Spotlight 2023

Terra Preta - Biochar from agricultural waste to restore soil health and remove CO2

Terra Preta provides credible climate action to companies committed to net-zero emissions. Our transparent and permanent Carbon Removal Credits offer additional social and environmental benefits to rural communities in the Global South. By collaborating with coffee and cocoa traders we improve farmer margins and remove carbon by enabling decentralized biochar production using our mobile and cost-effective reactors while measuring and verifying carbon removal through our digital control system.

Who are the people behind the project and what is your background?

Thomas Käslin: Master's degree in Accounting & Finance from the University of St. Gallen, experience in climate projects at the Swiss Climate Foundation, as well as expertise in carbon markets and sustainability consulting for Swiss SMEs.
Lorenz Buser: Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Gallen, experience in B2B sales and product management in a Swiss IoT sensor technology startup.
Juan David Gonzalez: Experienced leader of customer success, client activation and marketing teams at a Ed-Tech Startup and a Food & Beverage Company
Marcel Rohner: Has built up and co-led the rapid prototyping department of Bühler Group and been leading an R&D team of 14 people.
David Bachmann: ETH-trained mechanical engineer with experience in software development, AI and data science at Bühler Group.

How did your idea come into being?

During his civil service at the Climate Foundation, Thomas worked closely with the SwissRe's sustainability team, where he gained valuable insights from a net-zero pioneer and learned about the need and undersupply of Carbon Removal Credits. This led to a two-year journey of pivoting from B2C compensation to B2B net-zero and, ultimately biochar. We became customers of biochar projects and advised others in the certification process. Fate intervened when we met a sugarcane plantation owner in Colombia, sparking a collaboration and pilot project. This drove us to start our own startup, fueled by our passion to make a difference in the face of the climate crisis.

What is your idea to impactfully design a climate positive FOODprint for Switzerland?

We believe that one often overlooked area is the sourcing of our product. Apart from other topics, such as food waste and changes in diets, we believe that we need to make sure more sustainable agriculture practices are implemented. It is there, where we can have a huge lever on emissions, but also on biodiversity and restoring soil health. Especially, in the Global South, where farmers will be most affected by climate change, climate adaptation efforts are key to ensure future production. So, on top of behavior changes let’s change the way we are farming and support from Switzerland the farmers around the world in the transition to more sustainable agricultural practices.

How do you define the positive impact of your solution on the problem described above?

At Terra Preta, we are keenly aware of the importance of reducing emissions within the coffee and cocoa supply chains. In Switzerland, where 60% of the carbon footprint is imported, it is clear that emissions are deeply embedded in our value chains. This is why we focus our efforts on two critical value chains in Switzerland, partnering with coffee and cocoa traders and cooperatives to drive positive change. By addressing the supply chain activities that contribute to 60-80% of emissions in the food and beverage industry, we make a substantial impact. Our decentralized biochar production approach tackles the environmental impact of these supply chains, reducing emissions, improving soil health, and promoting sustainable coffee and cocoa production. We measure tons of carbon removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil for centuries, fertilizer emissions reduced, and rural livelihoods improved.

Mission Model Canvas