This summer, the Charborn team has been working hard in their transition from academic life to the business world. Group members and savvy entrepreneurs, Niles Brinton, Noelle Phares, Debbie Pierce, Alli Rowe and Ryan Wilson, are looking to bridge the gap between biochar producers and agricultural consumers. They founded Charborn while at Bren as part of the Eco-E program. After graduation this past June, Charborn shifted from Masters thesis project to an operating business and legal entity.
Charborn, LLC. is a biochar brokerage company that provides farmers with an innovative method for increasing soil fertility. Currently in the U.S., there is no market for biochar, nor has it been widely tested. Charborn wants to change that. (Read here to learn about biochar.)
Charborn is currently completing field trials with biochar over the next two months at Fairview gardens, and running soil test in Bren’s lab facilities. The group is looking to groundtruth the benefits of using biochar through hands-on experience so that they can share their testimony with potential customers. With their trial runs, they hope to show-off the perks of biochar to create an even greater demand that will allow the biochar industry to thrive. They seek to create a homogenous product that can be easily moved from producers to users.
Ultimately, their goal is to make biochar accessible for all to use with the belief that it can enhance crops, decrease water use, decrease amount of fertilizer needed, and bury more carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. The group also hopes to create a streamlined method that will change the way people share information with the farmers and larger community.
Acting as consultants in the biochar industry is a large part of their vision; they will approach customers, determine their soil needs, discuss how biochar will help them, and then run a test phase. The group is hoping to streamline their efforts by developing a platform in which to easily enter data and information based on the customer-soil match.
The team is also participating in the Barrett Foundation Business Concept Challenge, and have made it to the finals! The Challenge will award $100,000 for innovative market-based solutions to natural issues benefiting U.S. National Forests and Grasslands. Charborn’s business plan for this challenge is to show how they could improve forest health through the use of biochar. The group will present their plan to the review committee in September.
Bren wishes the best of luck to the Charborn team!