Warm greetings from Charleville, Queensland (Pun intended). My name is Karen Siepen and I own and operate Renewable Carbon Resources Australia (RCRA) which is a charcoal and CarbonChar manufacturing plant 100km south west of Charleville, Qld. My husband, Ian Rogerson, and I started the business 7 years ago under rather odd circumstances. No I didn’t grow up with a deep passionate desire to be a charcoal manufacturer, in fact I only became aware of the industry 12 months prior to getting involved.
Due to Ian’s long history as a successful businessman, an associate of Ian’s had been pestering him to leave Townsville and come and help him make his charcoal manufacturing business more profitable. After a brief visit to check it out Ian and I thought we would take on positions with this person for a period of twelve months and then go do something we really wanted to do. I had been sick with Ross River and Dengue Fever for the previous year and felt I needed to get out in the country and do some manual labour to rebuild my strength.
Seven years later I’m still making charcoal. The key for me was the tremendous opportunity in the market place which was significantly under supported by the manufacturers. When Ian and I finally decided we would set up our own operation we were quickly snapped up as suppliers before we had even gotten our first efforts out of the charcoal oven. Today RCRA has distributors around Australia who sell our products to restaurants and Charcoal Chicken shops.
Being innovators as we are, Ian and I soon encountered the benefits of charcoal in the soil and finding our char is of a very high standard for inclusion into soils we soon grasped this opportunity as well. We currently have two retail products for home garden and many horticultural enterprises buying our products. CarbonChar (often called biochar in the press) is a highly absorbent product so it sucks up moisture and holds it in its honeycomb like structure. Plants can access this moisture and if fertilizer has been added to the soil the fertilizer is stored for plant access as well. CarbonChar also has nutrients of its own and RCRA CarbonChar has 59% fixed carbon in its structure. What this means is the product is a store house for moisture and nutrients promoting significantly stronger growth and higher crop yields. It also means you can give your soil an instant carbon increase which is permanent.
Due to a lack of appropriate government funding for research on char in the soil, RCRA has decided to partner with stakeholders to trial the products on working farms around Australia.
Currently RCRA products have been involved in several university trials with good results however Ian and I feel it is important to trial our product on as many crop, soil and climate types as possible.