Big Table Farm Uses On-site Carbonizing Technology

By Mark Stock
Photo by Andrea Johnson

This is a tale not unusual to Oregon wine country: You come upon some land you’d like to convert to vineyard, but it’s densely coated in flora, from native fir trees to invasive bushes. The standard procedure? Clear the land and burn the scraps.

For a variety of reasons, open burns now face criticism, or, at the least, questions. As the very real and serious threat called climate change continues to dictate new norms, farmers, especially, examine more closely their environmental footprints. This is to say nothing of the last several growing seasons, both warm and, in a growing number of areas, influenced by wildfires.

Enter the Carbonator-500, a mobile kiln-like device that converts what would normally become ash into biochar, a type of charcoal resulting from the burning of biomass. Unlike a typical pile burn, however, this transformation is contained. The machine, which looks a cross between a giant dumpster and a military tank, heats and processes the debris, leaving a wake of biochar that can be used as natural fertilizer for farms of all kinds.

“It is new technology,” says Brian Beall, the business and product development manager for Blackwood Solutions based in Indiana. “But the air burner technology is not, nor is the concept of biochar.” The company operates in 30 states and remains one of the first outfits to buy a carbonizer. He says he saw the Carbonator-500 at a trade show last year and immediately informed his colleagues.

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