers, and government officials. The event culminated with a field tour of the Qualterra Agricultural Regeneration Center (ARC), a 77-acre biochar production and R&D farm, located in Cheney, Washington. The audience consisted of 34 industry stakeholders whose collective operations include more than 70,000 acres of specialty crops across 6 states. “Our original plan was to gather an informal group of 6-10 stakeholders for the inaugural event,” said Tim O’Brien, VP of Sales and Marketing at Qualterra. “The response to our concept and invitation was overwhelming, which confirms the agricultural industry is deeply interested to learn more about improving soil health and crop performance while decarbonizing their overall production systems.”
Several key themes emerged from the talks and discussions at the summit. Dr. Jim Amonette of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University led an insightful discussion demonstrating that “All biochar is not created equal,” by taking the audience on a quantitative journey to learn that the climate impact of chemically identical biochars from the same feedstock can be vastly different based on the greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions by the biochar technology used to create them. Dr. Amit Dhingra, Professor and Head of the Department of Horticulture at Texas A&M University College of Agriculture, Adjunct Professor at Washington State University Department of Horticulture and Chief Science Officer at Qualterra, along with his colleague Dr. Seanna Hewitt, Sr. Genomics Scientist and Grants Management Specialist at Qualterra, shared insights and data from their recent journal article publication that examined tomato root zone soil microbe interactions in biochar-amended soil. Their results suggest that biochar-amended soil enhances gene expression of beneficial soil microbes, and also impacts gene expression in the plant roots, which may in turn lead to improvements in soil and plant health. Keith Veselka, General Manager of NWFM, LLC, which manages more than 3,000 acres of specialty crop production in Washington State, presented his leaf and canopy data from his apple orchards growing in biochar amended soils. His data suggests faster establishment of new orchard plantings, and he is continuing and expanding his on-farm biochar trials in 2024.
Qualterra CEO Mike Werner served as emcee and host of the event, and he reflected at the end of the Biochar Summit day: “We are thankful to all the great people that attended our first annual Biochar Innovation Summit. Many of whom traveled a great distance to join us. One of the best ways we can improve and innovate is to listen closely to customers, partners and stakeholders. We appreciate all the questions and feedback throughout the day. We look forward to doing it again next year!”
Qualterra is an agricultural technology company on a mission to create innovations in agriculture and sustainability. Qualterra’s platform of technologies follow a plant life cycle from molecular plant testing and breeding support to propagation and nursery technologies through ag biomass waste processing and carbon capture technologies. Qualterra, headquartered in Washington State, USA, has three commercial facilities located in the main agricultural production area of the state.