Ithaka Institut

Milestones of the Ithaka Institute

Even though the Ithaka Institute was only founded less than 15 years ago, some of our inventions, research projects, ideas, and developments helped to prepare the breakthrough of biochar as ubiquitous material and technology for a sustainable future of the planet. Each and all the below mentioned milestones were reached in collaboration with our numerous scientific and industrial partners.


The milestones of the years 2007 to 2016 are listed below

In the German BMBF-funded project BioCAP (Global Biomass CCS to Achieve the 1.5° Goal: Analysis of Potentials, Side Effects and Synergy Effects for Atmospheric C Capture and C Sequestration by Biomass Carbonization) Ithaka developed together with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences the concept of pyrogenic carbon capture and storage and coined the term PYCCS.

2017 The Empyrion project produced a systematic series of > 100 activated biochar from all types of biomass, providing conceptual evidence that biochar can be processed from locally available biomass into high quality activated carbon for wastewater treatment.

2017 Foundation of the Ithaka Institute Germany as a non-profit in Freiburg.

2017 For the first time Ithaka publishes its research results in one of the Nature Journals.

2017 In Nepal the first forest gardens are created as carbon sinks and the first CO2 subscription is introduced.

2017 Ithaca publishes for the first time the basic concept of plant-carbon based fertilization based on 21 field trials with 13 plant species.

2018 Under the leadership of Ithaka, the basic paper on Pyrogenic Carbon Capture and Storage (PyCCS) was published in the renowned journal Global Change Biology. Since then, PyCCS has already established itself as the leading term for the concept and has generated over 14,000 search results on Google and a Wikipedia entry.

2018 Two of the four publications on Biochar as Negative Emissions Technology cited in the IPPC Special Report were produced with the collaboration of Ithaka (see here)

2018 In Bangladesh, the method of biochar-based fertilization was established in 80 villages with over 500 farming families and led to an average yield increase of 50% (project description)

2018 In Cuba, Ithaka, together with a number of local partners, introduced biochar-based fertilization to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and reduce dependence on expensive fertilizer imports. (BioC-project)

2019 Ithaka publishes the first major review on the use of biochar in animal feeding.

2019 In Cuba, the use of biochar-based fertilization is included in the government's agricultural strategy.

2019 First grape harvest in the Los Arcos vineyard, which Ithaka created in 2017 as an example of quality viticulture in climate change in Southern Andalusia and has been managing ever since.

2019 Signing of a partnership agreement with the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Agriculture, Agroscope. Within the framework of several projects for the Swiss Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, work is underway on a comprehensive climate strategy that includes the use of biochar.

2019 Organization and implementation of the first international conference on plant-based carbon sinks (C sinks) in Helsinki (together with the International Biochar Initiative).

2020 Introduction of the first standard for the certification of carbon sinks (EBC C-Sink).


2007 Set-up of the first European field trial with biochar in the Mythopia vineyard (Valais, Switzerland). Field size of 3000 m2 including a 1000 m2 treatment with biochar-compost that was compared to compost only and to the control without any amendment (see Biochar in European viticulture).

2009 Foundation of the Ithaka Journal, the first journal dedicated to biochar and climate farming (The Ithaka Journal).

2009 Introduction of the first guidelines and label for viticulture in high biodiversity. More than 100 wine-growing companies in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany are certified since then (see Biochar in European viticulture)

2010 Installation of Europeans first industrial biochar unit at Swiss Biochar in Lausanne (CH) producing 300 t of biochar per year (watch the video here)

2010 Coordination of the Biochar garden trial with 200 Swiss hobby gardeners participating over two growing seasons (see: Biochar gardening)

2010 Development of the Swiss Terra Preta, a highly fertile soil substrate containing biochar. More than 1000 m3 of Swiss Terra Preta are commercialized by different companies in Switzerland and Germany since then (see for example here).

2011 Set-up of biochar field trials in three representative vineyards in Italy, Spain, and France (find more information here)

2011 Creation of the concept Cascading use of biochar in animal farming (see Biochar - a key technology for the planet). Development of the first biochar containing feed substrate for different livestock species (the CarbonFeed series, produced now by EM-Schweiz AG)

2012 Creation of the European Biochar Certificate with independent on-site control of production in Europe.  (see: European Biochar Certificate).

2012 Publication of the very influential article: 55 uses of biochar that marked the step to overcome the restriction of biochar to agriculture. (see: 55 uses of biochar)

2012 Building the first biochar-clay wine cellar (see: Biochar for optimal indoor climate)

2013 Switzerland becomes the first country after Japan to officially approve biochar as a soil amendment for agriculture. The approval is based on strict, scientifically checked requirements with regard to the sustainability of biochar production, to biochar quality, and to user protection in its application (see: here).

2013 Organization of the first biochar ring trial to compare and unify biochar analytical methods. 24 participants from 12 countries. (more information here)

2013 Building the worlds first office with biochar building materials (see: The use of biochar as a building material)

2013 Construction of the Pyreka Research Pyrolysis to enable rapid tests of the suitability of a wide range of feedstock, blending, and production parameters for specially designed biochars (see: Pyreka research pyrolysis).

2014 Development of several types of flame curtain biochar production devices including soil pit kilns, pyramid kilns, and the Kon-Tiki open fire deep cone kiln that will eventually democratize biochar production throughout the world (watch the video: Kon-Tiki and visit the Backyard Biochar).

2014 Foundation of the Ithaka Institute US (director Kathleen Draper)

2014 Foundation of the Biochar Journal the first international journal entirely dedicated to biochar and carbon intelligence (starting 1st September: the Biochar Journal)

2014 Introduction of farm-scale biochar production and application to Nepal (Asia Development Project)

2015 Demonstrating for the first time scientifically that low amounts of nutrient enhanced biochar may massively increase crop yield. Obtaining a fourfold yield increase in pumpkin (82 t / ha) using only 750 kg/ha of root zone applied biochar that was nutrient enhanced with cow-urine.

2015 The Kon-Tiki technology is adopted in more than 40 countries on all green continents making it the most employed biochar producing technology

2015 The Ithaka initiated World CharDays from 19th to 21st June 2015 produced > 17 t biochar sequestering 38,000 kg CO2

2015 Thanks to the donations of the friends of Ithaka after the terrible earthquake in Nepal, 10,000 trees of an agro-reforestation in Ratanpur were planted supporting farmers on a long term with the selling of carbon credits, 78 farmer families were supported to produce urine enhanced biochar, 20 earthbag clay houses were built for farmer families that had lost their houses in the earthquake   

2016 Ithaka developed the CO2-Subscription to link private CO2-emitter directly with tropical farmers that capture CO2 via forest garden systems. Another 15,000 mixed trees were planted in the Ratanpur and Bandipur region of Nepal within newly established forest gardens.

2016 With more than 150 scientific and farmer field trials in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Europe, Ithaka demonstrated the overwhelming efficiency of concentrated root zone application of organic biochar based fertilizer.

2016 Foundation of the Ithaka Institute for Climate Farming in Nepal

2016 Introduction of (farmer made) organic biochar based fertilization to improve food security and nutrient diversity in rural Bangladesh.

2016 Delivered proof that farmer made Kon-Tiki biochar is of high quality, meets the criteria of the European Biochar Certificate, and has low emissions during production.