Fighting climate change and food shortages in East Africa, Jason Aramburu’s re:char social enterprise has created innovative products that can be used in developed nations, too. This green entrepreneur for change has his eyes on solving multiple environmental and social problems using triple bottome line thinking to create a revolution in agriculture and sustainability around the world.
How re:char is Reinventing Fertilizer and Fighting Global Warming
Jason Aramburu started re:char following the 2008 financial crisis after evaluating potential projects to take on following the downturn. Having been inspired by the idea of using biochar as a soil amendment in Panama, Jason decided to apply knowledge used in the Amazon basin where farmers there had been burying charcoal in the ground for thousands of years as a way of improving a soil’s ability to capture and retain nutrients.
Jason’s goal was to reinvent the use of charcoal for soil improvement in Africa while solving other problems at the same time on a small localized level. He started by creating a rutuba kiln which is produced using repurposed oil barrels in mobile factories made out of old shipping containers. These mobile factories can be installed anywhere in the world using local supplies, making them a global solution.
Re:char sells the kilns made in these mobile factories to African farmers – either outright or on a payment plan – for less than the cost of two bags of fertilizer (a year’s worth). These farmers then burn waste such as sugar cane waste, leaves, corn cobs, and so forth to create biochar. Energy created during the process can be used as power, and the resulting biochar can also be used as a cooking fuel. They then teach the farmers how to use the biochar to fertilize their fields.
Biochar offers climate change benefits as well since it is the only source of energy that is carbon negative. In other words, as biochar is produced, it extracts carbon from the air, which is then buried in the ground so that it can’t re-enter the climate system.
Within six months, most farmers reap enough savings from the kiln through fuel savings and increased crop yields to pay for the kiln. The kilns can also be purchased by anyone in the US or around the world wishing to make their own biochar at home.
Re:char also now sells Black Revolution, which is the world’s first carbon-negative replacement for soil. A combination of coconut coir, biochar, and compost, Black Revolution can be used by hobby farmers, backyard gardeners, and virtually anyone else interested in improving their soil without contributing to climate change. Bags sell for $25, enough for 4-5 potted plants, with free shipping in the US.
About this Entrepreneur for a Change: Jason Aramburu
A graduate of Princeton University with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and a certificate in Environmental Studies, Jason is an avid researcher in both the lab and the field. He’s participated in research through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, as well as the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton. Jason was a Social Innovation Fellow at the 2010 Pop!Tech conference, an Echoing Green fellow, was chosen for Forbes 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs list in 2012, and has spoken at a TED conference, too.
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