SDA Engineering Pty Ltd has developed a patented process and technology that converts low value organic waste into valuable high-quality biochar. Think grape marc, almond husks, compost, and other organic waste cooked in a kiln. The char produced can be used on-farm to improve soil, it can be sold, and it can generate significant carbon credits. Plus, the SDA Unit creates excess heat that can be converted to electricity to run plant and equipment reducing the reliance on fossil fuels such as LPG and diesel.
How it works
The machine is roughly the size of a shipping container and uses a pyrolysis process to carbonize organic materials, such as wood or agricultural waste. The process of charring involves heating the material to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen, which causes the organic matter to break down into a solid, carbon-rich substance known as char, while also producing clean gases which can be utilised for energy production.
Biochar production has a rich history, but most commercial-grade solutions are designed for specific feedstocks and moisture contents at specific heat levels. The SDA Unit stands out from its competitors as a robust design that can be customised to meet the needs of each customer, allowing it to be mass-produced then tuned to suit a wider range of applications and markets. It also features a sophisticated remote monitoring system that allows it to run autonomously.
The SDA Unit solves several problems for the customers:
- Waste reduction: Charring organic waste reduces its volume and weight and transforms it into a saleable commodity used in a variety of industries.
- Soil amendment: Biochar can be used as a soil amendment to improve soil structure and fertility, with the ability to better retain water and nutrients. This can lead to improved crop yields and reduced fertiliser inputs.
- Sequester carbon / carbon credits: The process of producing biochar sequesters carbon, which can be sold by the processor as carbon credits on platforms like PURO.EARTH creating a new revenue stream.
- Energy production: The SDA Unit produces heated gas that can be converted to electricity using a thermoelectric generator.
In addition to its on-farm benefits, biochar is a commodity with various uses. It can serve as a natural fertilizer, livestock feed additive, and be utilised in applications such as water treatment, air filtration, chemical adsorption, building materials, and bioplastics. The creation of an accessible biochar reactor, like the SDA Unit, allows farmers to benefit from participation in a circular economy, resulting in positive outcomes for the environment more broadly.
The global biochar market was valued at $170.9 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $587.7 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 13.2% from 2021 to 2030. The market demand for biochar creates an economic incentive for agricultural producers to invest in biochar units. SDA aims to help farmers meet this demand.
SDA was featured on ABC’s Landline on 2 October 2022, “Biochar industry fuelled by agricultural waste expected to grow”. The video is a useful overview of the technology and highlights some of the market opportunities for biochar. You have to log in to iView, then watch from minute 40:46: https://iview.abc.net.au/video/RF2204Q034S00
The bottom line
SDA has a compelling value proposition, strong unit economics and an experienced delivery team. By embracing biochar and “Waste to Value” capabilities in Australia, farmers and other organic waste processors can reduce their operating costs and potentially create new sources of revenue.
As a part of the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme, myself and the i4 Connect team are excited to support their commercialisation journey.