Pioneering Biochar Project wins International Conservation Collective Award

green energy news / 10th Jul 2023

Olympus Power are proud sponsors of the Flete Field Lab, a local project that recently secured the Devon Environment Foundation the award for ‘Best Grant for Reducing Pollution’ at a ceremony hosted by the Conservation Collective in Corfu. 

Up against international competition, this Devon-based project won thanks to their innovative project trialling nature-based solutions to enhance soil and water quality, using biochar and mycelium. 

The Flete Field Lab CIC aims to restore soil and water quality on the Flete Estate in South Devon using low-tech, low-cost solutions. If successful, their discoveries will empower communities and landowners across the UK to be able to take action to clean up their soil and water. They were first awarded a grant from the Devon Environment Foundation for the project in 2021. 

Olympus Power, an alternative energy provider specialising in commercial solar power installations, made a donation in 2022 that enabled the project to purchase a larger kiln in order to scale up its production of biochar. 

‘Biochar’ is similar to charcoal. It is created using a process called pyrolysis where farm and woodland waste is burned in the presence of little or no oxygen, resulting in a solid residue that contains carbon in a stable form. When buried in the soil it sequesters this carbon, while enhancing soil fertility. The Flete Field Lab project also uses the biochar it produces as a biological filter, alongside fungi, aiming to remove persistent contaminants from both water and soil. 

In 2022, support from Olympus Power and co-funder Vivobarefoot, enabled the Flete Field Lab to deliver the only known successful mycofiltration trial in the UK, using mycelium-infused sacks and leaky dams to clean toxins downstream from a sewage treatment plant. Their experiments saw a reduction in E Coli of 47%, as well as falls in levels of chemical pollutants. Their 2023 experiments are targetting the reduction of phosphate pollution.

The Conservation Collective award ceremony is an annual event dedicated to honouring and celebrating the remarkable achievements of Conservation Collective’s locally-focussed environment foundations. Amanda Keetley, Executive Director of the Devon Environment Foundation, who was there to accept the award for ‘Best Grant for Reducing Pollution’ for the Flete Field Lab project, said:

“We are so proud that the Flete Field Lab project has been recognised by the Conservation Collective’s international panel of nature experts. This project has incredible potential to make a difference to the climate and nature emergencies, using natural solutions to help us to affordably restore soil and water quality in Devon and beyond.”

The project is a collaboration between Flete Field Lab CIC, the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, the University of Plymouth’s Sustainable Earth Institute, the West Country Rivers Trust, South Devon AONB, and the Flete Estate. They will make their findings open source and they are collaborating with other organisations working with biochar and mycelium across the globe.

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