Research project BASTA: Biochar’s Added value in Sustainable land use with Targeted Applications in processes, growing media & (future proof) open-field cultivation

In progress BASTA
Landscape around ILVO's compost site

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Bart Vandecasteele

Bart Vandecasteele

Expert in sustainable growing media


Main research question

BASTA envisages producing biochar from residual biomass resulting in an economically valuable and sustainable end product for applications in (1) manure and biomass processing; (2) growing media; and (3) open fields. Based on multidisciplinary data (chemical, biological, economic and legal), a policy and business support tool is created to assist intelligent matches between input material(s), production parameters and biochar application. The goals are quantitative and qualitative: Biochar types are selected for further upscaling and application in (a) manure and biomass processing for 25% reduction in greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions and a 10% increase in process efficiency, and (b) production of growing media based on a biochar-based alternative for peat for a 10% reduction in chemical crop protection product use and a 30% reduction in nutrient losses, and to replace peat content by 20-40%.

Research approach

From specific starting materials or targeted applications of individual companies by means of short R&D pathways, the consortium determines the valorisation potential of biochars. With successful experiments on laboratory scale at Hasselt University (Belgium) and ILVO, BASTA allows the companies to take the next steps for further valorisation. Based on this knowledge, business models can be developed. Several companies in the BASTA commission show interest in VLAIO follow-up projects if the construction of a pyrolysis plant proves to be economically feasible. A well thought out IP strategy is planned for a good knowledge transfer and valorization of the results. The results can be commercialized in various industrial sectors. We bring together multidisciplinary data on the lifecycle so that a decision support tool for policymakers and companies is created to optimize the valorisation potential of biochar.


BASTA aims for high social and climate relevance. The hypothesis is that the production of biochar becomes a sustainable valorisation opportunity for existing residual biomass. The detour via biochar requires use of better manure and biomass processing technologies with lower environmental impact. The product biochar itself is intended as an alternative to peat, to be used in sustainable and disease-suppressing substrate crops with more efficient use of water, nutrients and chemical plant protection products. The application for a sustainable, climate-proof (re) use of marginal soils is also being investigated, e.g. for moderately metal-contaminated and drought-prone soils. We expect that on the basis of the BASTA results, processes can be commercialized in different industrial sectors. The consortium reveals those opportunities for biocharproductie and application methods that are profitable (business perspective) and desirable (social perspective).