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PlanetStove: Hybrid Biochar Cooking Stoves

We want to distribute 1,000 of our new stoves across East Asia this Autumn; to save lives and fight climate change!

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Hi, we're Novotera. We're embarking on this Indiegogo crowdsource fundraiser to distribute 1,000 of our new PlanetStove hybrid-biochar cooking stoves to remote villages in China, Thailand, and Indonesia during fall 2012.

Over 2 billion people cook indoors with inefficient wood fires causing deforestation, climate change and, according to the World Health Organization, more than 5000 premature-deaths a day due to smoke inhalation. After two years of working with Chinese villages to develop our stoves, we have finalized the design, and our manufacturer is ready to go into production.

PlanetStove helps to:

  1. Reduce indoor cooking smoke to a minimum.
  2. Mitigate air-born soot, which is responsible for 5-10% of man-made global warming.
  3. Reduce deforestation by increasing stove efficiency; villages reported using roughly 1/3 less wood than with traditional stoves.
  4. Sequester carbon (in the form of biochar) within the soil. 
  5. Improve the soil structure and drought resistance.
  6. Improve the financial situation and living conditions of rural populations.


How Does  it Work?

The Planet Stove is a TLUD, which means "Top-lit Updraft."

With a TLUD stove, you light kindling on top of a densely packed bundle of wood in a vertical tube nested inside a larger tube. Because the airflow is restricted, the fire on top heats the wood with very little oxygen, and the result is gases come streaming out of the wood; mostly hydrogen, and carbon monoxide. The gases rise towards the top, where they encounter jets of oxygenated air drawn through the gap between the tubes. When the gases meet, they ignite and burn just like a regular, clean-burning gas stove. 

What's left once you "gasify" wood, is charcoal, which when put into the earth, is Biochar. 

Biochar is Essentially Buried Charcoal

The agricultural benefits of burying charcoal have been understood for millennia in the Far East, but in the rest of the world this ancient knowledge was forgotten. While most of the Amazon’s soils are poor and thin, there are scattered patches of deep, fertile soil called "Terra Preta". In the late 90’s these soils were shown to have been caused by natives intentionally burying charcoal thousands of years ago.

When Charcoal is created in a controlled environment for agricultural application it is called biochar. A natural soil enhancer, biochar significantly boosts plant growth and root development when used properly, improves soil water retention and permeability, reduces soil acidity, helps to retains nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil, and encourages beneficial micro-organisms. Recent biochar soil-treatment trials have shown a doubling and sometimes even a tripling of crop yields. And of course, when you mix biochar in your soil, you're sequestering carbon and thus really doing something about climate change.

What Makes Our PlanetStove So Unique:

PlanetStove was designed to use locally purchased firewood, so unlike other available biochar-producing stoves, ours does not require villagers to re-cut their wood. 
The PlanetStove is a hybrid. It is a fully functional TLUD, but since a TLUD stove sometimes only burns for an hour, we added a door making it similar to a “Rocket Stove”, a more traditional high-efficiency stove being used in development work.  The benefit of this hybrid is that once there's no gas left in wood, villagers can add as more wood. This allows a family to cook for hours, even once the initial gasification is complete. 

PlanetStove Economics:

Biochar stoves provide villagers with the opportunity to earn extra money. A Planetstove can produce one Kilo of charcoal for each three Kilos of wood fuel, both of which sell for three RMB in parts of China. The stove thus produces a valuable product that can be used by the owner for further cooking, for sale, or for soil improvement. Wood that a villager would have burnt anyway for cooking can thus provide further benefit without extra cost, other than the stove. Ideally, farmers will bury the biochar in the soil and reap the long term economic benefits of bigger and healthier crops, but whatever the user chooses to do, the economic and health benefits of producing biochar with cooking stoves are significant.

The stoves presently cost 25$ to produce in Kunming China, but shipping to other more remote customers is our biggest hurdle. Shipping costs vary greatly depending on the customer’s location.

Marketing:

For the past two years we have been in China testing out our stoves, getting feedback from villagers and modifying the stoves to better suit people's needs. The thing which first impresses villagers is how our fire looks and acts like a gas fire. They like the high heat which it gives off as well as the lack of smoke.

We employ a range of distributors, including village leaders. Such people are well situated to distribute due to their position of respect within the community, and their connections with other nearby communities. Cookstove dealers as well as pot and pan sellers are another important type of distributor, as are restaurant owners. Sometimes local farmers also see the business opportunity although they often need more credit support.

WHAT WE NEED:
We are heading back to China this autumn, and with our finalized design our goal is to get a thousand of our new stoves into the hands of rural people in East Asia before the year is out. The people we have shown the stoves to on previous trips are interested in buying them, but they often can't afford the $35 it costs to manufacture the stove and ship it to a remote area. That is why we decided to appeal to the crowd and start an Indiegogo campaign.  For every $25 that is donated, we will sell a stove for $15, a price rural people say they can afford. That $15 will cover the transport costs and if there is any leftover, 100% of this will be used to subsidize the production of more stoves.

About Novotera:
Our mission is to promote the use of biochar-based technologies to help governments, companies, and individuals improve their carbon footprint while at the same time improving air, soil, water quality and living conditions of the rural poor. 
 

 

Team on This Campaign: