A while ago, we wrote about what alternatives there are to traditional forestry. Alternatives that could be more profitable than normal forestry. An interesting theme, especially here in Sweden, as we have the lowest timber prices in Europe.
What more can we do with our forests?
Firewood making, portable sawmills, and carbon storage were mentioned as alternatives in that article. But there are other things you can do with your forest when traditional wood buyers don’t pay you enough.
We also wrote about the Hjelmsäter Estate and its owner Edvard Hamilton whom my colleague Fredrik at Skogsforum.se visited last year. Edvard’s alternative is to produce biochar at his farm instead of just burning the chips for heating. Now, he gets the heat for the houses (and the swimming pool) on the farm from the biochar production. And the business gives a good profit.
Biochar in high demand
Most people don’t even know what biochar is used for. One use, the original use (?) found out a very long time ago by the natives in the Amazonas in South America, is to plow it down in the fields to make the crops grow better. That it works, was proved by Edvard Hamilton during the very dry summer of 2018. The fields that were treated as usual gave very poor harvests, but those prepared with biochar gave harvests as for a normal year.
The biochar also stores carbon which is a good feature. When you burn wood (or woodchips) the normal way, you let the carbon out into the atmosphere. But biochar is a pyrolysis process that, when plowed into the ground, stores the carbon for up to 3000 years. That means that biochar producers, and users like Edvard, can sell carbon storage.
Problems in paradise
Recently, Fredrik contacted Edvard just to see how things were running. And running they were. Edvard explained that the major problem for the moment is meeting biochar demands. Delivery times get longer, and Edvard was surprised, and to some extent annoyed, that no one or very few have followed his example. He simply begged for competitors.
Now, how many businesses have that problem?
If you ask me, Edvard is a smart forest owner. Of course, there is a backside to the coin. You must invest and find customers. Read about Edvard’s biochar journey here to find out more before you get on with it. This report is from March 2021 but …
It moves forward
Edvard is also a dealer for the biochar boilers Biomacon. That brand has gone from 6 units in Sweden to 12 units in approx. 18 months. Furthermore, at least one more supplier has turned up. So, it moves forward even if it’s slow – so far.
Here is a film produced by puro.earth and Nasdaq where Edvard, among others, is interviewed.
Photos: Fredrik Reuter and Per Jonsson