Five-College Biochar Competition

We are holding a five-college competition to inspire student projects using Biochar. Winning projects will receive $1000 and up to six cubic yards of biochar!

Prize: $1,000 and up to six cubic yards of biochar
Application deadline: December 31, 2014 

Background
Biochar is a form of charcoal that sequesters atmospheric carbon, and creative research has found many uses that lessens damaging human impact on the environment. When blended with compost, biochar stimulates probiotic microbes, increases drought resistance, and improves agricultural productivity. Biochar also has demonstrated usefulness in capturing nutrient runoff. As a feed additive, biochar reduces manure odor, and reduces cattle methane output by 20~40%, and is a fit substitute for overused prophylactic antibiotics. The Pioneer Valley Biochar Initiative (PVBI), in collaboration with New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI), would like to inspire 5-College students in the developing projects with biochar.

Background
Biochar is a form of charcoal that sequesters atmospheric carbon, stimulates the soil food web, increases drought resistance, and improves agricultural productivity. The Pioneer Valley Biochar Initiative (PVBI), in collaboration with New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI), would like to inspire Five-College students in developing projects with biochar.

Eligibility
Any registered student of the 5-Colleges (Amherst, Umass Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire, and Smith), or student-led team with the majority of the members being registered students, is eligible to enter the competition. Faculty and outside support are allowed.

PVBI and NESFI will provide a team of biochar experts to review proposals and select the winner, and

  • Supply up to six cubic yards of characterized high quality dry unconditioned biochar, and
  • Provide a $1,000 stipend for materials to facilitate the execution of the proposed biochar study.

What makes up an eligible entry
The Competition Goal is to stimulate demonstrations of the utility and uses for biochar. The proposal should outline the demonstration’s goals and describe how it will be executed. The demonstration can be incorporated into any existing academic effort (Capstone, etc.) or an entirely independent use of the biochar outside the classroom (using it at a college farm, CSA, etc.). Include a brief description of the team and the timetable for the utilization of the biochar.

How to enter
Email a one-to-three page summary of the proposed biochar study to: HSMclaughlin@verizon.net by the end of December 2014.

How the competition will be administered

  • A panel of experts from PVBI and NESFI will review the proposals early in January and inform the finalist teams of a presentation day, to be held at NESFI, 275 Jackson Street, Belchertown, on Saturday, January 31, 2015.
  • The finalists (4-8 expected) will present at NESFI on the morning of Saturday, January 31, 2015: up to 30 minutes of presentation, followed by questions. The presentation will be open to the other teams presenting and the public. Outside parties interested in sponsoring additional biochar research will be invited, and additional collaborative biochar demonstrations may be arranged outside this competition.
  • A short reception and networking opportunity will follow the presentations, followed by the announcement of the winner of the Spring 2015 Biochar Competition.
  • The winner will be presented with the $1,000 stipend and arrangements will be made for the delivery of the biochar, which will be available immediately.

Please contact Hugh McLaughlin, PhD, PE at HSMclaughlin@verizon.net or 978-448-6414 with questions.