Thank you for joining us in celebrating 10 Years of Innovation and Impact.
This is our story, ARTi and the Biochar Evolution. So how did Iowa State University students’ projects turn into ARTi, a large and sustainable company? ARTi CEO Dr. Bernardo Del Campo has been a PhD student in mechanical engineering and a farmer. He has been in agriculture and enterprise for a long time. Complementary skills and backgrounds are fundamental to the multidisciplinary nature of the ARTi team. So how did the journey to make biochar and pyrolysis technology begin? Ten years ago we started with a project in Nicaragua trying to get biochar incorporated into farm soil. As students we received grants from the Department of Agriculture and a university in Denmark and we made our first biochar reactor. Today in 2023, we have main offices in Iowa, Ecuador and Uruguay. We are now truly international with roughly 60 people working for us from locations all over the world. To date, the ARTi team has installed 14 pyrolysis machine units with two located at our facility in Iowa. Our other BPUs (Biochar Production Units) in the United States are located in Hawaii, Florida, Arizona and soon in California and Minnesota. The BPUs in the US have been operating successfully for a year or more. Around the world we have two BPUs in Canada, two in China, one in Puerto Rico, one in Ireland and one in the UK which will be relocated.
ARTi today: Top quality biochar and top-quality Biochar Production Units
ARTi founders from left to right Juan Proaño, Matthew Keiffer and Bernardo del Campo in Nicaragua in 2013.
What is ARTi’s Innovation and Impact?
We make biochar and the pyrolysis reactors that produce it. At the same time, we sequester carbon and improve soils. Biomass that would have decomposed and released CO2 won’t now because it has been locked as biochar. And the CO2 will stay in the biochar for hundreds of years or more. Every machine we make is a research project. Every biomass is different so every product we make is different. We pride ourselves in the simplicity of the design of our machines. It’s not complicated to operate them. Every one of our clients and projects comes with their own set of requirements and challenges.
We have farmer partners. If you want to talk about sustainability, then talk to a farmer. Farmers rely on their land to produce crops year after year, and so they have a vested interest in ensuring that the land remains healthy and productive for the long term. If you want a perfect indicator of how healthy and productive your farm soil can be then look at the organic matter present. We add biochar, which is largely carbon, to compost which has the nutrients. In a few years the soil can multiply the carbon content it was originally holding depending on the application rate, or amount of biochar added. You get carbon sequestration and better, healthier soils. This means higher quality and more productive soils with more organic matter presence in the soil. Over the course of 10 years of ARTi, we have worked with clients who have inspired us by finding the benefits and advantages.
At the center of ARTi pyrolysis is heat, but remember biochar is not burned biomass. It is carbonized in a near-zero oxygen environment.
ARTi has found out what “sustainability” really means.
The whole time the ARTi team has been learning about the path of sustainability. This word perseverance certainly is sustainability. You fall down, you learn, you get up and you repeat. And sustainability for us is the ability to sustain. Through all these years, we have had all these challenges and trips and things that have made us what we are. If you don’t persevere, you don’t get it. You’ll fall down and you won’t be able to stand up. Perseverance is what we, as a company, have found. And we always have to find a balance. We can’t sequester carbon here and emit methane or CO2 there. At the same time, the client’s mission is money. You have to be operating at scale if you want to see a profit. These are some of the challenges.
ARTi is dedicated to building a strong foundation for the future.
It’s only natural that we are committed to creating a sustainable future for our business and the planet. The biochar industry is still relatively new, but it has been growing rapidly in recent years as more people become aware of the benefits of this technology. The biochar industry is expected to grow as more farmers and gardeners adopt this technology. Consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of using biochar, and there is a growing interest in using biochar as a way to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. As carbon markets become the norm and earn greater trust, new sources of revenue will emerge for biochar producers. We will still face the same challenge that much of our sector is facing. The costs and scaling of production being one hurdle. Another being the general awareness of biochar itself as well as knowledge of its best uses. That being said, these are challenges we have been working to address from the beginning.