Ag Energy Solutions finds unexpected market for biochar

David drinkard, ceo of ag energy solutions inc., predicts the carbon logic product line will make the 7-year-old agricultural technology company profitable within a year.

David drinkard, ceo of ag energy solutions inc., predicts the carbon logic product line will make the 7-year-old agricultural technology company profitable within a year.

Carbon Logic, the first product line to be produced by Ag Energy Solutions Inc., of Spokane Valley, is going to pot—yes, the green leafy stuff.

Ag Energy originally was formed in 2010 to make equipment to convert agricultural waste into energy. For now, however, the company has pivoted its mission to market the byproduct the equipment produces, says David Drinkard, Ag Energy CEO. And one of its first customers is the marijuana industry. 

“We originally started building a gasification system that can take agriculture waste and covert it to make energy,” Drinkard says.

The heart of the system is a machine called an integrated biomass platform, which “cooks” feedstock, such as wheat straw, and converts it into two products; a synthetic flammable gas and a carbon-rich solid called biochar, he says.

“We were planning on selling the equipment.” Drinkard says of Ag Energy’s original mission. “The idea was for farmers to use agricultural waste to generate synthetic gas to fuel water pumps and sprinkler systems.”

During the development process, however, Ag Energy determined the biochar that the integrated biomass platform produces has more potential value than the energy the IBP produces, he says.

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Carbon Farming: California Focus on Soil to Meet Climate Water Goals

A pioneering program in California aims to sequester carbon, improve water resources and boost plant growth, by treating the soil beneath farmers’ and ranchers’ feet as part of a living system.

Jose Ortega, left and Fidel Meza work the soil in Lemoore, Calif. The state’s new Healthy Soils Initiative gives money to farmers and ranchers to experiment with building healthy soil for “carbon farming.”AP/Gary Kazanjian

Jose Ortega, left and Fidel Meza work the soil in Lemoore, Calif. The state’s new Healthy Soils Initiative gives money to farmers and ranchers to experiment with building healthy soil for “carbon farming.”AP/Gary Kazanjian

Soil’s ability to capture carbon and store water has led to an upsurge of interest in this often overlooked natural resource.

In California, a new program called the Healthy Soils Initiative is about to put unorthodox farming practices to the test. With modest grants of up to $50,000 administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), a network of farmers and ranchers throughout the state will embark on a series of experiments in carbon farming.

The term refers to improving soil health by biological processes that limit the amount of synthetic chemicals applied to crops and adopting techniques aimed to reduce nutrient loss.

Kevin Muno is among the converts. He and his business partners at the Santa Ysabel Ranch run a cattle operation called the Land of Milk and Honey. Located about 40 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, it is the southernmost of the ranches testing the efficacy of carbon farming methods in California.

According to Muno, his goal is to restore the ecology of the landscape through a series of practices that he calls regenerative agriculture. The aim is to improve soil quality and to promote vigorous plant growth. By demonstrating the ecological services that carbon farming can provide, he and his partners believe they can prosper and conserve resources. “Humanity can benefit,” says Muno. “People in the city like clean air and water in their reservoirs. If we manage the landscape correctly, we can have those things.”

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Can we firght climate change- by turning up the heat?

Producing biochar. Photo - Photo - Wilson Biochar,   .

Producing biochar. Photo - Photo - Wilson Biochar,

What if we could combat climate change by making mountains of charcoal? It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Here's the backstory: Part of the mission of Ecology's Waste 2 Resources program is supporting recycling in the state. That's not just bottles and cans and newspapers, it's also food and grass clippings and other organic material. That's what composting is all about – recycling organics.

A lesser-known part of that organics recycling work is what's called "waste to fuels." Anaerobic digesters are one example of this – digesters capture the methane from decomposing cow manure plus other organic material like food and green waste, and repurpose it as natural gas, either for heating or generating electricity.

Another example is biochar. And here's where we get back to saving the planet.

Biochar sounds sort of mysterious, but you might have a bag of it already out by the grill.

"This term 'biochar' is a new term – we used to call it 'charcoal,'" said Mark Fuchs, a hydrogeologist with Ecology's Eastern Regional Office in Spokane.

"It's pretty cool stuff that we're looking at," said John Cleary, an Ecology engineer also working on waste to fuels. "We're trying to find new ways to look at waste."

Charcoal (and biochar) is produced when you partially burn woody debris, removing moisture and volatile compounds. To produce biochar efficiently, you use a process called pyrolysis, where the wood is heated in the absence of oxygen – meaning that you do as little actual "burning" as possible. After all the volatiles cook off, you're left with a block of what is mostly carbon.

Click here for more information.

New Bee Better Certification for Farmers and Ranchers Who Help Bees on America's Working Lands!

The NRCS works with conservation partners like the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to help farmers plan and implement conservation practices that benefit bees and other pollinators. Through a new certification program - Bee Better Certified - agricultural producers can inform consumers that they are farming in ways that benefit bees.

Funded by a grant from the USDA, the Xerces Society partnered with Oregon Tilth to develop and launch the Bee Better Certified program.  The project received a $350,000 Conservation Innovation Grant in 2016 from the NRCS which Xerces matched to develop and test the first-of-its-kind program.

After piloting the program with 13 farmers over the past few months, Xerces and Oregon Tilth are now opening it to farmers nationwide. 

Click here to read more!

Free Webinar: Designing a Waste-Free Solution.

A discussion with Materials & Packaging Specialists, Natural Food Product Manufacturers, and Compost Operations Providers.

Join us at 10 am (PDT) on July 13, 2017 to explore the future of innovative design in compostable materials for food products.

Focusing on compostable flex packaging, materials specialists and the companies that are leading the way will discuss introducing new materials into the wider market. 
Facility operators will discuss the end-of-life of these products, and how they are handled within the various processes of industrial composting. We will examine the support needed (e.g. proper labeling) and consumer education issues related to the disposition and viability of compostable packaging materials. 

We hope to bring those responsible for the beginning of a product's life together with those who are ultimately left "holding the bag".

Produced by the California Resource Recovery Association’s Recyclers Global Warming Council (CRRA-RGWC), with web hosting provided the National Recycling Coalition (NRC).

Register today for this webinar & please share with your networks!

Get Water-Saving Tips for Your Home and Garden

Join us on June 13th to learn how to reduce your water use and save money

Summer is just around the corner and that typically means higher water bills.

Please join us at the upcoming Four Creeks Unincorporated Area Council meeting on June 13th to hear from two speakers who will provide you with water-saving tips for your home and garden. Ashley Mihle from the King County Loop Biosolids program will talk about landscaping and gardening using soil amendments, and Chris Hoffer from Tilth Alliance will offer tips for water-efficient and cost-effective measures inside your home. The event is sponsored by the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review.

When?  Tuesday, June 13thPresentations start at 7:00pm

Where?  Eastside Fire and Rescue Station 78 located at 20720 SE May Valley Rd., Issaquah.

Refreshments will be provided. 

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Check Out the Latest with WORC!

April 2017 News

President's Message

Dear Members,

You may have noticed recent change with the Washington Organic Recycling Council. During the last three years we have been working hard to grow WORC as the organics recycling industry leader in Washington and have expanded our influence significantly.

The WORC board, as always, has been working quite hard for our membership and we are now successfully disseminating that information to our members. I hope that you have seen our quarterly newsletters that include interesting articles and information on various topics....


Board Member Spotlight

Sam Schaefer-Joel, WA St. Dept. of Agriculture

Sam Schaefer-Joel has been on the WORC Board since 2014 and currently serves as the Material Input Coordinator for the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Organic Program.

Sam grew up in Olympia, WA and has a B.S. in Biochemistry and an M.S. in Plant Biology.  He has been working in the field of Organic Material Review since 2011 and has a lifelong fascination with the alchemy of transforming wastes into resources through composting and anaerobic digestion.

Being on the WORC Board helps keep Sam informed of current issues in organics recycling that affect certified organic growers and manufacturers of agricultural input products. In turn, Sam provides the Board with knowledge of USDA Organic Regulations and WSDA policies as they relate to organics recycling.

Member Spotlight

Rexius Forest By-Products

Rexius Forest By-Products joined the WORC membership in 2017.   Although new to WORC, Rexius has been in the organics recycling business for over 80 years and employs over 200 people. Rexius provides an integrated suite of services ranging from composting and delivery to irrigation and landscaping services.

Rexius is headquartered in Eugene but also offers delivery and blower application services throughout the Portland Metro region.

Rexius currently has five potting soil and compost products registered for use in organic production with the Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic Program.

Read more

In the News

The Compost King of New York
With a million tons of organic waste to manage each year, New York City is looking for solutions to the disposal issue. Anaerobic digestion could be part of the solution.
Read more

Professionally Certifying Compost Operations Managers
USCC has launched a new compost certification program for compost operations managers.
Read more

Swedish Supermarkets Replace Sticky Labels with Laser Marking
This trial run is designed to eliminate packaging, but could be a boon for composters.
Read more

NorthWest Biosolids BioBull Library
WORC members can sign in to the Members section of the Northwest Biosolids site with the following log-in information.  Once you're there, click on Member Access menu item on the top navigation pane and scroll down to access to the searchable Information Portal that includes their entire Resource Library, eBulletin blogs and informational materials.
User - member                        Password - nwbiosolids17
Please note that Northwest Biosolids will be assigning custom logins in the future so that members can directly request articles from the Information Portal.  In the interim, you can send your requests for articles directly to Sally Brown.

Contact for a copy of the Northwest Biosolids March eBulletin.

Become a Member!

WORC is the forum that provides education, networking, and advocacy to the Organic Recycling Industry. If you want to associate with the best in the industry you belong with WORC.

 Join or Renew Your Membership Now

Get Involved

Volunteers are the heart of WORC!  You have great ideas to share. Participate in the work that steers the industry! By serving on a committee or task force, you will help guide WORC's future.
View WORC's Committees

Submit an Article

Submit an article, written or found, for the next newsletter to the  WORC Office.
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PSA FSMA Produce Safety Rule

February 25, 2017

School of Food Science
Food Science Human Nutrition Building
Room: 103/155
Pullman, WA 99164

To register online please visit our website:

Registration Fee: $275

Maximum Seats Available: 15
Lunch, refreshments, and course materials will be provided.


The lead instructor will be presenting the latest information from the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.

The Produce Safety Rule is part of the FDA FSMA that was passed by President Obama on January 4, 2011. This regulation focuses on setting the first-ever federal regulatory standards for the production, harvest, and handling of fruits and vegetables, in an effort to prevent microbial contamination and reduce foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce. The Produce Safety Rule was made available publicly on November 13, 2015 and was published in the Federal Register on November 27, 2015.

What does the FSMA Produce Safety Rule cover?

The Produce Safety Rule, outlined in Section 105 of FSMA, establishes science-based minimum standards for safe production and harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables. These standards are based on a foundation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). The rule is divided into several parts, including standards for:

·        Worker health, hygiene, and training

·        Agricultural water, both for production and post-harvest uses

·        Biological soil amendments (e.g., compost, manure)

·        Domesticated and wild animals

·        Equipment, tools, buildings, and sanitation

Lead Instructor: Dr. Connie Fisk, Extension, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, [ ]  
Presenter:  Dr. Barbara Rasco, School of Food Science, Washington State University/University of Idaho,

Please contact Cathy Blood,, for registration questions.

Most Recent Waste Study

Most Recent Waste Study

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) commissioned Cascadia Consulting Group (Cascadia) to conduct a four-season municipal solid waste (MSW) characterization study during 2015-2016. The purpose of this study was to support the State Solid and Hazardous Waste Plan, “Moving Washington Beyond Waste and Toxics” and conduct an in-depth examination of the materials and resources currently being disposed throughout the state.

Read More

The Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup

At the 2015 WSRA conference many attendees signed up to participate in an organics contamination reduction session.  In the process, many of these people also signed up to participate in a series of meetings to brainstorm ways to reduce contamination in collected organics.  This group is called The Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup and it has four sub-committees:  Education and Outreach; Operational/Contractual/Policy; Processing; and Upstream Strategies.

On a frosty November morning, members of the Workgroup toured two large composting facilities in Western Washington.  Tour participants representing state and local governments, packaging manufacturers, retailers, and the composting industry got a first-hand look at the types and amount of contamination composting facilities receive.  Participants also saw how much extra effort is required by these facilities to get from contaminated delivered feedstocks like this:


to finished compost like this:


The goal of the Workgroup is to identify best management practices for everyone from package manufacturers to curbside collection participants. Subgroups will provide suggestions for ways to reduce or eliminate contamination problems and all suggestions will be compiled into a report and tool box of options that may be used by all sectors.  An update will be presented at the May 2016 WSRA conference in Wenatchee and the final report will be delivered at the November 2016 WORC conference in Vancouver, WA.  Anyone interested in participating in one or more of the subgroups should e-mail John MacGillivray at

Awards at Our Annual Conference

During our Annual Conference in Wenatchee, WORC President Dan Corum presented our annual awards to the following organizations and individuals. Our congratulations to all! Check out our previous winners and nominate today for our future winners!

Composter of the Year: Royal Organic Products


We are pleased to recognize Royal Organic Products as Composter of the Year.  Royal Organics operates a premier composting facility in the center of Washington State, on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, near the Columbia River.  Royal Organics has worked to developed new products for compost, soil and agriculture. After years of research, Royal Organics has designed a compost product for precision agriculture. It can be applied with modern, precision equipment such as air drills, no-till drills, banding fertilizer applicators and more.  Precision agriculture in row crops such as wheat, canola, corn, soy, peas, and others now has a new tool to get the benefits of high quality compost. High quality compost increases soil health and plant health.  This innovation is represents a paradigm shift to the industry.

Excellence in Education and Outreach: Washington State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit


The Washington State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit has worked diligently to further the use of compost in agriculture by developing a multi-faceted program to identify appropriate and safe uses of compost in the Pacific Northwest.  This program works with a wide-range of audiences including compost producers, regulators, farmers, gardeners, and concerned citizens.  Projects include both applied research and Extension education. Research projects have identified appropriate application rates for organic amendments, documented long-term soil improvement in agricultural and urban settings, developed a potting mix product that is now sold commercially, and evaluated composting effects on contaminant fate.  Extension education has included workshops, field days, webinars, worksheets, Master Gardener training, and publications for gardeners and farmers. A key Extension event is the week-long, hands-on Compost Facility Operators class held annually at WSU Puyallup. Other recent programs include presentations and workshops in Idaho, Oregon, and British Columbia, as well as on-going programs in Washington.

Accepting the award for WSU’s Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit was David Granatstein.

Innovation in Organics: Impact Bioenergy


Impact Bioenergy is being recognized for its innovative “High-solids, Organic-waste recycling system with electrical output” (HORSE) device and marketing campaign. These devices are designed to scale down the size and cost of anaerobic digestion (AD) and provide on-site generation of energy from food waste and similar organic materials. These devices are designed to reduce the environmental footprint of small cafeterias or restaurants by offsetting trucking offsite to distant facilities, while also offsetting less sustainable forms of energy with self-generated renewable energy. The system also produces valuable fertilizer and soil co-products. This means local soil resources are conserved, reducing the need for agrichemicals and providing the local community with a post-consumer food lifecycle. Recycled organic matter can return to the soil as sequestered carbon as close to home as possible. This is a completely new innovation in organics conversion.

Accepting the award for Impact Bioenergy was its president, Jan Allen.

Outstanding Leadership in the Promotion and Use of Composting

Sandy Salisbury of the Washington State Department of Transportation was recognized for her outstanding leadership.  Sandy is a long-time supporter of WORC and a regular presenter at our annual CFOT training.


She has been a problem solver and a valiant warrior for compost use for many years. Sandy is the Roadside and Site Development Manager for the WSDOT.  She develops and implements roadside policy, provides landscape architectural expertise, and is WSDOT’s expert on roadside and erosion control materials, including compost. She also works on climate change adaptation.

Sandy started with WSDOT in 1998 and was a team leader, author and editor of the Roadside Manual and the roadside chapters of the Design Manual.  These manuals provide guidance on restoration practices and materials on state highways.  The Roadside manual won the 2003 FHWA Environmental Excellence Award in Roadside Maintenance and Management.

Sandy revises and updates WSDOT’s Statewide Standard Specifications and Standard Plans for erosion control and roadside restoration practices and materials, including compost use.  She also provides statewide training on topics such as WSDOT’s climate change policy, soil bioengineering, compost use, native plants, integrated vegetation management and roadside policy.

In 2014, she spearheaded the development of WSDOT’s Roadside Policy Manual that provides practical roadside restoration policies and guidance, which are based on minimizing life cycle costs while providing operation and environmental functions.  It promotes ecological context, environmental preservation, and maintainability. And compost, of course!

WORC members know Sandy as a fair problem solver when it comes to problems of compost contamination, a powerful advocate for the value of compost in landscapes, and the author of compost use specifications that have greatly expanded the use of recycled organics in roadside and other government projects.  Sandy is a wonderful teacher, whether at WORC’s CFOT training or to landscape architects and engineers.

As Sandy looks forward to a well-earned retirement next spring, it is our honor to recognize her years of collaborative and visionary work.  We know she’ll continue to have dirt, or compost under her fingernails.

Excellence in Education & Outreach: Washington Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss


The Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss, also known as Washington School for the Deaf (WSD) is a K-12 school in Vancouver, Washington with about 125 students. Some students live on campus, which has a kitchen and cafeteria on site. The kitchen staff is efficient with ordering and preparing food to prevent food from becoming waste. Food scraps and yard debris are collected and composted at a local facility. The school diverts about 275 gallons of organic material each week from the landfill and it’s made into soil-enriching compost.

WSD takes great pride in being environmentally conscientious and that their students lead the charge. They started recycling paper in the 1990s. Since then, they have added cans, bottles and organics collection. The agency knew the recycling program would be a great teaching opportunity for their students, therefore this program has always been conducted as part of the academic department. Their facilities department helps the program run smoothly by cleaning food recycling bins, building compost bins and meeting other requests. During lunch, student monitors help keep contaminants such as plastic out of the organics collection bin.

WSD is a participating member of Washington Green Schools, and WORC is pleased to recognize them for their tremendous efforts.