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Company makes waves for green ideas

Agriculture research company in the hunt for top prize in New Ventures Competition

Burnaby's new agriculture research company, Diacarbon Energy Inc. has reached the third round of the BCIC-New Ventures Competition for a chance to win a share of more than $360,000.

For the past eight years, Jerry Ericsson, Diacarbon's president and co-founder, has studied and worked in biological agricultural applications and is interested in the effects of biochar in soils.

"I think it's great," Ericsson told the Burnaby NOW in a phone interview. "There were nearly 200 other companies who went for it."

Since the company's inception in 2009, Ericsson has been leading business development and fundraising initiatives to commercialize carbon-neutral fuels from biomass, as well as biochar soil conditioners for agricultural applications.

"We're doing something new that has a positive impact on the environment," Ericsson explained.

At the ground level, the company is looking to provide technology to convert waste biomass into value-added products in small to medium-sized renewable energy plants, biomass refineries. The whole system is a closed loop with low emissions and hot water as the only waste, according to the company's account executive, Tom Leslie.

The biomass wastes (manure) or raw biomass (wood fibre, agricultural residues) are converted into three fuel types: liquid bio oil, solid biochar and synthesis gas (mix of combustible gases).

Right now, it's in the stage of finessing this technology and gaining interested clientele so as to start gaining revenue by next year.

"We're pre-revenue, we're just building relationships and refining the biomass refinery," Ericsson, a current PhD student, said.

Diacarbon started as simply a research company to investigate the effects of biochar in the soil, but the group recognized the need for commercial scale pyrolysis technology. It then obtained the exclusive North American licence for a portable system.

"We then entered the Commercialization of Agricultural Technology competition hosted by the B.C. Innovation Council, and was awarded a $10,000 voucher to prepare a business plan," the website states. "We have since completed assembly of a 1.3-ton/hour biomass refinery and are eager to begin production of carbon neutral fuels and biochar soil amendments from biomass waste."

In April, Diacarbon was awarded $37,000 from the BCIT commercialization fund, part of the school's commercialization assistance program.

It went towards the construction of the company's second generation biomass conversion system.

"We're really excited about (this technology)," Ericsson noted. "There's a real benefit to using this type of energy. . Biochar is a great impact on the soil. It makes soil healthier."

BCIC-New Ventures is one of North America's biggest technology business idea competitions, and right now Diacarbon is in the top 25 out of the hundreds of original applicants.

There are a wide range of industries that apply, such as cleantech, digital media, information technology and more. First prize is $130,000, second is $70,000 and third is $40,000. There are also two prizes for agricultural technologies ($30,000 and $20,000).

"It feels really great," Ericsson said about being in the top 25. "It's been an honour each round."

Diacarbon is the only Burnaby company in the top 25, alongside the others from Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Coquitlam, Langley, Richmond and Port Moody.

To find out more about the BCIC competition visit www.newventuresbc. com. Or, to learn more about Diacarbon Energy, visit