A UNIQUE product that is being tested as a substitute for high-analysis fertiliser will be demonstrated at the Elmore field days this week.
Known as Biochar, the product is essentially charcoal, or the burnt remains of organic matter.
Biochar Energy Systems' Russell Burnett said his family had been developing the burning process of organic matter for about two years.
"We have a facility in East Bendigo, where the Biochar is produced and we use a variety of materials, such as poultry litter, straw and municipal green waste," Russell said.
But Biochar is not just about burning material and using the charcoal that remains.
The process relies on accurate thermal treatment in an oxygen-limited environment and is known as pyrolysis.
Russell said simply burning organic matter in a fire wouldn't give you biochar.
"Pyrolysis needs a very high temperature," he said.
"When made correctly, biochar can sequester or remove carbon.
"By turning typical organic molecules into carbon-containing aromatic rings, pyrolysis has the potential to be 'carbon-negative'.
"This means the process can actually take up more carbon than it gives out, potentially reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere."
One of the primary source materials for Biochar is poultry litter and, being based in Bendigo, the production plant has ample supplies close at hand.
In fact, Biochar-Energy Systems is equally owned by the Burnett family and the Northern Region Poultry Cluster Ltd.
The NRPC is focused on the City of Greater Bendigo and the Shires of Loddon, Buloke and Campaspe.
The region's poultry industry includes 40 businesses and supports about 2000 jobs.
Russell said the area dedicated to poultry production in the region was expected to double in area over the next 10 years.
To investigate the potential of Biochar as an alternative to high-analysis fertiliser, Russell has 10 trial sites throughout Victoria, including one at Elmore.
The trial plots are comparing Biochar with fertiliser applied in a broadcast manner, as well as sown with a conventional air seeder.
The trial plots have wheat sown as the crop of choice.
- For more details, look for Russell in the "Carbon Dioxide and You" precinct at the field days or phone him on (03) 5441 4110.