Team Biochar: Matt Student, Nasiru Atere, Frank Foley and Chinedum Anoze. Image: Flete Field Lab.
Team Biochar: Matt Student, Nasiru Atere, Frank Foley and Chinedum Anoze. Image: Flete Field Lab.

Pioneering west country environment scheme receives top accolade

3 min


Devon based Biochar Project wins International Conservation Award

A Devon-based project recently won international praise following their work on enhancing soil and water quality. The innovative project uses nature-based solutions.

The team at the Flete Field Lab recently secured the Devon Environment Foundation award for ‘Best Grant for Reducing Pollution’ at a ceremony hosted by the Conservation Collective in Corfu. 

‘We are so proud that the Flete Field Lab project has been recognised by the Conservation Collective’s international panel of nature experts,’ commented Amanda Keetley, Executive Director of the Devon Environment Foundation.

She was there to accept the award for ‘Best Grant for Reducing Pollution’ for  the Flete Field Lab project which is sponsored by Olympus Power. 

‘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.’

Flete Biochar prep. Image supplied by Flete Field Lab.

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. 

Enhancing soil fertility

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.

Experts explain that when it’s buried in the soil then it sequesters this carbon – while also enhancing soil fertility.

Measuring biochar: Image supplied by Flete Field Lab.

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.

It uses 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-focused environment foundations.

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’re collaborating with other organisations working with biochar and mycelium across the globe.

Like it? Share with your friends!